Music has been an integral part of London-based DJ and radio host Poly-Ritmo‘s life since childhood. Having grown up on a diet of jazz, funk, soul, Brazilian and folk, these sounds and styles have played a major part in where she is today, as well as providing her entry point into collecting records.
At 15 years old, a week’s work experience at Sounds Of The Universe – set up by her Dad who was a regular in the shop – solidified her passion for vinyl and sharing music with others. She still sporadically works behind the counter to this day, juggling it with her other commitments which include working with our previous Diggers Directory guest Norsicaaa at Soundway Records and helming her Tambourine Hands parties alongside friend and fellow DJ Austin.
More widely known for her expert knowledge of the dusty corners of Brazilian, jazz, soul and disco – which you can hear on her monthly show on Worldwide FM – this time she puts together a love letter to the clubs and the dancing she’s sorely missing with an energetic, uplifting mix of Broken Beat, Kwaito, House and Garage. This sits alongside an interview about her love of records.
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?
Music was always on in the house when I was growing up, and I think that my Dad being super into jazz, funk, soul, Brazilian, Latin and folk amongst other music was a massive influence on me.
I think the times that I felt particularly moved and inspired by the music my Dad played was when we went on holiday. Each holiday he would make a mixtape (or a few) and that would be the soundtrack to new landscape as we drove around Devon, Cornwall or France. They’d always be upbeat, soulful, summery tunes, by artists like Quincy Jones, Betty Swan, The Isley Brothers, Lee Maison, Bobbie Womack, Little Bever, Erykah Badu and Chic. As I got older, me, and my brother would also make holiday mixtapes, fighting over who got to play theirs first.
People buy records for a multitude of reasons. What first drew you to collecting records and what motivates you to continue digging after all these years?
When I was 15 I did a week’s work experience at Sounds of the Universe. I’d been in a couple of times before during record store day, and was completely obsessed with the idea of working in a record shop – SOTU in particular. My Dad, having been a regular there since it had opened asked on my behalf, and I had what I thought at the time was one of the best weeks of my life! Records seemed so magical – a physical vessel for sound, where you can actually see the grooves that has the sine wave.
I think as I’ve got older and more into collecting, one of the most amazing things that I love about it is that a lot of music you can’t even find on any other format. The last year I’ve been buying a lot of records from Brazil, Cape Verde and French West Indies, and a lot of these tunes you can only hear from the original records.
Where do you store your records and how do you file them?
I have a little studio in my garden where I keep my turntables and records. It’s great because I can play music pretty loud and never disturb anyone from there. They’re filed by genre, country, and label. That makes it sound really organised but it’s sometimes a bit hectic and there’s often a stack leaning against the wall that’s stuff I’m playing at the moment or new records I haven’t filed away yet. 7’s are all just random as I don’t have that many.
What are your favourite spots to go digging and why?
Eldica is really near my house and I always like to pop in there to see what they’ve got in, and often spend a lot longer than I intended haha. They’ve got a real mix of stuff, but always some really great records from the Caribbean – soca, zouk and cadence. The Little Record shop, Alan’s Records and Atlantis are also spots that I really love to go to. Atlantis only opened last spring, and has some really interesting records that are hard to find anywhere else.
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?
Claudio from Casa do Vinil in Recife is a legend. Although we couldn’t speak the same language, he was super helpful and I got some incredible records from his shop. During my time in Recife I ended up going three or four times to Casa do Vinil, as there was just so much great music to go through.
Wayne, my manager at Sounds of the Universe is also an absolute hero. He is really into Brazilian music, Latin and jazz, and is always recommending me amazing records.
Is there a record (or records), that has continued to be elusive over the years?
I’ve been after a copy of Ed Carlos’ self-titled album for a while now, and tried to get it for a while when I was in Brazil last year with no luck. A copy comes up on Discogs every now and then but postage from Brazil can be dodgy and really expensive.
The album has this amazing track on it called “Eu não me importo com as coisas do mundo”, which has this horn line so similar to “Soulful Strut” by Young-Holt Unlimited, the first time I heard it I thought it was a cover! It’s arranged by Lincoln Olivetti and Robson Jorge, who are the best when it comes to Brazilian boogie and disco.
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?
I enjoy both! Sometimes I find it good to be with a friend, as it’s often helpful to get a second opinion about records. I definitely find I can spend a lot longer in a record shop if I’m by myself though, as I can just get really lost in it! If I am to go with a friend Austin, who I run Tambourine Hands with, is my favourite digging pal.
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?
Yeah I definitely used to feel really daunted and scared to ask questions when I first started record shopping as a teenager. But now, normally the first thing I do when I go into a shop is just ask if they have a section for Brazilian music or broken beat or whatever music I’m wanting to find that day. As someone often on the other side of the counter I always enjoy recommending records to people, so when I go into a record shop I’ll often ask for recommendations from the person working there.
How big a role does album artwork play in your digging?
A pretty big role really. If I don’t know what the music is but it’s got an amazing cover I’ll almost always listen to it, and I’ve found some amazing records from doing this.
Could you tell us a bit about the mix you’ve done for us?
I’ve been missing dancing and playing to people dancing so much! Most of the mixes I’ve done since the pandemic I’ve been playing predominantly Brazilian, jazz, disco, soul kind of things and I’ve missed playing heavier tunes that I would normally whip out at 2am to a dancing crowd. This mix is all dance music – kwaito, house, broken beat and garage – and I thoroughly enjoyed recording it. It’s the most I’ve danced in the last 10 months!
Any standouts in the mix you’d like to mention?
Bo’vel – Check 4 U (Metrodrome UK-Gee Remix) has gotta get a mention. This is just such a tune, it never fails on the dancefloor, and I’m looking forward to an opportunity when I can play it again in the future.
Casting the net wider now, who are some of the record collectors you most admire and why?
Zag Erlat who runs a youtube channel called My Analog Journal has an incredible record collection. Each video he makes, he focusses on a country, region or genre and I think it’s really cool how specific his videos are. It’s a real education!
D.Vyzor is an amazing DJ who I met through working at Sounds of the Universe. His record collection is insane and he has mad scratching skills too – something I’ve always thought would be cool to learn!
Anything on the horizon you’re excited about?
Getting everyone vaccinated so that we can all dance together again! My fingers are tightly crossed hoping that festivals will run this summer – if so, I’ll hopefully be playing at a few!
Penny Penny – Shilung
High Tide – Time Unlimited
2000 Black – Bauxite, Gypsum & Limestone
Kenny Dope – The Illout
Mallard – Untitled (Breaks)
Fizzy Veins – Kool Down
Crustation – Flame (Mood II Swing Vocal Mix)
Lifeforce – Feel Your Body
Henry Wu – Substance (IG Culture and Alex Phountzi Remix)
Waiwan – Changes
Ballistic Brothers – Marching On (Nu Yorican Soul Mix)
Osunlade – Na Batida Do Agogo (Main Mix)
Local 12 – Kulo
Bo’vel – Check 4 U (Metrodrome UK-Gee Remix)
Groove Chronicles – 99
Sci-Clone – Close
Nuyorican Soul – I Am The Black Gold of the Sun (4hero Remix)