A Life Behind the Decks: The Nightlife Culture Interview with DJ Kamala

by Gamal Hennessy

When I began my professional exploration of nightlife culture one of the first DJ groups that inspired me was a trio of ladies that went by the name InJoy. I followed them from APT to SubMercer to Cielo. They captured everything about nightlife culture because they were soulful, sexy and they made beautiful music. All three ladies are still spinning in various venues and one of them, DJ Kamala sat down with me to talk about the life and inspiration of a New York DJ.

                Vital Statistics

  • Genre: Dance Music, House
  • Inspirations: Louie Vega, Timmy Regisford, Osunlade
  • Recent Performances: MOMA
  • Latest Project: Original Production due to be released July 2012
  • Next Local Performance: Thursday at Bath Tub Gin
  • Websitewww.kamalamusic.com
  • Twitter: @DJkamala

NCI: Tell me about the first time you spun in front of a crowd.

KJ: My first time was in the spring of 1998, at one of my favorite legendary New York City night clubs, Nell’s. Even though it was passed it's hey day, it was still monumental in my mind for me to spin there. It was a short set but I got the crowd going with Manu Dibango's "New Bell" and it felt great!

NCI: Wow. You remember the first major song you dropped almost 15 years ago? That’s deep. What inspired you to become a DJ in the first place?

KJ: I was always a music aficionado so at age 11, it became a hobby to collect music and record my own compilations. Being from downtown Manhattan, night clubbing became the thing to do very early on. Going out, dancing, listening to DJs, making friends and finding community. I fell in love with nightlife culture and history, how it related to my own story. I was already a night owl and 9-5 was a routine I struggled to flow with. Djing seemed to me the most fun way to earn a living that I felt I had a talent for and which could potentially become a career. Thanks to it, I've opened up to music production and it's a whole new world.

NCI: Nice. Who are your favorite people to play with? Where are your favorite places to play?

KJ: As a DJ, I've gotten to get to know a lot of DJs and it's always great to come together with talented friends musically. It’s a special treat whenever I get to spin with someone who I perceive as a legend in the business. In terms of places, I love spinning all kinds of environments because I get to feel my range and adaptability to spaces. I get a special kick out of spinning outdoors in public venues and of course anywhere with a big audience. The more the merrier.

NCI: What kind of mood do you try to create when you play?

KJ: My whole purpose as a DJ is to create a mood that evolves through out the course of the night, ideally complementary to the venue and occasion. Personal expression comes across heavily in my selections and I really want to touch the audience on a variety of levels subliminally and outright. I am always looking to turn people "on" with the music. As a woman, there's a natural sexiness that easily comes across which I am happy to exploit if it will open ears but mainly, depending on the occasion, I want to trigger an insatiable urge to respond physically to the music, i.e. dance!

NCI: Where are you playing these days? Do you have a residency?

KJ: It varies month to month the engagements that I play which is fine with me because I enjoy the novelty inherent in the work. A few recurring outlets lately have been Thursday nights at Bath Tub Gin, and the last Friday of every month at the Rubin Museum. I also spin every Wednesday 5:30 - 7PM via a mobile and internet radio site www.handzonradio.com.

NCI: Where do you find new music and the inspiration to DJ?

KJ: Music is the fuel for my DJing, if there were not so many amazing sounds to share, I'd be doing something else. Because of the music that I adore, sharing it, is a pure joy and thrill. I also get into the process of mastery. Of becoming ever greater at the craft I've chosen to express myself thru. Every time is a learning experience that I come away with enriched and it's inspiring to witness my own growth.

I get a good portion of my favorite house beats from sites like Traxsource and Afrodesiamp3. I am forever sourcing for music.  I'll look under any rock to find more songs that excite me.

Have fun.


Nightlife Icon Danny Tenaglia Steps Away from the DJ Booth

Legendary DJ Danny Tenaglia wrote his fans a long resignation letter  on his Facebook wall earlier this week. The DJ who has played at the Winter Music Conference 26 years in a row and performed sets in Ibiza every year since 2000 is now looking to stop grueling schedule that has taken him around the world for the better part of three decades.

