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AV Mix Series - Zai

AV Mix Series - Zai
Coming in real hot on our 20th entry to the series is up and comer Zai - just coming out of his student days and ready to groove on as soon as the gates drop. He's recorded a vinyl-only mix, packed tight with classic cuts strung together with turntablism flair! Press play for a solid hour of optimistic, personal music from this young deejay, and scroll down for the interview.



Thanks so much for doing this mix for us! How’ve you been these days?

I'm doing good! I'm currently doing my final term at university and I'll be graduating in August, I can't wait :D

 

So how did you wind up getting interested in music, records and DJ-ing?

I’m not sure how to answer the music part! I guess in general, I just like listening to music and exploring new genres, I don’t really know why. There’s also different reasons for each kind of music I’m into. Now I’m mostly into funk, disco, soul, R&B, hip hop, house; I guess DJ mixes are the main reason why I started listening to those genres. On the other hand I find myself in a vintage Chinese pop mood sometimes, influenced by the kind of music my parents like to listen to, music I hear in old folks’ homes… It’s really all over the place and it’s hard to summarise how I got interested in music.

I started DJing in 2016; I saved up my NS allowance and bought a DJ controller that I learnt to DJ on. In university I joined the DJ club and practised on the shared turntable set up with digital vinyl / DVS. I did gigs on campus, at sports venues, some bars/restaurants, some corporate events.

I bought my first record in 2017, Daft Punk's Homework (a repress that I found in a Popular store). It was an impulse buy, I didn't have turntables at the time but I just thought it would be dope to have and hopefully listen to on a turntable someday. Also I happened to be wearing a T-shirt that day with the Daft Punk logo (in the Homework style)! You can hear this record played at the end of my mix (Around The World - the one song from Homework everyone knows!)

Collecting records only became a thing for me after I met an expat who was trying to sell his records before he returned to New Zealand. I bought a few records from him; when he couldn't sell the rest of his records in time, he gave me the rest for free (shoutout to Chris, I didn't get your last name, but I am eternally grateful!). I started to practice with those records and getting the hang of DJing with vinyl. This drew me into a kind of vicious cycle haha! DJing on vinyl made me want to buy more records, made me want to do more vinyl mixes, made me want to buy even more records… You always want to play a new record! (These days I’m trying to exercise more self-restraint and not go broke…)

 

You’re pretty active on Instagram, with great snippets of your cuts, juggles and mini routines. What draws you to this form of DJ-ing?

Thank you for the kind words! I must admit that I still have tons of room for improvement and I’m constantly trying to get better or to learn new techniques. I see each post on my Instagram as a sort of diary entry for my progress as a DJ.

A lot of DJs have influenced my style of DJing, but probably none as much as the goat DJ Koco. I was thoroughly mind-blown by his Boiler Room set. I’d never witnessed so much sorcery in a single full-length, live DJ set - all 45s, lightning fast mixing, crazy tricks, so many rare grooves. Mixes like Koco’s Boiler Room allow me to discover tons of new music, which I love, and the icing on the cake for me is when DJs flex their skills on the decks. It’s something that streaming can’t deliver, I guess – coherent mixes that balance top selection and skills, and DJs have this balance (Koco, Skratch Bastid, Fonki Cheff, just to name a few) are the DJs I am most inspired by.

 


What struck us about you is your penchant for that classic funk/soul/disco/hip hop avenue that emerged from the 70s onwards. Cant think of many young cats in Singapore as immersed and
dedicated as you at your craft right now, could you tell us what draws you to these grooves?

I haven’t been into these genres for very long; I mostly started listening after I listened to DJ Koco’s Boiler Room. I guess I got hooked by the funk! Music like this makes me want to dance the most. I also find the historical contexts of these genres fascinating, how these genres were so influential on later types of popular music that emerged.

 


What do you look for when you go out buying records?

I’m mainly looking to expand my library of tunes. I don’t usually look for the nicest sleeve or the “Near Mints” – just records that are clean and play well and are significant in my journey of music discovery.

