Mafalda: “If a song is honest and has soul, I probably need to hear it.”

Featured photo credit: Bella Fenning

With her beginnings in the sun soaked, vibrant landscape of Porto, Mafalda has always been drawn emmersed in creativity. From wanting to be a painter all throughout her childhood before moving onto graffiti in her teenage, hip-hop days, art and music has always been it for Mafalda. Her journey begins in the fashion industry where she was a designer before moving to London after seeing the likes of Sadar Bahar and Floating Points play at Corsica Studios. The experience of hearing jazz in a club fansicinated her, being a genre that you wouldn’t hear in clubs in Lisbon. Following the move, Mafalda teamed up with Floating Points, co-founding the reissue label Melodies International where Mafalda started with curating the magazine Melozine and designing some of the record sleeves.

Mafalda qucikly become established as an incredible selector, with her knowledge of music showing no bounds. Her Tropic Of Love radio show on Red Bull and NTS highlight her eclectic taste and the ability to create stories within themes. Her selections are also always incredibly positive and experimental, feeling you with warmth and happiness and unable to stop dancing whether that’s in your office chair or the dancefloor. The perfect music for the beautiful summer festival setting, Mafalda will be bringing this energy to Croatia at the end of the month for Suncébeat. Below, we chat to Mafalda about art and design, the environmental impact of collecting and printing vinyl and her process for record digging.


You’ve always said that your experience of listening to jazz in a club is the reason you moved to London but why that genre specifically? 

It was the experience, I wasn’t looking to hear jazz in a club, it happened and I felt fascinated by hearing something so different from what I was used to listening to in Lisbon clubs, at the time.


Going from fashion designer to helping with Melodies International, illustrating some of the artwork for it and collecting records, have you always been drawn to things with a strong visual element? Do you remember your earliest encounter being drawn to something by what it looked like? 

Absolutely. I feel like I’ve always been drawn to things with a certain aesthetic quality and throughout all of my childhood I wanted to be a painter, I don’t remember being a kid and not having coloured pencils around. And later, as a teenager, when I started listening to hip-hop I did graffiti for a while. Art and music were always present. I don’t remember exactly when I had that earliest encounter because it must’ve been when I was a very young child, but I remember crying when I saw Guernica at Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, I was probably 14. I grew to learn the reality about Picasso’s misogyny and how he exploited the women and models in his life, so he’s not really a genius in my eyes, but I remember feeling incredibly touched by his work.


What are some of your favourite artwork designs that you’ve come across? 

Like record art? So many! I love cute paper 7” sleeves. Brazilian ones on Discos Copacabana and other labels, RCA has some great ones too. I love newer simple design but old, busy, colourful artworks never fail to put a smile on my face. Blue Note has some beautiful artwork too.


Could you talk us through three of the most important records in your collection and the story behind them? What are the ones with the most prominent memory tied to them?

These questions are always super hard, honestly, they’re all important in some way, I wouldn’t get a record unless it meant something to me. Archie Sheep’s Attica Blues and Rotary Connection’s Hey Love might be my favourites but it’s a top1000 really. Attica Blues is an insanely beautiful protest record from 72 and Hey Love…. I can’t explain, the genius of all of those incredible people working together, it’s mind-blowing, a true masterpiece. Recently, I’ve been buying a lot of new music, I feel like we’re going through an incredibly creative time, I’ve been playing a lot of new stuff on my Tropic of Love shows, check them out. 🙂


You’re really particular about the records you buy, stating quality over quantity, what does a record have to be in order for you to buy it? What usually connects you to it? 

It can be many different things, there’s just one thing, I’d say, that I find in all the music I like, and that is honesty. When artists are honest in the way they express themselves and tell they’re true, that’s halfway to a good recording. Then the feeling, it can take many different forms too but if a song is honest and has soul, I probably need to hear it.


