The Collector | DJ Kenzhero on vinyl and Kamasi Washington

kenzhero record

DJ Kenzhero – the South African spinner who has shared the stage with everyone from Thandiswa and Tumi Molekane to 9th Wonder and Yasiin Bey – may not discriminate against digital, but his default setting has always been vinyl. In the first of a series on varied collectors, he shared a coveted next buy and his journey in collecting wax.

“I really like The Internet (the band) right now, something so soulful from people so young. I don’t think there is anyone in the band older than their twenties. But a record that I really want – and it just got printed on vinyl – is Kamasi Washington’s The Epic. It’s a lot of songs, I think it’s a three or four vinyl pack (it’s three – Ed). His music has revived my love for jazz, straight jazz, not fusion. I came across him on (the website) Mochilla about five or six years ago. I remember sending the link to DJ Bob (his friend a longtime collaborator) and when I found out he had an album coming I was very excited.

He comes from the same school of thinking as (producers) Thundercat and Terrace Martin. His sound is huge, layered. I anticipated this album the most this year and is perhaps the second album ever I have preordered (digitally). I hadn’t ordered the vinyl because they weren’t sure whether they were going to print it or not. Now I have to order it.

If I weren’t a DJ, I’d still be collecting records, but I am not so precious about vinyl. I am not a vinyl head purist in that way, I got into it because of my generation, it was a generational default. I don’t even consider myself a collector. You go overseas and you realise you are a piece of crap (when it comes to collecting). When I went to Stockholm last year, I met this guy who is supposedly an encyclopaedia of music (August Ekstrom), he sells records (Record Mania). Anything I mentioned that was scarce to me, he had it. You would mention a rare record and without even flinching, he would describe the cover. He had it. These are real collectors. None of my peers are collectors in the true sense, and that includes me. I have a bunch of records, a couple of rare records, but a rack at home doesn’t make you a collector. When you go into some bookstore in Melville (Johannesburg) with a few records, that’s not (crate) digging.

None of my peers are collectors in the true sense, and that includes me. I have a bunch of records, a couple of rare records, but a rack at home doesn’t make you a collector.

August, Jacques – the guy who owns Mabu Vinyl (in Cape Town) – those are collectors. DJ Spinna has a large collection; Questlove has a large collection; J Rocc has a large collection; Madlib, Pete Rock, of course. You have a basement just full of records, I am talking ten thousand to a hundred thousand. Some of them buy in doubles or triples: one for the collection, you never open it; one for you to play or for sampling or juggling (on the decks) and another you can trade. These are people who get lost for the whole day digging. I used to spend the entire day at Mabu, where the owner would leave me there and take his lunch break, come back and I am still there. When you see J Rocc with a mask and gloves, that’s digging.

I am not against technology, not against new ways of DJing. I am really for it. You find a lot of guys who had wished to be DJs way back when, who now have money through other means who go back to their childhood dreams, buy a lot of vinyl and only play vinyl. I find those kind of guys a little snobbish about it because of the whole ‘not a lot of people play vinyl, I’m special’. For me it’s not like that, I try to be as open minded as I can, if we are not gonna allow evolution to take place, we are not gonna move on as a people and as a DJ, if you don’t evolve, you will get left behind.

Having said that, as a preference, I still choose to play off a turntable, not because I am trying to prove a point, because I am trying to be old school, it’s just what I am used to. When you play off CDJs, sometimes the CD runs out without even you noticing time lapsing. There are people who argue about the quality of vinyl versus MP3s, I mean, you get badly pressed vinyl, you get bad MP3s, bad CDs. Quality is quality, you can find quality in all of them.

There are songs you can’t find on vinyl that you find online. I am struggling to find Tammi Terrell’s original version of Stevie Wonder’s ‘All I do’ – which she recorded originally (in 1966 – Ed) on Motown – so I play it on MP3. As a DJ, it’s really about the sonic presentation, not the tools or the medium. But for pleasure, at home, sitting alone and opening a gatefold record cover, reading the liner notes, appreciating the artwork, thats entertaining to me personally.”



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