Get Familiar: Tida Kamara
Interview by Aziz Changoer | Photography Fidelio Faustino, Esmeralda Engels, Kiara Timgrad, Olivia Lambert and Brandon Granville
Tida Kamara is one of the rising stars in Amsterdam's nightlife. She was born and raised in Ede, Gelderland but has roots in Sierra Leone. Tida has been a DJ for two years but has already made a significant impact with her music. Her contagious blend of various music genres will take you from 90 bpm to 160 bpm tracks, allowing you to embark on a musical journey through the sounds she offers. With her ability to gauge the crowd's energy, Tida has become one of the most exciting young talents in Amsterdam.
Tida Kamara began her musical journey during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was performing in a club and landed a radio show on Echobox with Untold, where she shares untold stories of our vibrant society alongside Malika Helena de Rijke. Her dedication to honing her skills started to bear fruit, and she found herself performing at larger events such as Amsterdam Open Air, Milkshake Festival and her own club night, ROOTED. We had the pleasure of having Tida join us at Paris Fashion Week in January 2023, where she took the stage at the Patta party and hosted a radio show in collaboration with Patta x Echobox x Oroko Radio. Her name is now recognized far beyond the city limits, and she often finds herself in other countries, such as the UK, France, Germany, and Denmark. She is a true up-and-coming DJ from the Dutch scene and continues to make her mark on our nightlife by taking us on a new musical journey with every set.
Can you remember your earliest connection with music?
My first taste of music came from my dad. He used to live in London, and every six weeks, my mom, my sister, and I would visit him. Upon our arrival at the airport, he would greet us in his sleek, early 2000s car with those little tree-shaped air fresheners.
As we drove through London to his place, he'd play reggae music. Songs by artists like Alpha Blondy, Lucky Dude, and Sierra Leonean stars like Emmerson, Famous, and Suga Lulu filled the car.
I was just a young kid, but I'll never forget how the bass thumped in my chest as I looked out the window, taking in all the different sounds in the music. Those car rides are what really sparked my love for music.
When did you realize you wanted to be a DJ?
During high school, it seemed like everyone, especially in the small town where I grew up, had their moment to shine. One person excelled in sports and became a professional swimmer, another was a math genius. As for me, I felt like I never really found my own special talent, which led to self-doubt creeping in. However, there was one thing I was undeniably good at, and that was music. I used to create playlists and share them with my friends. I'd curate African playlists for my parents, and my sister and I had a strong interest in Chicago Drill and Destiny's Child, so I shared those musical discoveries with those around me. What really pushed me in this direction was my older sister, who is six years my senior. She often encouraged me to pursue something music-related, like becoming a DJ. Being a younger sibling, I took her words seriously, and when I reached the age of 18 or 19, I decided to take on the challenge.
Can you take us back to your first gig outside of the Netherlands? How did you feel?
My very first gig outside of the Netherlands took me to Lille, France, at a place called Riddim. I remember feeling overjoyed that they not only covered my travel expenses and provided accommodation in a hotel but also displayed my name above the bar. I still find it hard to believe that I have the privilege of meeting wonderful people from all around the world and connecting with them through the magic of music.
After my performance, a woman approached me and personally thanked me for the night. She found it inspiring to witness a woman breaking into a field that had traditionally been dominated by men. When I returned to my hotel room, overwhelmed with emotion, I couldn't help but shed tears of joy. It was an unforgettable experience.
How did you discover your passion for DJing during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Boredom, pure boredom. Being 18 and confined by the pandemic was truly a bummer. I have to admit, I'd been sneaking into clubs since I was 14 (Sorry, Mom, if you're reading this). So, when I couldn't continue this tradition in my new city after moving to Amsterdam, I was disappointed. But I made a conscious decision to channel that pent-up energy into something positive.
That's when I decided to take up DJing, a path my sister had been encouraging me to explore for some time. For my birthday, my parents gifted me a DJ deck, and I started experimenting with it more and more. It provided a much-needed outlet for me. To stay motivated and inspired, I kept watching Boiler Room sessions of DJs I admired, with the hope that one day I'd be able to do the same once we finally break free from this pandemic.
Your DJ sets span diverse genres like Afro electronics, R&B, and Funk carioca. What draws you to these genres?
I don't stick to a single genre; instead, I find it incredible to mix tracks ranging from 90 bpm to 160 bpm and take the audience on a journey with me. I started out in your typical Afro, R&B, and hip-hop corner, but I soon realized that I craved more. I'm an inherently high-energy person, and the music I grew up with also pulsated with that same vibe. The Afrobeats we enjoy today are quite distinct from the Afrobeats of yesteryears. The earlier version had a grittier edge, a faster bpm, and bore the influence of Jamaican sounds. In Sierra Leone, we have a lot of tribal music, for instance, the Mende tribal music, which has a lot of rhythmic variation in it. For me, it has the same energy as "bubbling music.”