I’ve recently begun to collect 7” vinyl. A big reason is because of the inspiration I get from all the wicked 45 slingers out there, but they’re also a lot more practical because they’re way more portable than LPs. I also use a set of low-torque turntables at home that don’t allow me to scratch on 12” records well (still working on it) but the smaller, lighter 45s are perfectly fine.

I also want to support local by buying local releases – in particular, releases that I can see myself spinning in a DJ set, releases from producers/artists/labels I personally know, or records that are otherwise important in our local music history. Fauxe’s Ikhlas, Arrested Development’s Don’t Fight Your Demons (released by Singaporean label Mosta Records), Halal Sol’s latest EP Dijamin, are some examples of such releases.


Did you have a context in mind when recording this mix? (Also, was it done on vinyl? if so, tell us why you decided to go that way!)

It’s a vinyl-only mix; I wanted to challenge myself and do a vinyl-only mis that encompassed several genres that I am currently into. Each record on the mix has its own story behind how I came to discover it and add it to my crates. To highlight some of the more important records played:

  • The first track is Arrested Development’s The Same People SKYY HIGH 305, Kuf Knotz & Christine Elise. This is from Arrested Development’s Don’t Fight Your Demons – released by local label Mosta Records. To have a local label on a the latest release from a Grammy-winning hip-hop group is massive. The record is loaded with politically-conscious, thought provoking tracks. Also it’s coloured (yellow and brown) and it just looks so good.
  • Around 46 minutes in: Fauxe’s Hati, from his album Ikhlas. The first record I bought from TAV. What an eclectic blend of sounds from the Malaysian music scene. I was lucky enough to be able to meet Fauxe at a show before the pandemic and get the record autographed! So that makes this record super special.

  • Around 56 minutes in: Aquanote’s True Love (Mig’s Petalpusher Love Dub) & Erykah Badu’s Next Lifetime (Deluxe Pusher Vocal Mix)

These are from Chris’s collection. I didn’t choose to buy these initially but they were part of the remainder that he left me as a gift before he left for NZ (thank you Chris!) These record have been used a lot during my early practice sessions.

  • The last track: Daft Punk – Around The World

From a repress of Daft Punk’s Homework – the very first record I ever bought, impulsively! For a year or so I had no access to a turntable so I just looked at it in admiration. In uni I spent a good amount of time practicing with it, when it was basically my entire record collection.

I learnt a lot while recording this mix! It allowed me to get more familiar with my records and their mixing points, and with the process of planning a mix that would showcase a diversity of genres. It’s not a perfect mix and it’s got several mistakes / missed opportunities but I feel it’s a good record of my journey thus far. Hopefully the next mix will outdo this one.


Thanks for being a part of our mix series! Any parting words?

Thank you very much for having me on the mix series! I’m really humbled to be featured alongside many other notable local DJs!

Label of the month - Tidal Waves Music

Label of the month - Tidal Waves Music

Tidal Waves Music is a Belgium based record label that focuses on releasing gems that might have been under the radar within the vinyl community with no limitations of style and genre. Their first reissue was Nina Simone's A Rare Evening -  an intimate recording of Nina's live performance in Europe, which pretty much sets the tone for the label, unique and daring in its approach. Thanks to labels like Tidal Waves, gems are being excavated and with their small limited run and top notch quality control, it helps to give the music a chance for discovery once again.

Our first encounter with the label was the reissue of The Jimmy Castor Bunch - It's Just Begun, an exclusive release for RSD 2018, a delightful reissue to bring back to light - funky and contagious in its groove. With that said, you would have probably seen Tidal Waves swimming in our Funk / Soul / Soul Jazz section - they sure know how to choose what's groovy and bring it out for a surf. This is our attempt  at showcasing some of the LPs you might have missed while digging at the Vault!

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1. The Jimmy Castor Bunch - It's Just Begun

1970's  - It's Just Begun - a DJ favourite and sampled by some key players in the scene. Grandmaster Flash, Jungle brothers, Ice-T, De La Soul, Mos Def and many many more! A distinctive mix of Funk, Disco, Breaks, Pop Hooks, Social Commentary and a Gonzo Comedy feel. The groove on this LP is on another level, with the bass player (Doug Gibson) keeping it tight throughout. An absolute must to check out if you're interested in the roots of 70's funk.




