Big Ups With Zahra

Name, Location, What You Do:
My name is Zahra, I move between Toronto and London, Canada, where I am based. At this time I am a DJ, Producer, Community Builder, and Broadcaster. 

That list is very long and diverse. But those who will always stay musically are – Prince, Jimi Hendrix, Sade, Quincy Jones, Larry Levan, Erykah Badu, and Nona Hendryx.

Favorite Records at the Moment:
Been rotating this incredible album by Tony Williams called The Joy of Flying, with all-star players like featuring Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke, George Benson, Cecil Taylor, and many more great players.

Best Digging Story:
The Toronto Record Show in 2022 was serendipitous… I connected with a lot of DJs I had met over the internet during the lockdowns, like Jason Palma, Paul E Lopes, and K-Cut – who I had already known. Befriending them, while buying their records and talking about music, was a nice moment for me. But the story that happened there is this – Someone I was chatting with about what records I was looking for told me he saw a beautiful version of Prince’s Sign O The Times in one seller’s collection. As I was walking up to him, I saw him handing it off to a customer who was seconds ahead of me. It’s one of my favourite albums. All I could do was laugh about it… When I told K-Cut about it as vendors were starting to close up, he walked behind his stand and magically pulled out a pristine promo copy of it from another collection, gold stamp and all. I don’t even remember him looking for it. That’s my favourite type of record too, the ones that feel like historical artifacts. I was so grateful.

There’s another, shorter story, and it was in Istanbul. I was walking around an old part of the city and heard about this mysterious hidden alleyway that was semi-underground and full of shops and businesses. I found it, just by making a right turn in a busy side street and walking for a bit. I was transported to another world. Time traveling is real. And in these ancient-looking stores, where shopkeepers were selling old maps, antiques, books, and all kinds of things, I found a pristine copy of Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Not a big surprise considering the album’s notoriety, but it was exciting nonetheless.

Favorite Mix and Why. Any Genre, Any DJ:
I can’t answer this one, man. So much greatness out there. Ha ha. One of my favourites is a mix by Louie Vega for Worldwide FM celebrating Larry Levan on his bornday. It’s called Lockdown Sessions with Louie Vega: A Tribute to Larry Levan // 20-07-20. It has some of my favourite tracks on it. I was listening to that whole mix on repeat for weeks, and it was especially impressionable on me in that time. The reason? Larry’s production is infectious. I was completely immersed every time. Louie also shared lots of incredible stories, soundbites, and memories of Larry… 

LP, 12”, or 7” format?
Again, really hard to answer. Playing 45s is like dancing at a party in itself – you stay on your feet. Overall, I like 12 inches. I like to take my time with mixing records together and transitions, particularly with house and funk music, and 12 inches give me that room. I love the way it looks on the turntable – solid, unquestionable. I also love those underplayed remixes and b-sides you find on the 12 inches. That’s partly the inspiration for my radio show’s name: Lunar Rotations – an homage to the radio DJs doing graveyard shifts and taking full liberties to play their favourite album cuts that they couldn’t play on daytime radio – where singles were favoured. And on that note, I love listening to LPs all the way through for a listening session. “Albums still matter” Prince once said. 

Junk Food You Can’t Live Without:
I don’t know if it’s technically “junk” food, but dark chocolate. Somewhere in the 70% – 90% realm. 

Most Memorable Gig Played: 
Most memorable gig… In 2021 I threw a party in a warehouse loft in London called Bass is Base. All deep house, disco, rare groove. I had two of my friends join as guest DJs, one of them brought his sound system he uses for his parties, which is called Lovedance. They hauled it all in, up a flight of stairs to get to the loft – I made myself useful by watching in awe. We had so many records in there, it was easily a section of a store. The party was amazing, I think everyone was surprised by how much fun they had. A lot of people I didn’t know came to that party, and it was a perfect 2-way introduction.

Record That Never Leaves Your Record Box:
“Nuyorican Soul” ft. Jocelyn Brown – “I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun”. If I had the original version, it would be that one in there as well. One of my favourite songs ever.

Shout Outs, Last Remarks, and Gig Info:
I want to shout out everyone who has come into my life via music, whether by DJing, radio, industry events, through dance, or simply sharing a love for good music in any space or place. Big love to all record store owners and staffers of the world, especially the ones who take care of their vinyl. Their knowledge and love of music are endlessly inspiring to me. Big thanks to my extended musical family all over the world – I am so blessed to have them. And I have to show love to my second place of birth, where I feel I was born musically, which is Montreal. I lived there for 7 very formative years. The music I experienced at that time opened up a side of me I had not experienced before. 

I’d love to extend an invitation to my radio show, Lunar Rotations, and its beautiful community. They are my tribe, my Moon Tribe. The show streams Thursdays at 9PM ET on Twitch. I’ve turned it into a bi-monthly live event that takes place in London Ontario. Maybe we’ll be in a city near you soon?

Dig Deeper!!

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