Portugal's DJ N.K. is a contemporary of DJ Marfox — they were in seminal Lisbon crew DJ's Do Guetto together, and are responsible for the city's ramped up take on the Angolan sound of kuduro. "We adapted kuduro to our environment, the ghettos of Lisbon," DJ N.K. told The FADER. On his explosive FADER Mix, he hurtles through tracks from his recent LP on Lit City Trax, DJ Do Ghetto, as if his very life depended on it. Kicks fly and beats multiply as vocal snippets keep the pace charged all the way up. In the interview below, N.K. makes a heartfelt case for music's rehabilitative qualities, provides the context for kuduro's evolution, and offers up the recipe for a delicious Angolan dish.
Where are you right now? Please describe your surroundings.
I live in Portugal. I am currently in my neighborhood, Bairro do Pombal which is in Oeiras, a municipality in the western part of Lisbon. This is me. This is where I grew up. I feel a deep connection with this area. I draw inspiration from my life experiences here that help me create my style of kuduro music. Bairro do Pombal is so diverse — there are many nationalities of people who live and work here. There's people from Cape Verde, Guinea, Angola, and quite a large gypsy community. At the same time, I'm near the river and near the most famous beaches of Lisbon and that's where I do a lot of physical exercise and put my ideas in order. Life here has undoubtedly affected my music.
Tell us a bit about this mix — what do you imagine people doing while listening to it?
I hope with this mix I can give people an insight into our music, the kuduro sound. I want people to understand my roots, and for them to here the environment where I live. I think this translated in my music and that of my contemporaries such as DJ Marfox and DJ Nervoso. There are many moments that excite me. People will be able to hear the streets of Lisbon, and experience part of life here through the mix. I hope this can take people to their favorite most uninhibited moments in the sun, on the beach, where they felt relaxed and free. At the same time, there has been a some minor tensions here when there's been heavy police presence occupying the neighborhood from time to time. I can imagine people can feel a bit of both when they hear this mix.
What's your earliest music memory?
It's as a child, aged six years old, listening to a cassette tape of musicians from Capo Verde. The group was called Black Power, the song "Nho Anton Escaderon."
What was your creative vision for your release on Lit City Trax, DJ Do Ghetto?
My vision for DJ Do Ghetto was to show people my roots; the environment in which I live and who I am. I was not too concerned by pre-determined concepts although there are experiences and elements of my life, and life in Lisbon in general, that indirectly translates to my music. To me, the record conveys life in Lisbon. Every track tells a slightly different story: some tracks are fun and playful like a beach party on a hot day, some tracks feel free, much like the sexually liberated souls who roam the beaches here. Some other cuts felt more serious when I was making them, reflecting tensions in the neighborhood with regards to police intervention. Some tracks I really poured my heart into, to connect with the sacrifices that we make for each other, in the spirit of community and family. When I listen back, I can hear my feelings of love and appreciation for the struggles my parents went through to give me a better life. With my music, I can lose control and express true and rawest emotions, simply be myself. This is important to me producing. I hope my music can transport people on the dance floor into another reality where they can let go and feel free. I want people to be able to express themselves and lose themselves in the music.
I want the kids in the neighborhood to hear my record and see my example. All of us, born in the same neighborhood and similar areas, we all have to be bandits. Sometimes we have to make hard decisions in life. Just as a good decision can be beneficial, a simple mistake or bad life choice we make can really impact negatively on our future. I want everyone to know that through music they can make something positive and even create a change. In my view, criminals could be great artists if they're given a chance to express themselves. Often energies aren't diverted into positive outlets. Having the opportunity to express yourself through the arts is important. Music, dance, and art rehabilitates people.
The record title is a play on words for the crew which I was apart of, DJ's Do Guetto. The artwork, by Drippin, was an image we discussed creating that would illustrate my heritage boldly. I'm half Angolan on my mother's side.
How has kuduro's sound evolved over the last couple of years, and what has pushed that evolution?
The sound of kuduro has evolved into a more mature format with many producers with their own unique, definitive styles. We imported the kuduro style of Angola and adapted the sound to our reality, making it our own. We created a new thing without realizing it. Kuduro from Angola wasn't focussed on digital synthesizers. They invested more into creating grooves, less in synth work. In Lisbon, due to the influence of various different musics, we naturally chose to add more instrumentation. We didn't even consciously do this — it just happened naturally. It's a modern extension of kuduro without spoiling the essence. We adapted kuduro to our environment, the ghettos of Lisbon. DJ's Do Guetto is a good example to highlight the development of the music. When we make music in kuduro, we make it for us. We do not think about money when it comes to composition — the financial negotiations come later with the business from our pure-intentioned music. We do not worry about reaching the masses. We just think of creating good music for our people. This is real music that comes from the inside. Nothing else matter. People like what we do. Not just in Portugal but all over the world. They can feel it's true. I think this purity and honesty contributes to the evolution of the music into so many new territories.
What's the last book you read that had a big impact on you and why?
There have been many books that made their mark on me but the last book I read that had a significant impact on me was the book Siddartha by the great German writer Hermann Hesse. It is a book that summarizes the journey of the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama. I loved the book because it helped me to understand that everything we do for honesty is what really has value; that identity and small actions do indeed make a difference, and that really what matters most is the path and not the destination.
What's your favorite dish to cook and how do you make it?
My favorite dish is beans cooked in palm oil with funge which is a corn gruel. Is a traditional Angolan dish. Put the beans, oil, and salt in a pressure cooker to cook well. Once cooked the oil will turn into a creamy yellow consistency mixed with the beans. Simple really. At this point it is ready to be consumed. Enjoy it because it will be delicious!
DJ N.K. - Tribalistic Face
DJ N.K. - Orixas Groove
DJ N.K. - Black Magic
DJ N.K. - Fiquei Diesel
DJ N.K. - Zuguza
DJ N.K. - Sambapito
DJ N.K. - Caipirinha
DJ N.K. - Urban Mafia
DJ N.K. - Punched Horn
DJ N.K. & DJ Marfox - Ghetto Sound of Lisbon
DJ N.K. - Matumbina
DJ N.K. & DJ Nervoso - Hoy
DJ N.K. - Daft Beat
DJ N.K. - Atmosphera
DJ N.K. - Oba Oba
DJ N.K. - Sai Ganxita
DJ Nervoso - Nervoso
DJ Marfox & DJ Nervoso - Dupla Terrivel
DJ Marfox & DJ Nervoso - Merd* Ja
DJ N.K. - Esta Batida Nao Aguentas
DJ Marfox - Cabra
DJ Jesse & Dj N.K. - Arabianos
DJ N.K. - Coco (Kuduro Remix)