“It all goes back to the roots and the rhythms. That primal rhythm is in all of us.”
Mala’s sense of rhythm goes way back. Beginning with the DMZ label and club night he co-founded with Loefah and Coki in 2004, the 12”s released by them still stand as crucial markers of the dubstep sound waves which rumbled out of Croydon’s Big Apple Records from the early 2000s. Battering bass bins across South London around that time, his music is built on a schooling in dark and murky club settings.
The seminal DMZ nights at Mass, in the crypt of Brixton’s St. Matthew’s Church, were vital congregations for the meditative strain of club music the trio at its helm pioneered. Mala founded his own Deep Medi Muzik imprint in 2006, an outlet for his own experiments and likeminded producers. Over the years, its catalogue has ranged from dubstep affiliates like Silkie to Swindle’s jazz-tipped reimaginations of grime.
Mala’s first album was the product of a trip to Havana with Gilles Peterson in 2011. Recording and collaborating with local musicians as part of the ongoing Havana Cultura project, the end result was Mala in Cuba. Released on Brownswood Recordings in 2012, it was a realignment of the dubstep movement within soundsystem culture. For Mala, it initiated a creative method that’s stayed with him since: digging deep into the roots of a culture, recording local musicians and sounds, and using the recordings as source material and storyboard for a record.
Mirrors is the product of repeated visits to dive into Peru’s music. He went for a month with his partner Camille, spending the daytime hanging out and seeing friends with their two small children. He visited Lima, touching on the capital’s burgeoning tropical bass scene, along with Cusco and the Sacred Valley just outside of the capital. The finished album revolves around tempo and flow, working local Afro-Peruvian percussionists, grassroots tap dancers and an Andean soprano into its fourteen tracks. A plethora of local instruments unique to the region are woven into the fabric of the album.
Mala was given a primer on Peruvian music from Tiger’s Milk label-owner and Ceviche restaurant boss Martin Morales. Starting with Afro-Peruvian master Julio ‘Chocolate’ Algendones and old cumbia, it gave him the local grounding to find pockets of the country’s culture. “I was introduced to music from the jungle, music from the mountains, Andean sounds, native sounds, Afro-Peruvian music,” he recalls. “It all goes back to the roots and the rhythms and I related instantly. That primal rhythm is in all of us.”
Mirrors is a bridge joining Croydon and Lima. It creates a link between traditional instruments made from donkey jawbone and dried-out pumpkins and the contemporary box of tricks inside Mala’s laptop. Like all bridges it links the past to the present, giving a clear view of where Mala has been – and where he’s going next.close info
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- Mala in Cuba Live // Brixton Electric // Photos 20 / 11 / 12 view article »