2. The Real ShooBeeDoo - Reminiscing



Reggie Fields aka The Real ShooBeeDoo is well known in the Detroit jazz scene, having played and worked with the likes of Pharoah Sanders and Sun Ra, while also known as a close associate of the Afro-centric TRIBE label and artist collective.

You might be familiar with titles such as Phil Ranelin’s “The Time Is Now!” and Ranelin & Harrison’s masterpiece “A Message From The Tribe”; well, Reggie has left his marks on these albums! We’re huge fans of these albums here at the vault, and we cannot recommend these enough – especially if you’re on that soul jazz / spiritual tip. “Reminiscing” first came into fruition on Wendell Harrison’s imprint WENHA in 1981 and is now lovingly reissued by Tidal Waves Music on deluxe 180g vinyl, limited to 500 copies.

The lineup on this record includes Billy McCoy (Pharoah Sanders) on piano, Tani Tabbal (Roscoe Mitchell, Sun Ra) on percussion, Allan Barnes (Nina Simone, Bootsy Collins, Gill Scott Heron) on saxophone, and Wendell Harrison (Tribe) himself on tenor saxophone and vocals.




3. The Nineteenth Whole - Smiln'



An organ funk groove classic at its best!

Recorded in 1972 by the legendary Rudy Van Gelder at the Indianapolis Club of their namesake, it’s a sparkly collage of Funk, Soul, Rock and Jazz fusion packed with all the right ingredients for a get down.

Fronted by Billy Wooten’s vibes, Cornell Dupree’s guitar and Buddy Caldwell’s percussion, the five lengthy soul-jazz pieces contain some of the best licks you’ll hear. Constant shifts in grooves drive the emotional ride along, keeping you hooked where it matters.

The interconnectedness of these scenes become apparent when you look up jazz legend Grant Green’s involvement with the group – members of The Nineteenth Whole were recruited by the guitarist as his rhythm section for live dates in Indianapolis. Originally released in 1972 on Eastbound Records, this is a special piece of Indy funk history lovingly brought to circulation again thanks to Tidal Waves Music. Released on 180g deluxe vinyl, limited to 500 copies.




4. Pharoah Sanders - Moon Child | Timeless Records | 1990 

First official reissue of this rare 1989 French session with the legendary Pharoah Sanders. On this album, Sanders provides a more traditional tone to the album mixed with mystical New Age vocals and astrological references. It might still be considered as an acquired taste when it comes to the sound of "Jazz" but no one has done it the way Pharoah has done it - extremely unique and experimental which makes it all the more a special listening experience to explore. 

It features an all-star line-up consisting of Stafford James (Sun Ra) on bass, William Henderson (Roy Ayers) on piano and Eddie Moore (Sonny Rollins) on drums. The overall sound is reminiscent of the days of "The Creator Has a Master Plan", cosmic in nature and spiritual in its own way. Pharoah Sanders is one of the few greats that we are lucky to have around in the music realm, providing an endless stream of soul and promoting the spirit of exploration - this album is a perfect example of his uniqueness and an invitation to check out his huge discography.




5. Tony Newton - Mysticism & Romance 



Drawing upon his rich past of immersion in the Detroit blues circuit, as well as his vision for the future, the cosmic bass player had truly broken ground on this highly intriguing album. This is the first ever vinyl reissue of Tony Newton’s solo debut from 1978.

Tony Newton is no stranger to the circuit, though. He started playing bass at a very young age with legends like John Lee Hooker and T-Bone Walker. He eventually became the touring bassist with Smokey Robinson and the Miracles on the famed 1965 European ‘Motown Review’ tour, and within two years, became the Miracles’ musical director.

