Interview / Mafalda / Melodies International / Tropic Of Love – By The Insider

Interview conducted by our favourite four-to-the-floor expert, The Insider.

Hailing from the sunny climes of Porto, in Portugal, Mafalda brings the sunshine wherever she goes. A creative and determined individual she left a career in fashion, and made the move across to London, to immerse herself in the music scene. Part of the Melodies International crew, Mafalda also hosts her own show on NTS, called Tropic Of Love. A project which has now gone on to become a record label. A festival favourite – Mafalda will be playing in Colleen Murphy’s Love Dancin tent at We Out Here this year – we had a chat as she was beginning to prepare to appear at The Wild Wood Disco

Mafalda Bella Fenning

Portrait By Bella Fenning.

Thanks for taking the time to talk. Where are you this moment and how are you spending your day?

I’m currently in Hull, checking emails. I’ll get a train to London later, to start preparing for the weekend.

You’re based in London right. Where did you grow as a kid exactly? Can you paint us a picture of what it was like were you grew up?

Yes, I’m based in London, but I grew up in Porto, in Portugal. I moved around a bit growing up, but we were always around the outskirts of Porto. I grew up dancing ballet, painting and listening to music. I had a normal childhood up until my parents divorced, when I was 9, after that I became a bit of a rebellious teen.

Were you dabbling in music as a child?

I wouldn’t say I dabbled in music as a child, I did listen to a lot of music though, it was always around. I did have a hip hop band for a while with 2 girlfriends when I was 13, that was my first experience in an all be it bedroom studio.

What sounds were you into in your teens, who did you follow?

I was listening to Hip Hop as a teen, mainly Portuguese. At the time my favourite band was Dealema. Once I was old enough to go to clubs, I started listening to electronic music as well. But there was jazz and rock around too. 

You were into the creative arts early on in your work life. Can you tell me a little about that?

Yes, I’ve always been into creative projects. I studied Fashion Design, and that was my job before I moved to London.

At what point did you come to London and what brought you over initially?

I moved in 2014, I was growing increasingly frustrated with my job, and I fell in love with the music scene here. I wanted to be around it.

Did you come alone? Where did you live when you first arrived?

I came alone. I knew very few people. I had no one close to me, and I stayed in all sorts of places around East London for the first two years. It wasn’t an easy time.

How did you get involved in the London music scene initially?

I started going to parties at places like Plastic People, frequenting record shops, meeting people… just immersing myself in it all. It was a brand new world.

Where were your first DJ gigs in London? What kind of vibe were you playing then?

The first gig that I remember in London was probably in the basement of Life, a Japanese restaurant in Old St. – it’s closed now. My friend Luca Shiavonni invited me to DJ at his party. I told him I wasn’t a DJ, but he insisted. 

Melodies International Logo

Before working with Melodies International, you were working on some sleeve designs, right? What’s the story on that?

Yes, I had design experience, so I did sleeves for a few friends, at around the same time as I started doing Melodies. I wanted to work in music, so I just did whatever I could.

Melodies International began in 2015. What was the moment you all decided to start the reissue label together?

It was Sam’s idea, he wanted to do it and I wanted to help. That’s how it happened.

Are you still actively involved?

I haven’t worked in the label since 2019, but I’m still part of the crew, mainly DJing at the You’re A Melody parties. I started my own label during the pandemic, Tropic Of Love Music. It’s a small project, but I wanna keep developing it.

tropic of love logo

I loved the Hunee selections in December.  What’s coming up this year on the label?

I’m not sure I can talk about it (smiles).

youre a melody poster

Since you’ve been in London, has there been a particular record shop that you frequent / hang out in for vinyl goodies?

I worked in Cosmos Records – now Yo-Yo – for a few years when they opened in Hackney Road, that’s a special one. Now I hang out at Atlantis Records sometimes and I love The Little Record Shop too, but it’s complicated to get there for me, I haven’t been in a while. Sorry, Dave!

You’ve been playing on NTS for some time now with your Tropic of Love show. How do you go about sourcing new music for your show?

Everywhere, it can be anything, anywhere. Record shops, friends, promos, Shazam in cafés. Anything goes.

You are known for your sunshine vibes, warm sunny themes,  the great thought and detail in your shows. How do you go about preparing for a radio show? Is it a lengthy process?

It depends. It always involves listening to a lot of music, then, sometimes I plan it more than others. I also often have guests, and when that happens, we talk a bit before the show and then freestyle. I like seeing how it feels and where it goes…

You remind me of Cosmo in some ways. Are you a fan of Colleen’s? Have you been to any of her Classic Album Sundays?

I’m a big fan of Colleen, and I’ve had the honour of doing stuff with her over the years. We’ll be playing on her We Out Here stage, Love Dancin’ this year.


Even though you love to collect records and have been involved with a vinyl label, you`ve also commented on the environmental impact of vinyl. Can you share your thoughts a little on this subject and what you see to be the future of vinyl?

I can only hope people are conscious about what they’re doing. Maybe we don’t need another colour pressing of a Rolling Stones, or whatever big band which has already sold millions. There’ll be enough to go around. We don’t always need to shrink wrap. There are lots of things that can be done better if the environment is a concern at the heart of labels. I also wish environmentally friendly plants become more common and hopefully the price of them will drop. Vinyl manufacturing is going through challenging times right now, Brexit isn’t helping at that, so labels – mine included – can’t always access better production methods. I’m hoping this changes in the next year or two.

As well as digging deep into the past for your excellent selections, who do you think is making great music right now?

So many… I really like what the group that I’m working with are doing, Telephone Man. We’ll release their second E.P. soon. Also both of them individually, Ben Nostalgia 77 put out a beautiful album on Jazzman recently. Rebecca Vasmant is doing wicked stuff as is Pedro Ricardo. There are a bunch. I play all my favs on the radio show. 

Festival season is pretty much here. You’ve played at some of the greats, including Dekmantel, Glastonbury, Suncebeat. You’re at The Wild Wood Disco Festival in June.  Is this your first time, what can you tell us about the event?

It’ll be my first time at Wild Wood. I really like the line-up, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Who will you be checking out on the line up?

Will try to catch Crazy P, DJ Paulette, Dam Swindle…but the whole line up is ace.

What would be a perfect warm up track for you?

It depends on the event, the vibe… I like starting things slowly though.

And what kind of record might we hear you playing peak time?

That also depends… but something with a good bass line and soul.

How do you feel about sleeping in tents?

Let’s just say I’m not 20 anymore…

What’s essential in your festival packing? 

Water and tissues. 45 adapters if I’m DJing – I forget them sometimes…

Give us your festival survival tip?

Water again.

Is the name Mafalda anything to do with the Argentinian comic strip and her great concern for humanity?

Yes, I believe that influenced my parents choice. They’re big fans and so am I. Mafalda is awesome. Some people think it’s a stage name, but it’s my real name.

You can catch Mafalda as part of the star-studded line-up at the Wild Wood Disco Festival, taking place at The Woodland Glade, Horseheath Racecourse, in Linton, Cambridgeshire, between the 16th and 18th of June. You can find more details, and purchase tickets, here.

Copy of wild wood disco Festival-2023

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