Get Familiar: Chinnamasta

Get Familiar: Chinnamasta

Get Familiar: Chinnamasta




In the realm of pulsating rhythms and sonic explorations, Chinnamasta stands as a luminary figure, intricately weaving the vibrant tapestry of Caribbean riddims with contemporary beats. As the creative mastermind behind the latest Patta SS24 Mixtape, her name resonates across club spaces and festival grounds alike, igniting dancefloors with her distinct affinity for the legacy of riddim culture. With a profound reverence for the rich history of Caribbean music, Chinnamasta is not merely a DJ but a custodian of tradition, breathing new life into age-old rhythms while paying homage to their roots. Her sets are a testament to her deep-seated belief in honouring the legacy of the music she champions.

From the bustling streets of Notting Hill Carnival to the sprawling landscapes of festival grounds, Chinnamasta is a familiar presence, her infectious beats transcending boundaries and uniting diverse audiences. With a repertoire that effortlessly traverses genres, she seamlessly transitions from the infectious grooves of dancehall to the frenetic energy of breakbeats, from the frenzied footwork rhythms to the pulsating bouyon melodies.

As a resident DJ on Oroko Radio, Chinnamasta continues to captivate listeners with her innovative mixes and unwavering dedication to pushing the boundaries of sound. This year, her magnetic presence will grace Lente Kabinet and Down The Rabbit Hole.

In this Get Familiar, we delve into the creative process of Chinnamasta, exploring the inspirations behind her genre-defying sound and her relentless pursuit of musical excellence. Join us as we embark on a journey through the kaleidoscopic world of Chinnamasta, where tradition meets innovation, and the spirit of Caribbean music pulses with irresistible vitality. 



When did you first fall in love with music and what made you want to contribute to the zeitgeist?

I first fell in love with music in my parent’s home. The way both of my parents had their very own relation to music, both with different tastes and backgrounds and reasons for listening to it. I knew my mom was in a good mood if I heard her listening to Cameo and Soul Train shows. I knew my dad was about to whip up a mean meal if I heard him listening to Franky Beverly & Maze. I knew it was time to clean up the house if my mom started bumping Hindustani/Chutney music or Surinamese music. But also when to give them space if they were listening sad ballads and songs. Growing up in a Muslim household also meant that the prayers were sung, which almost feels like music to me.

I realized music dictates, conveys and holds space for mood, memory, emotion, grief and a sense of home at a young age. I think this is what made me fall in love with it, as I have never been without it. It has always been a natural element to my existence, even to the point of my father putting speakers to my mother’s belly when I was growing in the womb as a weekly/daily practice.
So for me, it is not a surprise that I am here right now.

Your music selection focuses on dance music from the diaspora, particularly dancehall, soca, bashment, and experimental dance music. What draws you to these genres, and how do you see them contributing to the cross-pollination of sonic landscapes?

To me, I am honoring the places and geographies that I call home. As a Caribbean person, I am used to hearing certain riddims, certain percussion patterns, certain call and response invocations. So I feel naturally drawn to this music, as I am honoring its history, legacy and present.

Black music has for so long, and if we’re keeping it 100, is Still seen as music that is “lesser than”, less intellectual, less worth, less complex, less worth of respect.
So I feel like it is my mission to honor the strife and struggle that has been had in order to create this beautiful music of survival, perseverance of culture, togetherness and self-expression.

And not to toot our own horn, but Jamaican music and Jamaican people are literally the blueprint for most contemporary music and musical culture.

Being a regular on club lineups at venues like Garage Noord and Kanaal40, can you discuss the significance of these spaces in promoting diverse and experimental music in Amsterdam and how you navigate club spaces as a space to tell your own story?

Navigating club spaces to tell my own story can definitely be a struggle, because every club has its own politics, it’s own policies and way of operating and upholding certain power structures. I’ve had to deal with my own fair share of bullshit from club spaces and promoters, which makes it more difficult to really do your thing sometimes and makes it less enjoyable to go into that trance state.

But, clubs like Garage Noord and Kanaal40 are definitely a light in the dark to me. I’ve had the privilege to play there a couple of times now and it has always been a joy.

No matter if there are 15, or 150 people on the dancefloor, the crowd is receptive and there to have a good time. I can play whatever, from dancehall, to breakbeats, to footwork and bouyon; which really allows me to try out things and mostly have fun.

Their policy also allows for a more enjoyable experience and the team is very hospitable. Artist care goes a long way ! I think they’re a very important space for Amsterdam to truly showcase the range of contemporary club music in Europe atm.