Growing up in the Netherlands, bubbling music was something I was familiar with from a young age, so I set out to explore various genres, each with its unique and danceable energy. I felt a personal need for something more energetic, chaotic, and just to have people sweating while staying culturally connected. Funk carioca is something I fell in love with a couple of years ago due to Soundcloud. It is a very powerful genre and translates in the most captivating way through a room. Interactions with fellow industry professionals, especially within the "edit scene," also served as inspiration. I embraced these influences and let them shape my musical journey. Today, my sets span from the soothing tones of Cleo Sol to the electrifying sounds of Boutcha Bwa. I thrive on cranking up the energy.
What sets your DJing style apart, and how do you connect with your audience on the dance floor?
It seems that most people who know me would describe me as a personality in my own right. I'm always chatting away, and I have little room for shame, a trait that carries over into my DJ sets. When I first started out, I used to say, "I'm just here for the girls because I'm one of them." Whether I'm behind the decks or in front of them, I still feel like that girl who's just dancing in front of the DJ booth.
No matter where I am, I bring that same energy. This includes picking up the microphone and speaking to the crowd in a friendly, relatable manner, checking in on how they're doing and if they're enjoying the night.
I find it crucial to add this personal touch because it's what connects me with the audience. I don't enjoy being alone on a stage; I want to immerse myself in the crowd, bounce off their energy, and feel like one of them. I share my drinks, my vibes, and for that one night, they become like family to me. This personal connection is truly special because it means that regardless of the music genre I explore during a song, they're right there with me, trusting me to lead them through the musical journey.
You've performed during Fashion Week in Paris. How does music intersect with your fashion interests?
My journey began in the fashion world. I studied fashion and branding long before I set foot at a fashion week. Both fashion and music serve as powerful means of self-expression. People use clothing and style to convey their personality and identity, just as musicians use lyrics and melodies to express their thoughts and emotions. For me, it's no different. I revel in the art of expressing my individuality through clothing and music. When I step up to the decks during a gig dressed to the max, these two worlds collide, unveiling many facets of my creativity.
As a woman in this realm, I believe in pushing the boundaries of fashion within the music industry. I've had countless individuals approach me, questioning how I can DJ with these long nails. Yet, here's the secret: those nails are an essential part of my confidence. Looking like a barbie doll at a gig and noticing that people do not expect much from you musically. To then watch the surprise on people's faces—it's an incredible feeling every single time. It's a celebration of my creativity and a testament to the power of personal expression in this vibrant fusion of fashion and music.
What have been the highlights of your international DJing experiences?
Meeting so many wonderful new people. I'm a social butterfly, so I love stepping out of my own bubble and immersing myself in a different one.
What are your future goals and exciting projects in your music career?
My future goal is to delve into the realm of producing and reworking my own tracks. This serves as a gateway for me to further unlock my creative potential and continually explore the diverse musical genres found across the globe.
Moreover, I am eager to nurture the growth of my very own club night, ROOTED. It's an incredibly fulfilling experience to be welcomed by other DJs and event organizers, feeling like I've found my safe haven within their spaces. What's even more exhilarating is having the privilege to reciprocate that warmth and sense of sanctuary by hosting ROOTED. This project holds a special place in my heart, as it allows me full creative control. Additionally, it's beautiful to see the type of crowd these parties attract. Many third spaces for younger people are disappearing, so providing one for them is truly a blessing.
Furthermore, I have some exciting guest mixes lined up with DJs who have been instrumental in inspiring my career. It's an opportunity for me to give back and collaborate with these talented individuals who have left an indelible mark on my journey.
Would you say if you could give yourself any advice on DJing from 2 years ago?
Take it all in. Don't be so critical of yourself, but also, babe, please make sure that the master tempo is on. Haha!
How did the bond with Patta come to be?
My bond with Patta most definitely came through Echobox. I used to have a show there together with Malika. It was called Untold and was driven by a childlike curiosity where we told the unheard stories of our vibrant society.
Echobox is the place where I had the pleasure of crossing paths with Vic Crezée. In the early stages of my career, when I was just six months in, he took the initiative to book me for a few Patta parties. I remember being incredibly nervous, to the point of feeling queasy. Yet, it was an incredibly heartwarming experience to receive the support of someone like Vic. It served as a powerful motivator to persist in my journey because if he saw potential in me, it was likely genuine and inspired me to continue.