Diggers Directory: Zoya

DJ and radio host Zoya isn’t one for following generic style or adhering to convention, a characteristic that translates through her sonic transmissions.

In her home of Leeds she’s become a core part of the fertile scene, lending her talents to various musical outlets. As part of Equaliser, a collective highlighting and supporting female, transgender and non-binary people, she hosts DJ workshops, while you can find her sharing her own musical discoveries on the waves of Sable Radio.

Previously alongside fellow DJ Luce, she helmed Bath Time Sessions whilst studying at university, a radio show reserved for immersive and left-of-centre selections to soothe and centre listeners. Although she’s taken a step back of late, she recently lent a hand to put together a compilation, spotlighting sounds and art from local friends, with the incentive to raise funds for Cox’s Bazar Refugee Camp as well as domestic abuse support.

Taking this opportunity to slow down and connect with her records, Zoya centres her two hour mix around roots, uprooting, spirituality and technocracy, transmitted through atmospheric meditations and fluid grooves. This sits alongside an interview about her relationship with records and the scene in her home of Leeds.

We now premiere all our mixes a week early on Mixcloud. Subscribe to our channel to listen first, download all mixes, and ensure that the artists included in each one gets paid. Read more about our decision here.

DJs and producers often mention their musical education came through their family’s record collection. Was this the case for you? Can you pick out any pivotal records from your upbringing that informed your musical journey? 

Well, both my parents had fathers who didn’t allow them to listen to music. My dad told me recently he used to have some Pakistani/ Persian/ Indian LPs which he threw away when CDs came in fashion… so unfortunately no records in the house. 

Growing up there was sufi, bollywood & Brit Asian music playing on the tv/ CDs and cassettes – classics like Devdas, Khabi Khushi Khabi Gham, Nazia Hassan, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and naats like Shah e Medina. 

The ‘pivotal’ music moment was probably getting into my brother’s PC account to find the huge folder of tunes from my cousin’s hard drive. That had artists like Aaliyah, Timbaland, Dre Dre, The Prodigy, Missy Elliot, Dead Prez… Mostly 90s hip hop and rnb stuff. And I just got really into the process of listening through lots of music. 

People buy records for a multiple of reasons. What first drew you to collecting records and what motivates you to continue digging after all these years? 

Probably moving to Leeds and there suddenly being records around me, I didn’t think much of it, just liked that it was music I could collect. 

Starting Bath Time Sessions with Luce was a lovely reason to delve deeper into digging, more fun to play & mess around with experimental / ambient records. Playing at Brilliant Corners with Brudenell Groove was another catalyst. I already had some records, but that was like OK, now I kind of have to invest in all the music I love on wax for the gig. 

What keeps me into it is that it holds a lot more experience than a digital file, connecting with the record more every time you play it. It’s a haptic artefact, carrying memories of places, people, situations. Plus, you don’t get no “disk is nearly full” messages constantly popping up haha. Also gotta say, especially during lockdown, I really appreciated having a non-screen means of listening to music. Digital realm of music is awesome (sometimes overwhelmingly so!) but it’s also nice to slow down and connect with what you’ve got, so thanks for getting me involved with this! 

Where do you store your records and how do you file them? 

Living room, by mood/ context I’d play them in. 

What are your favourite spots to go digging and why? 

Tribe Records, Leeds, of course. Wicked stock and always has a chill vibe there, Alex T is a big part of that. Low Company in London have a super interesting stock. Disque 72 also sick. Loved checking the locals section at Vary, Leipzig. And generally exploring new spots when out in the world is sweet, never know what you’ll find. 

Digging isn’t just about the records you find, but the people who help you find them. Who are some of the colourful characters you’ve met on your travels in record stores round the world? Any unsung heroes you’d like to shout out? 

Got to shout out Simon Scott and Mike Greenwell at Tribe. Both such underrated DJs and about the music through and through. They’ve shown me some of my now favourite records and are great at gauging sounds to show you if you let them know what you like. Hit them up at the shop/ on Discogs… they got knowledge for days! 

Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be elusive over the years? 

The ones my dad threw away aha… Other than that, it’s all fleeting. 

Not looking to get hung up over material things and once you get the thing that you really wanted, that excitement deflates and you want more. So, it doesn’t seem like a fulfilling thing to get caught up over… just taking it as it comes and is financially reasonable to pursue alongside other life stuff. 

Do you prefer record shopping as a solitary process or with friends to nerd out with and search or strange sounds together? If the latter, who do you like to go digging with? 

Hanging in record shops is chill, but listening through is solo and getting into the process. 

Walking into a record shop can be quite a daunting experience. Do you have a digging process that helps you hone in on what you’re after? 