P-funk-esque bass grooves and fusion jazz-rock lay the foundation for spacious synths and unusual instruments to dance around, driving forward a message of universal participation in the great symphony of life; of creativity and harmony, an invitation to tune in and discover our divine awareness. Once again, Tidal Waves has excavated an absolute gem of a record from 70’s Detroit.

 

Browse our Tidal Waves Music catalogue here.

Top 5 Soul-Jazz picks | January 2020

Top 5 Soul-Jazz picks | January 2020



Artist: High Risk

Album: High Risk

This reissue: 2019 Jazz Aggression

Emanating the spiritual freedom of the 70s with their mixture of jazz, folk and blues, the soul-jazz form charges the politically fuelled lyrics for a standout album.  

From an all-female band consisting of Virginia Rubino (of BeBe K'Roche fame) on keys, Cyndy ”Cynth” Mason Fitzpatrick (of flutemedicine fame) on saxes and flute, Bobi Jackson on bass and Sandy Ajida on percussion. The album features 6 original tracks including the full mix of Common Woman with all 6 poems by critically acclaimed poet and author Judy Grahn, who also contributed to the new liner-notes.

Available here



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Artist: Phil Ranelin

Album: The Time Is Now!

This reissue: 2019 Tribe / Pure Pleasure

The Time Is Now is a vanguard jazz record, full of the spirit, determination, and innovation inspired by John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Cecil Taylor, Pharoah Sanders, and Archie Shepp. Recorded in 1973 and 1974 and released at the end of 1974, the set shows Ranelin to be an imposing composer and frightfully good trombonist. The original album contained six compositions that are a deep musical brew of avant-garde improvisation, hard bop jazz esthetics, and soulful melodic ideas that were superimposed as a jump off point for both harmonic and rhythmic invention.

Available here


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Artist: Wendell Harrison

Album: An Evening With The Devil

This reissue: 2018 Tribe / Pure Pleasure

Something to push your perceptions - this record is one for those willing to take the plunge. Drawing straight from their collective experience, Wendell Harrison and his group The Tribe force you to lean into discomfort from the get go, meandering into 'justice' eventually. The music reflects the stress, tension and discords that took place within their community along with the positive and harmonious things that happen alongside. The relationship between art and culture, the total vibrations, both positive and negative, are amplified: the message is heavy but for those who are dedicated, the healing force of the universe that is Music will never fail to elevate. 

"The compositions we play are reflective of the music of our times whereby we play Jazz, Rock, and African music with its poly or many rhythms. I wrote all the tunes on this particular L.P. and it is written as a suite in 5 movements which means that the music can be performed along with poetry and dancers." - Liner Notes

Available here 



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Artist : Matthew Larkin Cassell

Album: Pieces | 1977

This Reissue: Out-sider | 2018

One of those rare / overlooked records that you have to thank re-issue labels for bringing back to the spotlight. This 1977 gem by Bay Area songwriter, Matthew L. C brings that mellow, laid-back Funk and Soul-Jazz grooves for your listening pleasure. Think of Steely Dan mixed with that dreamy Roy Ayers sound and you will get Pieces – A true salute to the emotion of Nostalgia and Hopefulness. Not exactly in that classic box of the genre Soul Jazz, Pieces still represents those soulful and Jazzy qualities that we love, so we figured why not in our Top 5! Sampled by the likes of Madlib & MF Doom, some of the heaviest diggers out there – further goes to show that this LP is not to be missed. Highly recommended – Check it out!

Available here 


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Artist : Doug Hammond & David Durrah

Album: Reflections In The Sea Of Nurnen | 1975

This Reissue: Pure Pleasure Records | 2018

A special session from the legendary Tribe Records Scene with the combined effort from leader Doug Hammond and keyboardist David Durrah. Goes deep in this one, mixing the sound of acoustic instruments, synthesizers, Rhodes and vocal chants, experimenting and expressing a liberating sound. The groove on this LP comes through as pure instinct, even during the quiet moments, topping it off with some class melodies reminiscent of the late Gil Scot Heron. Remastered and resissued via Pure Pleasure Records, this is a record that is usually overlooked at the vault, so here it is! Highly recommended.

Available here