MUSIC: Native New Yorker DJ Kamala Imparts Universal Message
MUSICALLY CONNECTED: Q&A WITH DJ KAMALA
Growing up in the heart of New York City’s multicultural vibrancy as the daughter of renowned jazz tenor and soprano saxophonist Carter Jefferson helped set the tone for DJ Kamala’s musical journey around the world. A dedicated and forward-thinking artist, she graciously set aside time for an exclusive interview with Tania Fuentez Media during summer travels in Europe this year, reflecting on industry trends, the impact and acceptance of female DJs and what she hopes to instill through her work and life. Listen up!
NOTE: All photos courtesy of DJ Kamala.
TFM: You were recently featured in the independent House music documentary, “Hands to the Sky.” Do you think the message conveyed will connect with audiences?
Kamala: I think films documenting the culture are required to bring focus on what is a musical movement that’s been brewing for decades. I think audiences will connect to the universal love of music and dance that is expressed as well as the range of people from all walks of life who celebrate the sound known as soulful House.
TFM: How long have you been a DJ and why? What do see trending in the industry and is that a good or bad thing?
Kamala: I have been DJing professionally since 1998 but I think the seeds that drew me to DJing were planted in my childhood. I always had a great passion for music and nightlife culture found me at a young age. I think when you are destined to do something, it’s always there even before you know it is. With regard to the industry, I can only speak on the the level of experience I am at. Playing for years in New York, one has to constantly be linked to venue owners, promoters, and business clients. It’s manageable. I am not the kind of DJ willing to play whatever just to work so in wanting to reach the next level where gigs are bigger, pay better and sometimes involve travel, I am opting to make music and hopefully increase awareness and demand that route. It is helpful to have an agent or manager, someone who is linked to industry and can line up the desired gigs. It’s an ever evolving process, I continue to learn as I go. There really is no limit.
TFM: On the surface, DJing looks like a glamorous life? What are some of the pitfalls along the way and how do handle obstacles as they arise?
Kamala: It can be glamorous at times. Sometimes there is a lack of regard or appreciation when dealing with clients, venue owners, audiences. Sometimes I feel like a salmon swimming upstream. It helps to be tenacious and passionate about it so that when obstacles come up, as they always do in life, grace in dealing with them is essential.
TFM: Have you noticed a shift in attitude toward female DJs? Discuss some of the unique qualities brought to the table and why the future looks promising with more room to grow.
Kamala: Female DJs are less a novelty than they used to be. The potential for growth is huge. The DJ world is exclusively men at the top. It’s not only the DJs themselves but club owners, event producers, promoters, label owners, music producers, the record business overall is dominated by males and male attitudes. I think it’s OK to be sexy, if you are a woman DJ. But I don’t appreciate the gimmick of using sex to fly as a DJ. Musicality, connecting with audiences and skills behind the decks are what counts if you are going to call yourself a DJ. Male or female.
TFM: What have you gleaned from working with the House music collective, Melting Pot Global and other collaborative endeavors? Any solo projects keeping you busy lately?
Kamala: Soulful house has always been about community. No matter what city you are in. So it’s great to collaborate and work within the context of collectives. Melting Pot Global helped expose me as a DJ to an audience that demanded quality. Spinning at parties where many members of the audience were bottle fed on Larry Levan and David Mancuso, Timmy Regisford or Jellybean (Benitez). Making these crowds happy put me in the company of greatness. Helped increase my confidence to know I could play for any audience. Project wise, I have been putting a lot more of my time in producing music. I’ve produced a recording I am really proud of and can’t wait to share with the world. Now dealing with the business side of distributing but hope to get it released before the summer ends.
TFM: As an independent artist, what do hope to instill and inspire through your work and life?
Kamala: Such a great question. I think this is a universal feeling but I know for myself, I like to feel I am helping make the world a better place. DJing or producing music that I feel helps to cultivate and refine people to a higher level of consciousness, love and compassion is rewarding. Sending out love vibrations and healing energy through my actions in life and work is my everyday goal. I also love doing what I love to do so it’s a great blessing to enjoy what I do and it have a benefit to others besides myself.
TFM: Family (whether relatives or other connections) plays a powerful role in shaping society. Describe how this relates to who you are, where you’re headed and what you hope to pass on to the next generation.
Kamala: I think globally, we need to foster more the understanding that we are all one family! It’s so disheartening to encounter racist or separatist, elitist attitudes when it only breeds strife and suffering around the planet. It’s so archaic and time for the truth to really take hold in all minds that we are one. That is what I hope the current and future generations can know and experience.
Kamala Music: http://www.kamalamusic.com/