Toronto DJ is helping marginalized people navigate the city's nightlife
When Angel was 16-years-old, she recalls finding herself and her best friend under a bridge at a DIY rave. Unknown to where exactly it was, this night catalyzed her love for DIY subculture.
"We started going to more DIY events, like Pep Rally for example that would have these awesome dirt raves," she said. "We would hike out and then it would be in the middle of a forest."
She remembers hiking near a spot surrounded by trees in the pitch black darkness. Soon, the cops would find the rave, shut it down. "I remember Chippy [Nonstop] clowning on them, she had this power."
For Angel, this was the moment she realized that being a DJ in power and in control shouldn't just be catered towards white men in the EDM scene. But, it was also for people like her and Chippy, women of colour and folks who are LGBTQ2IA+ and BIPOC.
Soon, Angel would be more than just an attendee watching the sets in the muddy "venues." Overtime, she'd be playing the sets.
Angel, also known through her stage name 'Angelphroot', has cemented her place in the DIY rave scene since she made her debut April 2022. Performing with her friend Estella Maise's collective EOriginals, the event 'Interstella' had Angel spinning happy hardcore.
"It was at a converted church, all ages...I was playing music made 10 years before [the ravers] were even born," she said.
She began teaching herself during the pandemic and saved up to buy a DDJ 400 deck and worked on it alongside her laptop from school. What remains throughout every set is Angels presence, where she captures the audience with her genre-bending sets.
But, beyond Angel's spinning there is something deeper at its core.
In Angel's Instagram bio, she wrote "DJ with a disability" which has captured a lot of peoples attention. "I like being something that you don't see everyday and for a lot of people something you don't see everyday is inspiring."
When she was 17-years-old, she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, and was stuck inside for most of the pandemic as she is immunocompromised. During this time, she found a place to share her true self, her passions and critiques; TikTok.
"I was making 40 pieces of content day, posting 10 of them and started to go viral and build a following," she said. "I made a video saying 'hey, I'm emo and I'm Indian which is rare and something people [hardly] see."
That video got over 24k views. Angel's TikTok is built on creating a space not only for herself, but those with intersectional identities to find a safe space and not feel alone.
Her autoimmune disease is transparently discussed on her page as well.
From videos on her style and expressing it as a person of colour, to talking about being a DJ with a disability, Angel has built a following of over 218k.
"I feel like there are a lot of disability communities that don't get to see themselves doing things like DJing or dancing," she said. "Imagine a person with a disability is this crazy DJ playing a rave in a basement of a church."
Via TikTok, Angel has also built a space to challenge the stereotypical conventions of what young brown people should look like.
Angel aesthetic is clear; candy core chaos at first, but emulates the youth-based underground rave scene. Some nights you'll find her with candy raver bracelets layered of her arms, and others it's an all black look with latex and goth-techno accessories.
Within her style, she implements traditional Indian, specifically Northern, elements, from lehenga's to traditional jewellery. Angel's aim is to show people that they can break into aesthetics they truly love, whether it be emo and candy core pop.
"A lot of young people tell me they want to dress like me but their parents won't let them," she said. "It's sad to me because it's not just a parent issue, it's also everyone else who immediately has a [negative] reaction to people expressing themselves."
After being on TikTok for a while, and getting into DJing in 2022, the two have coincided and now Angel showcases the parties and events she spins at. Since her first gig, Angel has played at venues such as Sari Not Sari, Apt 200, CODA and Christie Pits park to name a few.
She's also spun alongside Young Teesh, Ace, Bambii and Nino Brown. Angel spoke about how giving the DJ community is, especially to up-and-coming artists. She's played approximately 50 gigs in 2022, alongside going to Toronto Metropolitan University.
"Chippy had recently booked me for Pep Rally, Young Teesh lent me their higher end DJ controller and let me learn on it," she said. "People were uplifting me and helping me learn."
Now, she finds herself hosting events, DJing consistently and building spaces much like the event she felt safe raving in. Much like her predecessors, Angel is trying to do the same.
"I didn't really realize how much rave meant to people or how much a DIY rave could mean to them," she said.
Angel remembers one kid who experienced their first rave at Christie Pits where Angel performed. Having severe agoraphobia to the point where they couldn't go back to school or work, being at that rave made them realize how nonjudgmental the world can be.
At the end of the day, for Angel, it's about fostering a space within the DIY rave scene and on her TikTok, giving people a space of free expression.
"People are getting into raving young because they want that escape," she said. "I try to show people things they haven't seen before."
Photo by Rik
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