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Fresh Kicks 187: Tarzsa

Fresh Kicks 187: Tarzsa

Manchester DJ, NTS resident and BBC Radio 6 regular Tarzsa records an uplifting mix of warming, soulful house for the Fresh Kicks series, and chats to Eoin Murray about her lifelong love of sharing music with others

As a teen, Tarzsa would come home from school and record new tracks off MTV with her phone. The next day, she’d bluetooth her bootlegged discoveries to friends. They joke about it now, remarking on how obvious it seems, in hindsight, that their pal would end up doing what she does today: presenting regular shows on NTS and BBC Radio 6 Music, and delighting dancefloors with joyful DJ sets of everything from soul, jazz and R&B to house, garage, disco and breaks.

With a flair for delivering uplifting vibes, the Manchester DJ and broadcaster has found fans in the likes of Gilles Peterson and Mr. Scruff. She played the latter’s event at the Camden Roundhouse in March — a dream come true for someone who grew up attending his legendary Keep It Unreal sessions. In 2020, she took on a residency with the revered Manchester party crew Swing Ting, whose mentorship and community-led ethos have helped her find her feet in the scene, even since their dissolution last year. 

She’s had a busy summer playing festivals and clubs at home and abroad, including GALA, Parklife, We Out Here and Tresor 31 in Berlin. A highlight was Lost Village, where she played to her biggest festival crowd to date. “Everyone was just giving it welly!” she remembers, gleefully. “I’d never seen anything like it. [People had their] tops off, swinging them about. It was incredible for me to see... To get to play music I bloody love and see everyone else loving it and loving the way I was playing it — it blew my mind.” 

Sharing the music she loves with others, the stuff that “sets my soul on fire”, is Tarzsa’s raison d'être, and has been a guiding principle as her star has risen. “I’m not going to have a good time if I’m not playing what I like,” she says, candidly. “The only times I've ever felt like I've done something I wasn't sure of is when I've tried to cater to what I think people are going to want... But if I just do what I enjoy 100%, then I don't have any issues. I have to play stuff that brings me all the feels the first time I hear it. It’s about reminding myself: ‘Just do you’.” 

Tarzsa grew up in a musical family, getting educated on the history of jazz signatures by her mum, listening to garage in her aunties’ cars and hearing house through her stepdad. And though, as an only child, she spent hours discovering new sounds alone in her room, sequencing blends between YouTube tabs, music was always a passion based on generosity and exchange.

“Music has always been very conversational for me,” she says. “I just like to have chats with people, even if they’re not into the same shit I am. I actually think that’s so much better because, that way, you learn... I’ll always just ring people for a natter anyway, and then talk about something they should listen to to make themselves feel better.”

It’s no wonder Tarzsa was so drawn to radio; she started off at Manchester’s Unity FM when she was 18. In 2018, her friend Konny Kon from Children of Zeus invited her to hang out and shadow his show at NTS’ Manchester studio. Before long, she’d been offered a guest slot of her own, followed soon after by a regular show alongside R&B artist [K S R].  

Since May 2021, she’s held down a monthly solo slot on the station, where her specialism in soul, jazz and R&B records old and new really shines. “I can just talk the back legs off that stuff, because I’ve grown up on it,” she says. “I like dissecting samples and [learning] where something's come from and talking about that.”

Her NTS show caught the attention of someone at Radio 6, and since September 2021, Tarzsa has featured regularly on the station, filling in for absent hosts up to three or four times a month. Debuting new tracks at that scale has been a personal highlight; she even gave Eliza Rose’s No.1 hit ‘B.O.T.A. (Baddest Of Them All)’ its first spin on the platform. “It’s things like that that make you think: ‘This is what it’s all about’,” she says.

“Being personal about stuff that you enjoy, the stuff that sets your soul on fire, is the thing for me,” she continues. “It’s also nice to hear when [a track] resonates with people in the same way... I think that’s what radio is all about: sharing.”

With sets lined up at ADE and Eat Your Own Ears’ 20th anniversary party at Warehouse Project, and plenty of radio in the calendar, there’ll be no shortage of opportunities for Tarzsa to continue sharing the music she loves with her ever-growing audience. 

Speaking about her Fresh Kicks mix, Tarzsa says: “This mix feels very tender and somewhat of a breakthrough for me. It’s the first mix I’ve approached since Feb; I tend to get in my head a lot and I’ve found exploring different sounds has always been a useful way to help navigate how I’m feeling. In preparation, lots of trial and error (thank you Nina). It’s definitely a gradual build, something from both my mind and heart. For me, it’s a reminder to myself and others that there’s still some magic to be found even when it’s a bit difficult to create. Recorded in one take, because I literally don’t know how else to do it."

Tracklist:

Axel Boman ‘Fantastic Piano’ 
Sofia Kourtesis ‘Nicolas’ 
Quantic, Dan Shake ‘September Blues (Dan Shake Remix)’
Dam Swindle ‘Good Woman Edit’
Bondax ‘Fade’
Kuna Maze ‘Bill’ 
Promo ‘Rise Up’
Eris Drew ‘Quivering In Time’
Steady Weather ‘Burning So Hot (feat. Allysha Joy)’ 
Four Tet ‘Two Thousand And Seventeen (Tommy 2000's y2k Mix)’
Urulu ‘Tochigi Descent’ 
Lovers ‘Southern Exposure’ 
Hugo LX ‘Alone Together feat. Hermon Mehair’ (Unreleased) 
Alix Perez, Sam Wills ‘Annie's Song (Maddslinky Remix)’
Capeesh Society ‘Bottom Line’ 
Westcoast Goddess ‘Untitled Soul '98’
Felipe Gordon ‘Evolving Texture (Kai Alce interpretation)’
BugzintheAttic ‘Once Twice’ 
TJR, Xavier ‘Just Gets Better - Dub’

Want more? Check out Fresh Kicks mixes from Gramrcy and Effy Mai

Eoin Murray is DJ Mag's deputy digital editor. You can follow him on Twitter @eoin_murraye

Photo credit: Sham Steele