Hm, not really you know, just go with my mood on the day, and usually only try to go if I’ve got ample time to listen. Artists, track titles, labels, graphics, release date, location, instruments etc. can all guide the process and listening through helps you feel what you’re leaning towards/ what kind of stock they’ve got and goes off on tangents from there. Although it maybe takes longer than someone with a solid plan, I like how chance and coincidence play out. Also, if you know what you’re looking for, ask staff, they got the lowdown! 

How big a role does album artwork play in your digging? 

Love some good artwork. Definitely bought stuff with a funky cover that ended up sounding not that great though… got to straight up listen to know! 

Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us? 

It ebbs and flows around ideas of roots, uprooting. Spirituality, technocracy. 

Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention? 

Glen Adams – ‘A Beat For You’. Mike showed me this in the shop some time ago and heard Alex T play it in his b2b with Katiusha at Cosmic Roots 2019. Lovely sunshine memories singing along to this and Angie Stone! (Think that’s also when I first met you Rosie?!) Alex was the first person in Leeds to say ‘hey mate, let’s have a mix’, the first person I even chatted to about records. There’s a lot to thank him for. Though his passing so soon will always feel tragic, I’m grateful for how soul can flow on through music. 

Positive Force & Ade Olatunji – ‘Praise Song’. Recently read Malcom X’s autobiography (free PDF online) and been feeling all types of ways. His book gives insights into history that they just don’t teach in schools. Bought this record for some of its other poetry and didn’t realise this track was on there and felt a lot of joy in listening. 

Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why? 

There’s loads. Each person does their own thing, expresses their own style. 

Leeds crew – Love Muscle family (Chekov, Lucy Locket, Tom Hannah, Micheal Upson, Little Joe, Izzy Iz, Sayang, Kessie), love how much energy they can conjure up in a room with their music & how conscious they are of their queer community. Sayang, Kessie and Mandy & Friends also run another event called Flesh in Tension, paying homage to the QTIPOC roots of dance music. Energising, refreshing techno feeels. 

Simon and Mike I already mentioned, they got crazy breadth of knowledge across genres and time. Also Cosmic Tom & Cosmic Slop. Slop broke all the ‘rules’ for me. Sometimes they mix, sometimes there’s silence inbetween records… all that matters is the music & the feeling! 

Outlaws crew – Joe Gill, Luce_, Zoe Pea, Slacky, Marjai. Bringing the cosmic, hypnotic, freaky sounds. Outlaws is the local hangout, always a good vibe & sick music. Looking forward to heading back post- lockdown! 

Plugkeisha. Playing b2b with her at Stretchy was an honour, she is amazing and so calm and casual about it. She’s also part of Sable Radio and Not Exotic, two of the freshest things to happen to Leeds since I’ve been here. 

Tony Neptune and Mark Turner. Any time I seen them play, it’s been straight fire! Electro, techno, acid badness. 

Credit 00. Always sick catching his set and I really respect his approach. Weaving through styles, he acknowledges the roots/ context of the music and pushes it in new directions, keeping it fresh. Plus there was always plenty cool graphics/ funny stories involved! 

Arshia Haq, founder of Discostan. Love her work reppin sounds and stories from across the MENASA region, she’s a big inspiration. 

Yu Su’s sound aesthetic and flow are lush. Love her vibe. 

Maryisonacid from African Acid is the Future – her mixes are always fly! 

Jaye Ward conjures up magic with her vast record knowledge. Lovely person and wicked DJ. 

Marlene Stark has an ear for good goood music! Love her sound. 

Joe Delon always comes through with the groove and funky energy. 

TSVI/ Anunaku. Had the most refreshing/ uplifting chat with him a while ago in Leeds about Sufi spirituality and dance music. What he’s creating is awesome, big respect! 

Are there any young collectors emerging who we should keep a close eye on? 

Honestly, loads… I’m constantly inspired by people around me & love catching friends play. Sable Radio is a great spot for interesting stuff happening in Leeds. 

Souq Sounds, Mi-el, Chen, babyschön, Aletha, Michelle, Nahi Sabhera, Iced Gem, Equaliser, Slut Drop, Stretchy Dance Supply, Soundbwoy Killah, Viers, Barking, Laa, Shirin, Fresh Junk, Uppercut Sound, Sofie K, Kmya, Kiana, GiGi FM … it goes on and on! Lots of great music around and people who are passionate about it. 

Anything on the horizon you’re excited about? 

It’s in the present rather than the horizon, but Luce and I just put out a compilation on Bandcamp under Bathtime Sessions. It’s a lush coming together of sounds and art by talented friends, in aid of the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp and domestic abuse support. Check it out! <3

Photo credit: Tyra Enchill.

We now premiere all our mixes a week early on Mixcloud. Subscribe to our channel to listen first, download all mixes, and ensure that the artists included in each one gets paid. Read more about our decision here.

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