Ariel Zetina, Chicago’s Queen of queer political party music

Since being swept up by Chicago’s party scene in her early 20s, Chicago-based Ariel Zetina is making waves internationally with her political party music.

The article was originally published on Hue & Saturation.

Photo of Ariel Zetina by Shahrnaz Javid. Styling by Shooka Rafizadeh of Worn Out.

Zetina started out as a performance artist, using electronic music in her performances, and would dance all night to various DJs. As a result, “it just naturally happened that I found a way to get paid while still being in the midst of the party,” says Zetina on her DJ career.

Her trajectory has since skyrocketed. She now runs multiple Chicago parties, has a residency at Smartbar and is signed to Discwoman. During her EU tour in May, Ariel also played at Säule in the Berghain complex, alongside fellow Discwoman collective noise artist Dreamcrusher and artist/DJ Serena Jara. But Ariel’s extensive CV doesn’t give up there. She’s produced plays, performed spoken word poetry and released her second EP,Organism, last year.

Since her early days DJing – where she originally favoured grime and UK club music – Ariel’s goal has been to unite, but also to challenge club-goers. 

“I think that when I first started DJing, a lot of people who were playing club music were straight and the LGBTQ deejays were playing different types of music. I think I bridged the gap between the two, along with parties like Tropiteca and collectives like Futurehood,” says Ariel.

Ariel unapologetically uses her platform politically, “both IRL and URL” to inspire change and to advocate for the queer community. “DJing and promoting are a form of community organizing. I really believed this to be true after reading Adrienne Marie Brown’s amazing book ‘Emergent Strategy’ that really empowers anyone to look at their work as community organizing,” she says.

This activism is evident in Ariel Zetina’s involvement in Chicago’s queer club scene and her contribution to trans visibility in the party scene. Unafraid to play emotionally or politically charged music in her set – and perhaps a nod to her experience with spoken word poetry – Ariel often weave’s verbal calls to action into her sets, such asLinda LaBeija’s Urgency

“Deep listening has been so essential for me to think about my life and what I want to do next, and I think when powerful textual moments come in, it can really stop a dancer and make them listen. I think that’s important in order to really make dance music political and not just conceptual.”


“Dancing and listening to DJs is about losing yourself, but I think having textual reminders that we are in reality is so important! Deep listening has been so essential for me to think about my life and what I want to do next, and I think when powerful textual moments come in, it can really stop a dancer and make them listen. I think that’s important in order to really make dance music political and not just conceptual,” says Ariel.

Ariel says the simplest way to describe her sound is “techno and house but I’m not afraid to play Rihanna”. She’s also known for weaving Belizean music into her sets, but she’s defiant about restricting herself to a determined sound. As if to ensure she won’t get put in a box, Ariel mentions that DJ Leave’s edit of Kacey Musgraves’ High Horse was one of her favourite tracks to get people dancing last year: “It literally turns a country song to disco”. Now though, she’s all about Ghost Town DJ’s My Boo, which she insists is “cheesy, but really well produced”.

“I am incredibly interested in the kick, the hi-hat, and percussion; and I think that really unites my sound. I also think that all club styles have places in my set so if you really had to pare it down, I play lots of techno, house, bass, ballroom, deconstructed club, and many many Latinx and Caribbean genres.”

“There are so few Belizean DJs so I think it’s really important for me to play Belizean music,” says Ariel. “It’s really cool to see the BPMs of these tracks too cos they are very similar to the BPMs I usually play, which makes me feel like certain tempos are ingrained within me”.

“There are so few Belizean DJs so I think it’s really important for me to play Belizean music,” says Ariel. “It’s really cool to see the BPMs of these tracks too cos they are very similar to the BPMs I usually play, which makes me feel like certain tempos are ingrained within me”.


Ariel’s mix for Hue and Saturation exudes the high energy that is typical of all her sets – if you can truly call anything Ariel does typical –  blending electro-pop with a dash of teen angst and a fierce amount of high hat to create a nostalgically euphoric, lively mix.

In late 2018, Ariel played her debut Berlin set at Room 4 Resistance, a party creating space for queer, femme and non-binary people. “My set was a simultaneous embrace of Berlin style techno and a huge step away from it,” says Ariel. “I really wanted the whole night to be a party and I was very much in a pop sensibility for this set.” Mariah Carey, Rico Nasty, and Fetty Wap – not to mention the Spanish version of Total Eclipse of the Heart – all made appearances in the otherwise techno and house set.

Looking forward, Zetina will dropping her new EP February 21st and visiting Europe for another tour in May and June this year. Stay tuned.


Follow Ariel Zetina via Discwoman here, new tunes n’ mixes here, and what’s she’s got on/where you can catch her here.

The article was originally published on Hue & Saturation, a Mix Series platform that showcases upcoming electronic artists and producers from a wide range of backgrounds and genres. So far the artists featured have included Cassius Select, K2K, DJ Fart in the Club and Overland. It aims to promote representation and quality music.