Your radio show at Dekmantel Festival for Echobox and the Patta SS24 mixtape showcase your diverse musical tastes. How do you approach curating a mix or a radio show, and what message or vibe are you usually aiming to convey?

Real talk: I actually HATE doing mixes, because I feel like it needs to be “perfect”. As a perfectionist, I always put waaayy too much pressure on myself to “get it right”. I don’t want any audible mistakes, but I also personally like hearing mistakes in mixes since it’s just human. Not put in Ableton, no computerised shit, just human error and making it right. In a way, it does help in making me think about new transitions or new ways to convey the story or theme.

How I usually feel is that in the club, you receive inspiration from the surroundings and the people which allow me to go to a certain space. If you were there you were there kind of vibe. With recordings and mixes, I usually just get in my head too much which compromises that flow.

I usually either pick a theme myself, or in the case of the Patta mix, I received a theme that fits the collection. About being, getting rid of the old status quo, revolution, etc. Those are themes I usually have close to me anyways.

I thought about how to make it sound like there was something happening, and a little turnover moment, but also to still be able to shake ass and have fun; since I do see that as a liberatory practice especially for femme people. I strongly think the way femininity is expressed and related to the body, we can find so many ways to liberate our bodies and spirit in Caribbean and Afro-diasporic culture and music.
The revolution must be twerkable, did it otherwise even happen?

But with this mix in particular, I was recording it in South Africa so I didn’t have access to proper resources to do that on. It was a struggle let me tell you.

To the point that I was recording and dudes kept coming inside the studio to ask me “what I’m playing” mid blends, mansplain that “I should try DJ’ing without the display cause otherwise I’m not a real DJ” (as if I can’t do that?) and there was an actual fight that broke out in the studio halfway through the recording but I just kept playing . It was hectic, real and mostly: very human.

In the last year you have had some of your first festival appearances, what were those experiences like and how did the crowd engage with your sound in open air environments?

Honestly, I really enjoyed them! I was a bit nervous that my sound would maybe not be appreciated in broad daylight, but I quickly found out that carnival is an outdoor ting.

My favourite last year was Studio Strip Outdoor, I was really able to venture into multiple sonic blends and try out a lot of new shit. The crowd was so engaging and receptive, people were shaking ass; I think I did my job right.
I mean, I started my set with Jennifer Lopez, what could go wrong after that?

How does activism intersect with your work in music?

I guess I don’t necessarily identify as an activist. I just feel like there is a lot of shit wrong with the world as it is now, and I don’t think we should stop finding ways to live life more efficiently. Everything I do comes from this spirit, of wanting things to be different to as they are now. But I think how it intersects with my music can be trickled down even to my selections. I try to prioritize black and brown producers, I try to convey a story that aligns with my values.

The club, music, accessibility to production gear and information are not shielded from the mechanisms of how our society operates. The most marginalised will always get the shortest end of the stick, in regards to pay, acknowledgement, support and protection. I try to remember this when I step into a club, or even when I negotiate fees, etc. This is something I have to keep speaking up for and look for like-minded individuals who are also trying to change this.

How does the concept of Chinnamasta, meaning goddess of death, rebirth, and contradictions, resonate with your exploration of Caribbean music worldwide and the cross-pollination of cultures within the post-colonial African diaspora?

So basically, I am Indo-, Black- and Native Caribbean. The latter of which I found out recently. I usually am in touch with my black side, but my Indian side gets a lot less shine. So I was looking for a name that could hold me in the way my own (real) name does. Then I stumbled upon Chinnamasta, who is depicted with her own severed head. I felt it, I felt like death, rebirth and contradiction is a theme that keeps repeating itself in my life. This process can be had in moments of realizing something new and adopting a new mentality. Or in nature, or even in the club by hearing something that transforms you.

Chinnamasta is what makes me want to keep exploring and trying out new things, re-discovering myself and my relation to music, but also keep uncovering new and old connections between me, my heritage and the world around me.

Can you share a memorable experience or moment from your DJing career that had a significant impact on your artistic and cultural perspective?

I think a memorable experience for me was when I was invited to play in Brussels. Honestly, best gig so far still. I actually didn’t know anyone there nor on the line-up, but it was an all black, all queer line-up curated by Eric Cyuzuzo. This party bruv… it was so awesome. I was surrounded by beautiful queer and black people, mostly French speaking, but the music crossed over our language barriers. I met my fam there from Switzerland, and Belgium and I’m still very grateful for this link-up. It made me realize how important community is, or just to have like-spirited individuals around you. I felt held, seen and supported.

