“This year’s been crazy and hectic but good too,” smiles Mafalda. “I’m happy.” And she should be: the London- based, Portuguese DJ has truly gone from in-the-know favourite to widely recognised name in the last 12 months. What makes it all the more remarkable is that the music she plays isn’t stuff you would normally associate with clubs. It flows freely between jazz, world music, soul and funk. It is often obscure and unknown, but still manages to connect with people and send them wild.
She traces her style back to first seeing Floating Points play in her native Porto five or six years ago. “At that time I had no idea I’d ever DJ myself,” she says. “When I started I was just playing music I loved, and that’s why I DJ now, because I feel like I have freedom to play what I want.”
One place she plays often is You’re A Melody, the party she co-runs with Floating Points, which has put the art of crate-digging at the fore. It’s a place to hear private press records, long deleted gems and super-rare gospel cuts, as is the Melodies International label that the pair co-run.
“They started the party and I got in touch because I was such a massive fan of what they were doing,” she says, before surely simplifying how one of the most talked- about labels of the day came into being. “Sam [Floating Points] wanted to start Melodies, I was around, I wanted to do it… it happened!”
The label has reissued absolute gold in the form of Aged In Harmony’s ‘You’re A Melody’, Womack & Womack’s ‘MPB (Missin’ Persons Bureau)’ and the ‘Open Soul’ album by Tomorrow’s People, all previously worth hundreds of pounds — if you could even find a copy. “There are a lot of records the world needs to hear,” says Mafalda. “I find the hunt exciting, I don’t do it so much anymore but we have spent hours calling to churches to find someone, we have knocked on doors in Detroit, we have written letters to people with no email accounts. It can be a very slow process but beautiful too. We do what we can to follow any leads we might have.”
“When I started I was just playing music I loved, and that’s why I DJ now”
Releases often come with a proper fanzine and full artwork because “telling the story behind these records means a lot to us, and it’s one of the reasons why we do what we do.” Another motivation for Mafalda is that she thinks “music should be available to everyone — I like how democratic reissues are.”
She’s not totally obsessed with the old stuff, though, reporting that she looks for old and new at different times and in different places. “I buy a lot of new music as these artists are alive now and need to be able to make music. But I do love music from the last century as well. I might think of them separately when I’m searching, but everything comes together when I’m DJing.”