The Mixtape Vol. 174

Mama Zeph's sound is trippy, eccentric and probably nothing you've ever heard before

Joburg-based DJ, multidisciplinary artist, researcher and DJ, Mama Zeph's sound is trippy, eccentric and probably nothing you've ever heard, from obscure 70s prog rock and Jabula to space age and free jazz. As a vinyl lover and avid collector, she forms one-half of The Fly Machine Sessions which are known and loved for opening people's ears and minds to long-lost and undiscovered experimental sounds of the 70s. She recently played at DJ Bob's Jazz Club at Oppikoppi, and was kind enough to create a very special and intimate mix that not only reflects her eclectic taste and personality, but also her current state of mind. 

How would you describe your sound?

I like to play sounds that are full in terms of arrangement and at the same time breathe, where there are quiet moments in the songs. I like to play around with stuff that sounds like the music was made from materials that were just kinda lying around, things like tyre rims, coffee tins, bottle tops... I also like stuff that is choral and congregational that progresses and changes feel as it goes and then is like "is the song over?" but it's not. I love it when music does that.

What are your favourite musical memories?

Friday nights, my mother would sit in front of the record player drinking her whisky and listening to Roberta Flack, PP Arnold, Shirley Brown, Stevie Wonder etc. Saturdays were for cleaning so it was a lot of R&B and soul in the mornings.

What inspired you to start collecting and playing vinyl?

I'd always been collecting music and this one neighbour of mine was moving house and had boxes on boxes of vinyl that he was going to get rid of. I felt like we needed to find a way to preserve the medium as a form of document, as it will help us track and tell our musical history a little better. After I had all this new old music I was curious how I could put these sounds (some very particular to an era) together in a moody experimental way, and so I started selecting.

Can you tell us about The Fly Machine Sessions, for those who aren't familiar?

So after I managed to salvage a few good vinyl from my neighbour, I told my boy Vusi that I had all this vinyl and he had been talking about how he wants to start collecting more seriously, so we decided we were going to somehow archive all that we had found and try and locate some of the musicians on the records and conduct interviews with them as part of the archiving process. We started having the sessions themselves to create a platform for an ideas exchange and to create an alternative music space that was inclusive.

How have your musical tastes evolved over the years?

I grew up listening to a lot of rap, punk, rock and jazz and all these genres are so super layered, some with samples and lyrics, some with the big horn sections and overlord pianos etc. so now, like I said, I like a sound that lets itself breathe, a sound that can be gentle and ascend into a rage and kinda come back to itself. I've really developed an appreciation for gospel, choirs, hymns, ritual sounds that have a congregational quality.

What are you currently listening to?

I'm currently listening to a range of stuff from Magma, Minnie Ripperton, Brides of Funkenstein to Shaluza Max and a long list of others. I always revisit The Neptunes but I've also been listening to Klein and Yves Tumor every day for the last four months and Cakedog.

Describe this mix you've made for us?

This mix is really honest to where my head's at right now. I'm really trying to find some quiet. Trying to realign and ritualise my days a bit more so the songs I chose for the mix really get me into a reflective space. Also, these are some of the songs I never get to play out, and they don't necessarily have anything to do with each other in terms of a theme for the mix. The theme is me. The mix opens with Minnie Ripperton's 'Expecting' and one of the lines in the song goes "she is musing on her autumn" and that pretty much sums it up. I also tried not to spend too long trying to pick tracks, I went with my immediate feeling, exercising the decisiveness muscle somewhat.

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