Could you shed light on your process of connecting past, present, and future through rhythms, archives, samples, vocals, and bass in your music?

Archiving is a very important role to me. Through archives, one can find histories, personal and intimate moments and stories that might not have been documented otherwise. As we know, history can get contorted as it is being written; archives create the ability to draw your own links and conclusions to certain happenings.

In your opinion, what is the role of a DJ in preserving and promoting cultural diversity through music, especially in a globalized world?

As I said before, archiving is very important, and I think the DJ plays an important part of relaying some archival work to those who are attentive enough to listen. DJ culture comes from Black Caribbean culture, in regards to soundsystems and the creation of many sounds. I think the DJ has the obligation to tell the sonic story of how that came to be. To pay homage, to engage in deep listening practices and also to read up on the history of the practice.

DJ’ing has a history of sampling, remixing, selecting etc; meaning that in it’s essence: DJ’ing IS preserving cultural heritage through music. Hiphop dudes sampling songs that their parents listened to, the Amen break are all a testimony of that.

The DJ is also the person to make the people dance, inducing states of ecstasy and embodied experiences, and I think both can be done simultaneously. I strongly believe in the practice of shaking ass while learning.

But also let’s not inflate the ego’s of DJ’s more: not every DJ is a selector and not every DJ tells a story; and that’s also OK. Sometimes we just need to escape reality.

What challenges and opportunities do you encounter in exploring and presenting the impact and influence of Caribbean music worldwide?

The opportunities I encounter are mostly learning more about my own cultural heritage. I never knew the Caribbean has such a deep, rich history and present. I mean, I could feel it but I didn’t Know Know. Do u get me?

What Carnival signifies for example, where the spirit of the music comes from, the origins of most contemporary music, it makes me so proud to be a part of a long lineage of badasses.

The biggest challenge though is honestly, cultural appropriation. Caribbean culture has long been appropriated, Jamaican in particular with Rastafarian culture and patois. I blame Bob Marley for that (don’t @ me). But in this day in age, there is a certain flair in cosplaying to be from somewhere that you have no heritage or lineage to and to me, that is weird as fuck. Every country or place in the world has a history as to why people are there, and I think that should be respected.

The culture of the Caribbean is created on the genocide of the Taíno people, the brutal torture, murder and forced labour by enslaved and shipped Africans from all over the continent (which can never be traced back) and indentured laborors from India, China & Indonesia.

The sound, the culture, everything is created by the plight of the people to do the best they can with what they got and to preserve whatever they could under brutal, unimaginable circumstances. I don’t understand why anyone would want to appropriate something as hectic as that, especially if you do not share that brutal history and the impact of that in all of our bodies, spirits and economy to this day.
I am seeing a re-colonization of the Caribbean in economic and cultural ways, which is already being addressed in Guadeloupe and other French speaking islands, but it honestly breaks my heart to witness it happening with little to no repercussions.

How do you see your work contributing to the broader conversation on post-colonial African diaspora cultures, both within and outside the music industry?

As I also work in the cultural sector, I try to centralize these themes and conversations in whatever I do. Be it a program, a collaboration or a DJ set. I genuinely hope that the, sometimes confronting, perspectives I bring to the table can open up the much needed conversations about appropriation, erasure and clout. We must try to create beyond these scopes and I really hope that both within and outside of the music industry, we will get to a point of criticality and realness.

Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations for your DJing career and your contributions to the exploration of sonic landscapes and cultures?

Hmmm… aspirations and goals in this economy? Tricky! All jokes aside, I’m very grateful to those who have allowed me space to do my ting in and I honestly feel accomplished enough already. I don’t necessarily have any aspirations to play specific venues or festivals, I would like to play more community events though as they genuinely bring me the most joy and gratifications.

I hope my work can bring me places in the world that someone from my demographic might never have been able to see otherwise! Imagine me playing carnival music in Japan or Hong Kong!! Or even on the islands (In shaa Allah)! I would genuinely jump a hole in the air out of excitement. Other than that I’d love to start dabbling in music production, so if anyone is reading this hit me up.

What are you looking forward to in the coming month and where can people expect to find you?

I’m looking forward to playing Lente Kabinet and Down The Rabbit Hole; I’m also starting my residency at Oroko Radio which I’m excited about. I think radio is such an important medium to connect and find community, but also to express and contextualize what you might not be able to express in the club. And I hope to play more Carnival sets and these times in the actual parade! So tune in to that y’all. Big tings a gwaarn!