zara julius: an afropunk dj mix
December 13, 2019
At AFROPUNK, we love and recognize all kinds of DJs — whether they are party-starters with the latest fire hits, archeologists who introduce their audiences to new grooves and lead them towards music discovery, or storytellers piecing together a journey for people on the dancefloor’s hips or for their heads. But when a DJ does all this effectively, without fuss, and with a monster groove in tow, we bow the fuck down. Now meet Zara Julius.
We already knew Zara as an artist and a great young record collector — yes, vinyl; for the heads — which is why we were excited to book her to DJ at AFROPUNK Joburg 2019, where she’s guaranteed to be a New Year’s Eve smash. But the Johannesburg-based DJ’s mix of global South music — young and old, homegrown and anti-colonialist — is beyond fantastic. As is the context she brings to her selections. Press play and read some words from a truly special talent.
Can you identify some of the music on the mix? What does the music mean/represent for you?
The thing about being a vinyl selector is that for each song selection, there’s a whole record that was fire enough to be purchased in full. And so the music all has to mean enough to even enter your house, you know? I usually use mixes as an opportunity to share longer songs that are a bit more downtempo than what would typically make it into a set at a festival, or at a club gig, but I thought I’d switch it up a bit. There’s a combination of some favorite household names here: Tim Maia, Boddhi Satva, Oumou Sangaré, and DJ Lag amongst some others.
How did you first get into DJ’ing, and who are some of your DJing influences?
I first started DJing / selecting vinyl in 2014 at an old jazz bar called Tagore’s in Cape Town, where I had a monthly residency. I had been collecting records for a few years and started to feel quite frustrated that there were only a few selectors who played the kind of music that I wanted to hear out at the time. I’m quite an introvert, so DJing is often an excuse for me to be out, without having to really be out. I have a lot of respect for DJs like Sabine Blaizin and Lyneé Denise. They are women who understand sound and djing as scholarship, archive, and praxis; and that’s really the direction my own work has taken in the past few years. The jol is nice, but what are you trying to do with the jol?
What kind of music do you want to or expect to play at AFROPUNK?
A big thing for me is playing music from diverse geographic regions, with a focus on Black music from the global south. I think North American cultural production really dominates so much of what we consume in the Global South – it’s essentially cultural imperialism – and it’s important for me to try to disrupt that generally. I tend to not plan my sets too much, but I’m excited to play some high-octane grooves at AFROPUNK this year. Maybe some Puerto Rican reggaeton, some dancehall, some Sierra Leonean and Colombian electronic, some Brazilian funk? Who knows, but people should bring their hips!
What does the phrase “We see You” mean to you?
… A collective mirroring.
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