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Baker's Dozen

Friends Of Mine: Rachel Aggs' Favourite Music
Stephanie Phillips , February 24th, 2021 10:14

Rachel Aggs takes Stephanie Phillips through the albums that made her the musician she is today, from Smokey Robinson to Robyn, Mahotella Queens to Sleater-Kinney. Portrait photo by Stephanie Gibson


Mahotella Queens – Izibani Zomgqashiyo
I first heard Mahotella Queens when I'd just moved to London and I was living with some friends in a really precarious place, it was like an office that you weren't supposed to live in. We were there all in one room with no shower or kitchens. It was the most stupid place to live when you first move to London. I remember going on music blogs a lot. I was really into a blog called Global Grooves. They specialised in mostly African music, posting old albums and classic albums; a lot from South Africa. I just stumbled across this record because I thought the cover was really cool and it's got like all the Mahotella Queens on the front looking really proud and cool.

Even from the first song I just fell completely in love with this record because there's something about the guitars, and particularly the basslines, that were really different to me. I had never really heard music like that before, but I really connected with that way of playing guitar and constructing melody and rhythm, and then the singing is just so soulful, joyous and beautiful. I had that first track on repeat constantly. Whenever I listen to it I remember that weird place where I was living. It was in Elephant and Castle in a high rise and it had a really good view of London so I would listen to that record and look out over London, feeling so excited even though my living conditions were so weird.

When I started playing guitar with Trash Kit I remember people saying, 'You play guitar in a really weird way', and I wasn't particularly aware of that. I didn't really know how to play chords, but I wanted to play fast and I wanted to play fun melodies, so I kind of ended up sounding quite African–inspired even though I didn't really listen to that much African music at that time. But people said, 'You should listen to African guitar music, it sounds like how you play' and that was why I started going on blogs. Mahotella Queens is where I landed and instantly was like, 'whoa yes this is how you play guitar music'.