Jaffa Surfa gives his house music an organic edge
One of the latest producers from Hungary to receive international attention, with a steady rate of vinyl and digital releases Jaffa Surfa is fast becoming a name to watch in European house circles. With his deep, bumpy track, ’Kombek’, sitting alongside productions from the likes of Portable, Chris Carrier and Dandy Jack on the freshly released Vibes Against Vibes charity compilation album on Japanese label Descanso, he’s busy cementing his reputation as the premier maker of authentic East Coast influenced house in Hungary. Alongside his productions he’s also built a firm reputation as a skillful DJ, who maintains a passion for using vinyl alongside the analogue sounds he builds his music from.
You’re riding high after a big 18 months for you. Your critically praised releases on Hungarian label All Inn, Italian Bosconi Extra Virgin and German Houseworx all riding high in the charts and garnering praise from DJs and critics. What started you on this journey into making and playing music?
I’ve always been into music. Making it, listening to it, just living it really. As a young kid I used to listen avidly to mixtapes from several of the main figures of the early Hungarian house scene, like Tommyboy and Vittorio Waxman. I even shared my love of house, disco and deep music with my mum, she used to play this one mixtape from Vittorio Waxman in the car all the time. As I grew up I collected records, learnt to play the drums, bass, keyboard and guitar and decided that this was something I wanted to devote my time and energy too, despite being asked to leave music school at 13 because of bad behaviour. And that mixtape my mum used to play all the time, it was the thing that convinced my parents that I could persue music full time as a career. They’ve been hugely supportive of me over the years.
You were remixed in 2010 by Scottish deep disco and house don The Revenge, how did that come about?
Social media and our mutual friend Fabio Della Torre at Bosconi Records. Graeme (The Revenge) really liked my earlier releases, especially the Doin’ Hauz EP on Made Inn, so we got talking via social media to begin with. The relationship developed and when the guys at Bosconi asked him to remix me, he said yes. I was really proud of the Diszko Z EP, The Revenge is a great producer so having him agree to remix me was an honour.
Jaffa Surfa – Disko Z (The Revenge Remix)
You’re known for only playing vinyl in your DJ sets and taking a lot of time in finding classic rare records. Is their something inherently special about vinyl for you?
Because I love vinyl. How it looks, how it sounds, how I can handle it when DJing. Every record has a story and a feeling. When I go record shopping, it has a certain ritualistic quality for me.
Okay, digital DJing opens up a big range of technical and comfort possibilities like looping, editing, new track testing, quick supply or holding 10.000 tracks in your hand etc… But vinyl is something else. A 30 year old or a brand new record has a smell, has a feeling when you hold it in your hands. You can’t do this with audio files or CD-R’s. Another key point is that a lot of old, rare and new releases are not available on the internet as mp3, only on vinyl!
Nowadays on the internet there are billions of free accessible mp3 tracks to download for anybody so almost anyone can be a “DJ”… Or if we call them by their right name (disc jockey) then we should call them mp3 jockeys, no?
Vinyl is the best medium for music for me. Not only the fact that it has much warmer and bassier sound, it’s the longest lasting format for music. And don’t forget the artwork as well.
I buy a lot of old records from collectors around the world or in second hand record shops. You can’t beat the feeling when you find a long desired record in a Camden record shop for 50p.
Of course I use some CD-R’s too but only my own re-edits, new tracks to test or unreleased promos from friends and labels. If I really love a promo I receive, I buy it on vinyl when it’s released. It’s worth paying for good music!
Jaffa Surfa feat. A-C – Soul underground (unreleased)
You use live instrumentation in many of your tracks, including bass guitar and drums. Do you feel this organic quality is vital to create a human edge in modern electronic production?
I think that with house music it’s important. The style evolved from others that were very human and organic so I think with house music it’s important to give it that organic edge, be it with a bass guitar or keyboard line, the drums or a human voice. There’s lots of purely synthetic music out there, but I don’t want to make that. I enjoy learning new things and pushing myself, and playing live instruments and working with other musicians is a great way to do this. When I make music I use live synths and bass guitar, I take my drums from classic Roland drum machines and I also use samples. For me a computer is just for arrangement and sequencing.
With so much electronic music being produced at the moment, which three producers do you think we should keep an eye on in the next year?
I got some really good tracks from Vlad Caia, Alex Danilov and Makam. And of course my heroes are those who still keep their sound hot: Danilo Plessow a.k.a. MCDE, Kink, Mr. G, Moodymann.
Do you think this is a good time for the house music scene in Hungary? Is there anything you would like to change here?
In some terms it’s getting better but in other points is worse than it was. I always try to approach things positively but some things should be changed.
The first bad point I’m quite disappointed with is that most of the party people (and above all the younger generation) are not really open for new and unique music. They are depending on hyped names, brands and on narrow minded club owners and promoters. These organizers don’t care (or don’t even know) about musicality or rationality in making good bookings and line ups. Most of the clubs and events in the big cities in the country are only working with the same 7-8 DJ’s all the time. They’d rather invite the same names 3 or more times a year just for the assured income. They don’t dare (or want to dare) for good music and for long term plans regarding new names. But fortunately there are some really cool groups who keep on making great parties with good music and fresh, really talented artists with a good audience. I still have confidence and optimism for quality house / techno / funk in Hungary and that we can spread our good vibes for a long time.
Jaffa Surfa – Kombek
Published October 31, 2011.