Meet Ariel Zetina, the Latinx trans DJ paving new roads in the club scene
Her work is based around making a space for fellow trans people of color in the industry.
The pandemic has put nightlife on hold around the country, but many artists and DJ’s have decided to organize virtual events to give people a sense of normalcy.
On Saturday Aug. 1, DJ Ariel Zetina hosted a digital rave alongside artists Miss Twink USA and Dutchesz Gemini, with the goal of highlighting sounds from different queer scenes.
The event was hosted by Smartbar in partnership with Red Bull and proceeds went towards a list of LGBTQIA+ organizations, charities and collectives.
Zetina is a Latinx trans woman, DJ and producer based in Chicago. She has also released music on Discwoman and Femme Culture, and is working on an album of ambient music.
When she got her start in theater and performance art, Zetina used a lot of electronic music in her work.
“I realized I needed more specific music in my work and so I started to learn to produce. At the same time, I was going out a lot and listening to a lot of dance music. Producing and dancing led me to deejaying,” she explained.
Her music is heavily influenced by her Belizean and Caribbean heritage. She grew up listening to “punta, brukdown and soca” from a very young age.
“I find that now I make music and Dj at the same BPMs with similar rhythmic structures. Being a brown trans girl growing up in Florida with my Belizean mom and white American dad, I’ve always laid somewhere in between, and I think this probably contributes to my music being cross genre,” she said.
When Zetina was curating the Diamond Formation URL rave event, she and her co-curators really put a lot of thought into what sounds she wanted to feature. They noticed that there’s so many DJs currently making their own type of dance music that isn’t being done anywhere else.
“After hearing all the sets, we all talked about how no two sets sounded the same, and there was a captivating energy in each set that set the tone for the entire night. I think all of the DJs and performers have an ability to pull the audience in a really warm, loving and magnetic way,” she said.
The prevalence of machismo in the Latinx community prevents a lot of people from accepting trans women’s identities. Though Zetina has witnessed her fair share of disapproving and judgmental looks, she feels lucky to have plenty of Belizean women in her family that have fully accepted her.
For many trans women of color, they need to create their own community, and that community quickly becomes family.
“Because trans women of color have such similar experiences, we understand each other and we need each other,” she said.
Zetina’s work is very much focused around making space for fellow trans people of color and partnering with organizations that support their needs and talents.
“My goal is to start a label that heavily features the artists who, in my opinion, are defining queer Chicago club, and I want that to be my long form community project,” she said.