From the time Tenaglia started going to spots like Paradise Garage in 1979 until this week, he has been responsible for dozens of albums, hundreds of remixes and thousands of performances. His name is mentioned in the same breath as iconic DJs like Tiesto and Little Louie Vega. They were superstar DJ’s before everyone with an iPad could claim to be a DJ. He helped raise the act of driving a party through music to an art form.

Danny outlined much of his longevity and work in the letter to his fans, but house heads don’t need to be told what he has done for house music and nightlife culture. After his final party at Pacha on April 28th, we can only hope that one of his fans is inspired by his work to create new music and leave their own mark on New York nightlife.

If you have any memories of music or performances from Danny’s long career, please feel free to share them with us.

Have fun.


Nightlife Culture Expo Day 1 Recap: Little Louie Vega Provides a Soulful Start to the Four Day Celebration


By Gamal Hennessy

The first night of the Expo started the way many Roots nights start at Cielo. The drinkers hover near the bar to try and coax free vodka from the stoic and aloof bartenders before the open bar runs out. Hard core dancers take over the dance floor for a communal ritual that is part battle, part education and part experimentation. A ring of spectators circle the sunken dance floor looking for inspiration and drinking in courage to get their dance on.

This was when Roots manager and all around happy soul Katerina invited me into the DJ booth to meet Vega for the first time. I’ve been coming to Cielo for years and I wondered what the booth was like ever since I started to DJ myself, but I never had a chance to see it before last night. The little set ups I’ve played in various clubs couldn’t compare to the multi-leveled monster I saw. There were half a dozen interconnected decks, sound enhancers and machines that I didn’t even recognize. I admired the way Louie worked it all like a maestro manipulates an orchestra while Katerina whispered secrets about the origin of each song and where they all came from.

I talked to Louie for a few minutes and thanked him for supporting the Expo before heading back to our party. By then, the dance floor had a good sized crowd. Liquor had washed away the shyness from the more casual dancers and Vega’s beats have lured them onto the dance floor to express themselves. Smoke from the visual system was in the air and baby powder from the dancers was on the ground. We all got lost in the dancing, grinding and heat that comes when several hundred people all move to the same beat. Most of the dancers didn’t know they were celebrating the Nightlife Culture Expo and I had no problem with that. They were too busy living it and creating it to stop and think about it. That is exactly the way it should be.

If you’d like to join us for the rest of the Expo events around Manhattan this week, just click onto the events page and find the party that is right for you.

Have fun.


Special thanks to Katerina and Sabrina for making this night possible.


The House DJ as a Marathon Man

New EDM magazine Elektro and the New York Post ran a story today on A-List DJ Tiesto http://nyp.st/H96Gjv . This man regularly plays sets that run 14-18 hours at a time in places like Berlin, Ibiza and of course New York. When asked how he can maintain this epic pace, he credited exercise, diet and vitamins.

Tiesto isn’t the only DJ who has the stamina to spin all day and all night. I’ve been to Danny Tenaglia shows that were very similar. I went to the party, hung out for a few hours, went home slept, got up, got breakfast and went back to the club. Danny was still there. It was surreal, especially when you consider the fact that there were several hundred people in the club who never left. I love house and I love dancing, but I have never had that kind of stamina even when I was a much younger man. As a DJ in New York I never performed longer than 6 hours. Guys like Tiesto are just getting warmed up.

Is exercise and vitamins the only thing that keeps Tiesto going? Maybe…maybe not. I’m sure the estimated twenty million dollars he makes per year doesn’t hurt his motivation. Are his hundreds of followers able to keep up with him purely from their love of house music? Maybe…maybe not. One thing is certain. The popularity and dedication that fans have for a DJ like Tiesto isn’t part of the EDM fad currently dominating pop music. This movement in nightlife culture is long, strong and won’t be dying down any time soon.

Have fun.