Bra & pants HUGO BLUE Bracelet Stylist’s own
Jacket, shirt & pants HUGO RED Necklace Stylist’s own
Look HUGO BLUE Shoes Talent’s own
Look HUGO BLUE
Pants (wrapped around) HUGO BLUE
Jacket & pants HUGO BLUE Necklace Stylist’s own
Jacket & Pants HUGO RED Necklace Stylist’s own
Jacket & shirt HUGO RED Earrings Stylist’s own

#PASSION: “CREATE YOUR OWN LANE” – IN CONVERSATION WITH DESIREE

There has never been a hotter time to be a DJ than now. With DJs accruing the same level of renown and success historically given to popstars and the like, it’s no surprise that everyone wants a spotlight behind the decks. Ultimately, what separates a stellar DJ from a good one is a confluence of skill, talent, musical knowledge, a knack for capturing and building the moment, and a certain it quality. DESIREE happens to have it all.

The South African-born DJ who now refers to herself as a “citizen of the world” has built a career off of her eclectic, genre-bending mixes and knack for blending traditional African grooves with more popular beats, making her sound accessibly unique. Having gotten her humble start playing bars and house shows around Johannesburg, South Africa, DESIREE now travels the world, bringing the party wherever she goes.

Despite being an internationally acclaimed DJ, DESIREE still maintains that at the core of her practice is the desire and intention of connecting with her listeners – whether they be behind a computer screen or on the dance floor. Numéro Berlin chats with DESIREE on her musical rizz, her recent collab with HUGO, and what she thinks is the true spirit of a good party.

Merilyn Chang: Tell us a little about yourself. You’re from South Africa, do you still live there? What is the cultural climate in terms of music in SA?

DESIREE: South Africa is my homeland, but the beauty of being a DJ is getting to travel the world and share my sound.

“I’m a citizen of the world now, so I live where the beat is.”

The music scene in South Africa is eclectic and ever evolving. House music is deeply loved there, but it’s not a monolith. You’ll hear Gqom, Kwaito, Jazz, R&B, all sorts of local flavors bumping alongside international sounds. It’s a beautiful melting pot that shaped my love for multi-genre sets. South African music is a constant source of inspiration.

How did you get your start DJing?

While growing up, I had always been fascinated by music, and watching other DJs play at university just blew me away. I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I became a total dance floor fanatic. But there were times when I’d hear a track and think, “Man, this could be even better if…” That curiosity led me to learn how to DJ. Once I started stringing together sets that evoked a true journey for the crowd, I knew I was hooked. I learned from other DJs, built my music production skills, and now I am DJing professionally.

What would you say your “this could be it” moment was? The moment you felt like you could make a career out of music?

Honestly, there wasn’t one specific “this could be it” moment. It’s been more of a gradual climb, each gig, each booking, each connection building on the last. The first time I played a set outside of South Africa, the energy from the crowd was unreal. Then came bookings at iconic clubs like Fabric, DC10, and that solidified the feeling that this dream was taking flight. Rocking the Boiler Room in November last year was hot! Literally. Feeling the energy from the crowd, that global reach – it solidified that this music thing could be a real future, you know?

Favorite and least favorite part of being a DJ?

The best part? Definitely the connection with the crowd. Seeing people lose themselves in the music, feeling the energy flow back and forth – there’s nothing quite like it. Least favorite? Travel can be brutal sometimes. Jet lag is a real enemy of creativity!

Did something prompt you to progress from DJing to producing, or was it a relatively seamless transition?

Moving into production felt like a natural extension.

“DJing is all about curation, but producing lets me truly sculpt the sounds I hear in my head.”

It’s about translating that feeling, that story, into a track that resonates with people. It’s definitely a different creative muscle, and it allows me to express myself in a whole new way.

What’s your process like when making a mix or a track? How has it changed since you first got into the music world?

My creative process is constantly evolving. When I first started DJing, it was all about digging for hidden gems, building a library full of surprises. Now, it’s a blend of that, plus incorporating my own productions. Production itself is a journey – it’s become more intuitive, less about technical perfection and more about capturing the raw emotion.

Has your on stage persona developed over the years? How so?

Oh, absolutely! When I first started, I was pretty shy behind the decks. But the more I performed, the more comfortable I became. Now, I feed off the crowd’s energy, letting the music move me on stage. It’s a beautiful exchange.

Style wise, what’s your go-to look for shows? How would you say your personal style affects your playing, if it does?

Style-wise, I like to keep it comfortable yet sharp. It’s all about feeling confident and being able to move freely behind the decks. My personal style definitely influences my playing. I like to think my eclectic outfits reflect the energy I bring to my sets.

What is your way of navigating the space you occupy in the music landscape? What makes a DESIREE show special?

The music landscape is vast, but I navigate it by staying true to my sound.

“I don’t chase trends, I create my own lane.”

I’m not afraid to blend genres or experiment with layering and transitions. What makes a DESIREE show special? It’s the unexpected twists and turns along the way, all woven together by that driving, deep African groove. It’s high energy, it’s diverse, and it’s about creating a space where everyone feels welcome to lose themselves in the music.

I’ve read that your inspirations span from Thom Yorke to Atoms for Peace to Jon Hopkins. Can you explain how these influences have shaped your work?

Artists like Thom Yorke, Atoms for Peace, Jon Hopkins – they’re all masters of atmosphere, of building tension and release. That’s something I strive for in my own music. It’s not just about banging beats, it’s about creating an emotional arc, taking the listener on a trip.

What projects or releases do you have coming up?

I can’t spill all the beans just yet, but there’s definitely some exciting new music coming down the pipeline, including a remix of a very special, classic, South African jazz song. Stay tuned!

You have a few European shows at the end of this month and early next month. Are there any that you are most excited about? What’s it like playing festivals vs. club nights?

Both have their charm. Festivals are a whirlwind of energy, a chance to connect with a massive audience. Club gigs are more intimate, where you can really build a deep groove with the crowd. There’s no competition, just different ways to experience the music. I’m looking forward to all my shows, but I am most looking forward to taking my MMINO party outside South Africa for the first time in May! I find it significant, not only because the party is expanding, but also because it is happening at Colour Factory, the only large Black-owned venue that serves Queer and minority communities in London.

“Dance music was born from marginalized spaces, and it thrives on inclusivity and diversity.”

AT A ZERO POINT IN LIFE WHERE IT BEGINS..

Eva and Miss A. stood at the edge of a cliff, contemplating their next move. "If you jump,…

Photography by Alberto Pelayo

NANCY HOLT: “CIRCLES OF LIGHT”

American artist Nancy Holt (1938-2014) was renowned for her pioneering work in land art,…

Interview by Ann-Kathrin Riedl

IN CONVERSATION WITH JOAKIM ANDREASSON

An immersive book, documenting more than 10,300 photographs of original pre-Spring /…

Interview by Julia Pietsch