Martha is a DJ, documentary maker and radio producer from Peckham, south east London. With all those strings to her bow this weekend she'll be exercising her DJ talents at Peckham's Tola for new club-night and fundraiser Medusa. Ahead of the occassion, we spoke to Martha to discover the roots of her talent.
You produce radio shows for Resident Advisor and the BBC. How and why did you get involved in radio production?
I produce Annie Nightingale’s BBC Radio 1 & 1Xtra show, and I produce The Hour for Resident Advisor, a podcast featuring discussion and documentaries on electronic music culture. I started making radio when I was 16 years old, at Reprezent - a youth radio project that was in my area (Peckham). I presented a new music show and produced speech programmes about issues that were affecting the young people in our area. From there I made a 1Xtra documentary called Grime Mums, which caught the BBC’s attention and I was offered an apprenticeship for one year, starting at 6Music, then Radio 1 then 1Xtra where I made more docs and then went to work for an independent production company called Grape , where I was able to work on Radio 1’s specialist programming. I’m still with Grape now, to produce Annie Nightingale’s show.
You have a weekly slot Radar Radio, how important are places like Radar not only as a station but as a cultural hub?
SO IMPORTANT. Everytime I pass through Radar, I feel inspired by all the other young people on their grind, being creative and being productive and making the most of the resources made available to us. I’m so lucky to be a part of the station and hope I feed in to the community as much as I get out of it.
Can you also tell us a bit about your involvement with documentaries?
My parents made documentaries so it’s in my blood haha. My first was Grime Mums (1Xtra) - celebrating the mothers of grime artists. I made a programme with Jamz Supernova about the music she loves, and a few more pieces for Radio 1. most recently I added another chapter to Grime Mums, where I captured a new conversation with Novelist and his mum, who since the last programme has become his manager. I love working with those two and their dynamic is so special. I make short documentaries each month with Resident Advisor for our podcast, The Hour. my latest piece for RA looks at the impact of ‘trolls’ on women in dance music. It’s been a super personal piece to make and i’m grateful RA trust me to tell the stories I care about telling. In the doc, The Black Madonna opened up about her experiences with internet trolls in a way that was so articulate and inspiring. I got a lot out of the process of making that feature, stuff I can apply to my own way of working and my own confidence.
What’s currently inspiring or engaging you about the music at the moment?
I guess the opportunity to blend genres and worlds - I take pieces from rap and leftfield experimental electronic music and can mix them with sound art I make and with ambient tracks. because of the internet, there’s no limits. and the UK scene is informing global pop music right now, so it’s a very exciting place to be based.
Are there any particular downsides or things that frustrate you with this electronic scene?
Feeling safe in a club environment is something I struggle with. It’s given me a complicated relationship to the club; I love being there to hear the music on a big system and get inspired by watching a DJ do their thing, but when I am sexually assaulted in a club it is difficult to separate the feelings an experience like that brings up with the music and the environment. I have been teaching DJing workshops at Radar and I hate the idea that when they go on to become stellar club DJ's, I’d be bringing these girls through into an environment where they could be subject to sexual assault. One thing I can do at this stage is be vocal about this as a subject, and let young women - and men - know it is not ‘normal’ or acceptable to be touched intimately in a club without your consent, or to be made to feel uncomfortable in any way.
How has Peckham influenced you?
It’s where I grew up, so Peckham will always be a part of me and a reference point to everything I do. It's cool to see new music spaces like Tola opening up. It’s very different from how it was when I was younger but that’s the story for most of London and it’s good to see creative spaces open to the existing community.
What advice would you give to young girls or women who want to break into/move forward in the music scene?
Ask questions, support your peers, listen, have the confidence to say yes. Celebrate your victories - even if they are little ones.
What’s next for Martha?
This week I’m opening the Radar studio for women to come through and observe how me and my team run my radio show. I’m so happy to be able to offer this, and we’re going to have some very special guests passing through the studio as well. After that I’m DJ’ing at East Bloc for Radar, b2b with one of my heroes! And I’m at Oval Space on Sunday for RA doing a live Exchange interview with B Traits. I have some DJ sets coming up at the ICA and The Yard. In the bigger picture, I’ll be concentrating on my DJ’ing this year, working on making my radar shows and RA podcasts the best they can possibly be, and trying out some visual documentaries.
What artists do you tip for big things in 2018?
The musicians I’m most excited about right now are A2, L U C Y a grime producer from Bristol, Lava Dome in Tel Aviv, London’s very own Master Peace (who will light up any rave), and I’ve been loving Debit’s album for NAAFI. DJs: Jess Ajose our rising superstar at Radar, Amsterdam’s Lyzza (who produces as well) - her DJ sets are uncompromising and energetic. Plus, I’ve played on a few line ups with Lil C lately, she’s a great DJ.
Words: Tai Kolade