KwaK Chops it up with DJ KamalaApril 23, 2018
As daughter of legendary Jazz Musician, Carter Jefferson who toured with the likes of Little Richard,
Jimi Hendrix, Art Blakey, Mongo Santamaria, Woody Shaw and Fort Apache Band, Kamala was
endowed with a rich and prolific musical origin. A 4th generation Chelsea-Manhattan native of
Indigenous & African American, Puerto-Rican and Cuban roots, Kamala’s multi-cultural upbringing
provided an early introduction to Downtown culture and led her into New York’s vibrant nightlife
community which laid the foundation for her musical expertise and flavorful edge. Specializing in
music spanning 70’s, 80’s, 90s to present and many genres, most notably Soulful House music, Disco
& Soul, classic Hip Hop, Global Lounge, & more, Kamala masterfully mixes and weaves her sets
together with passion and grace. Conjuring moods that speak to her musical journey.
DJ KAMALA Presents Passion Dance Mix
Kwak : Let’s say that you’re throwing the ULTIMATE party of allll parties. Name your DJ Dream Team lineup for the night: past and present and why.
My dream line up, first names that come into my head is Larry Levan and David Mancuso because they are the origins. Boyd Jarvis and Voo Doo Ray because they just passed away and any excuse to bring them back for a few hours and listen to them play would make my year. Finally I would add me. I think we are all our own favorite DJ and because a woman should be on every Dream team.
Kwak : What is your preference – Vinyl, Serrato, both?
I started DJing on vinyl which I still appreciate but don’t miss schlepping records. My favorite format is using CDJ 2000s with USB drives. I like that I don’t have to stare at the computer as much.
Kwak : You do have a rather wide range of tracks in your mix. One thing I like about it is that you don’t shy away from older material, tracks that could be considered classics. What are TWO tracks that are always a MUST when you’re in your groove?
I love to flow between genres and eras. It allows me to demonstrate the commonalities and connectedness in the music. One of my favorite all time disco records is Your Love is A LifeSaver by Gayle Adams. New House…this Afro tech cut, Buya by Black Coffee is one of the most bonkers records ever.
Kwak : Do you feel a need to introduce old classics to your younger party goers?
I have been doing it for twenty years and never in all that time has the receptivity level been as high as it has been this past few years. The younger crowds have become so much more open to being exposed. Learning about the past. Hearing how it shaped everything they have ever known. It’s so brilliant to re-experience the newness of a track I’ve known all my life thru the enthusiasm of someone hearing it for the first time.
Kwak : Your father was a FORCE! Talk about being around a few of the greats… AMAZING. Tell me about a particularly memorable musical childhood moment for you.
I am so proud of his achievements. He passed away too soon and I so often wish I could ask him about his life and those experiences. I remember always watching him practice his fingering, hearing notes in his head he was an obsessive perfectionist when it came to his playing. I remember him on stage, I was around eight or nine years old and he was playing Jazz Mobile in Harlem. I just remember a scene jam packed with musicians and people watching, it should have been overwhelming but music always felt like a safe haven.
Kwak : What does women’s empowerment mean to you? With all the current powerful platforms, marches, and hash tags, do you feel a need to be part of this evolving movement?
I am a part of it regardless. How I carry myself and what I stand for, the example I set doing what I do happens day to day is par the course. Coming from Afro Latin culture, the Matriarchy has always been incredibly strong from my perspective. I don’t like to see how the current culture has distorted what a woman should look like to the point where it’s no longer natural. The most important thing a woman can carry is self love, self validation. I do my best to embody an empowered woman and support other woman in empowering themselves. Whenever my craft combines with philanthropy its positive.
Kwak : In the past, female DJs have expressed to me that they felt they had to work harder and put up more of a fight to be taken seriously as a DJ when they began. Was that your experience?
I think within this industry there are not enough women able to break into the perception of being a headliner especially without having to objectify themselves. My approach has always been, ace the set. Have substance, bring the skills, Know your archive, know your style, know the crowd, bring the spirit, you’ll find your believers. In general though there is a huge pay gap between men and woman within the industry. Women are far less included in festivals and nightclub line ups. It’s improved a little with so many really great women who play but still too few represented.
Kwak : Personally, I feel the sensitivity and emotion associated with being a woman is really helpful in reading a crowd. In a male dominated industry, do you feel there’s a special attribute we ladies bring to the table?
Absolutely, I can almost feel when a woman is playing vs a man. We have a different hand. We connect to the music differently. Music is emotion. Woman have always been associated with being emotional. People in the crowds are seeking an emotional experience, yet somehow the feminine perspective remains limited especially within the DJ Culture.
Kwak : In retrospect, any advice 2017 Kamala would tell young, aspiring DJ Kamala?
Focus most on your content and skills. Craft is always the key differential and is a great confidence builder. It helps to be social and connected to community. Evolve within the music, constantly expanding, learning, listening. Have the ability to promote yourself and cultivate a following. Appearance and image is a factor but should be kept in perspective. Be gracious with everyone you work with, give respect and demand it in return.
Kwak : Any future projects or current parties you are involved in that our KWAK audience should know about?
I co-produce and DJ for @lovebreakparty every Wednesday at 63 Gansevoort. Its an all woman driven event brand. I have an unreleased song that I hope to get out by this summer if not sooner. I post all my upcoming events, gigs and new mixes at my instagram page, @kamalamuse. Of course, playing more amazing places, spaces, cities, & countries for many years to come.