Photo credit: André Bernardino

Do you ever sell records from your collection? I feel like it would be quite tough to do as there’s a sense of romanticism tied to them. 

I sold a couple my whole life. I’ve been wanting to sell more, mainly because, how many records does a person need, really? I must’ve played 1/5 of my collection in the last year… but that’s it, it’s hard to part with them, even the ones I don’t play so much anymore, if I still like the music, I want to keep it. But I feel like it’s a problem, I’m not proud that I’m attached to material things like records. I want to keep them for the music, of course, but I could just rip and sell them if it was just that.


You’ve previously commented that ‘records are a funny thing to collect’, what do you mean by this? 

Ah, the experience, the thrill, the characters you meet along the way, the stories, the good guys, the bad guys….it’s a funny thing to collect, that’s why so many people do it. The records are the goal, but the search is where the thrill comes from. And then, of course, sharing them with friends and the world is fun too.


Have you thought about the environmental impact of vinyl? Is there anything you’re doing at the moment or would like to do to make it more sustainable? 

I think about it a lot. It isn’t the most environmental thing to collect at all, but the truth is, people don’t really dispose of records. It’s not a single-use thing. I talked about this with friends many times, just recently, a friend told me that streaming is worse for the environment, because, while a record is done once and played as many times as you wish, a streaming platform, I don’t know exactly, but I can imagine it’ll have a lot of very potent servers which are powered constantly, that’s probably not the solution either.

I think if people keep buying vinyl and the format really is here to stay, then the solution needs to be effectively modernising production and rethinking materials. Another thing is…labels…. no shrink wrapping, please!


When it comes to DJing, what’s your approach? Are you trying to tell a specific story each time or conveying a particular mood? 

Sometimes, it depends… as I mentioned before, one of the things I appreciate in music the most is sincerity, so I’ll always try and be honest with whatever it is that I’m doing. If it’s a recorded mix, I’ll definitely try to tell a story, when I’m djing to people, I try to tell a story too but maybe conveying a certain mood and when I’m doing radio, there’s always a bit of storytelling too. I like to take people on a journey, that’s why long sets are good, you can really navigate. There are songs I don’t play because of what they mean, even if I like their musicality, and sometimes, a song won’t make much sense in a certain context but if it’s telling my story at the time, I’ll really want to play it and so I try to take the set there, try to make that one song fit.



What are your thoughts on the term ‘world music’? What does it mean to you and do you think people should be using it as an umbrella term? 

I remember being a kid in music shops and always skipping that section, I guess the term was never appealing. It’s a bit weird, like, what does that even mean? All music is world music! (Apart maybe from Sun Ra’s). If I’m talking about Brazilian music I’ll call it Brazilian music (if I have to)… I don’t know, world music doesn’t sound great.


Is there a specific genre that you always look for when you go into a record store? 

It depends, often my mission is to find tracks to play out but I always end up buying really calm stuff I can only play on the radio. I’m really not tight with labels, I’m terrible at labeling music, it’s just good or bad. I like it or I don’t. I never know what to say when people ask me what I play. When I go to a record shop I like to flick through as many sections as possible and I love digging sections I’m not familiarised with.


And having played all over the world, what have been some of your favourite record stores you’ve visited? 

There are many many record locations I’m yet to visit but Discos Paradiso in Barcelona, Klinkhammer Records in Groningen and Andra Jazz in Stockholm, to name a few.


Your go-to labels to search through? 

Old ones, I keep finding beautiful music on Chess Records and subsidiaries, they might be my favourites, but, I mean, where do I start? There’re too many amazing labels… Current ones too. I always check what Stones Throw is putting out, Sound Signature, First Word, Warp, Ninja Tune…


What do you like to listen to when you cook? 

It depends, but normally hip-hop, r&b, grime, jazz… I don’t cook for myself a lot, so it depends on the company too.


You can catch Mafalda playing at Suncébeat from the 24th to 31st July – find more information here.


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