King Kami: eclectic and energetic

In this second episode of Rhythm Scenes Lisbon we caught up with the ever-energetic King Kami, who tries to kickstart the post pandemic Lisbon nightlife with her enthusiasm and drive.

Words by Daan Stoop
Photography & creative direction by Brendan Reterink & Noa Koch

In a narrow street with many tiled houses in the Lisbon district of Penha França is a café, yet difficult to see that it’s there from a distance. Only the peeling white-on-green painted letters ‘KIMBO BAR PUB’ betray the presence of an establishment, a former striptease café for taxi drivers. The door is closed, there are bars on it, the bar seems closed. But inside there is the sound of a Portuguese soap series. After knocking a few times, shuffling can be heard inside, and the door opens a crack. The innkeeper, a man in slippers about 50 years old, opens the door.

“Besides the fact that some places are closing, others are opening. Places like Planeta Manas, MANTA and Valsa Valsa are real assets to the city. They are important additions to the scene here.”

“This is a bar I frequent,” says Kamila Ferreira, aka King Kami, as we sit in the basement of Café Kimbo. It is a somewhat dirty cellar, with a lot of foggy glass, red light, a disco ball, and a kind of corner sofas that you can fit in with your entire group of friends. There are no windows, it is easy to lose your sense of time. Quite a few Lisbon bars have closed doors lately, so Kamila and her friends moved here.

“But don’t worry,” says Kamila, “besides the fact that some places are closing, others are opening. Places like Planeta Manas, MANTA and Valsa Valsa are real assets to the city. They are important additions to the scene here.”

Planeta Manas is a club and cultural space in Prior Velho, a neighbourhood in the north of Lisbon. As part of Rhythm Scenes Lisbon we held a club night there on April 7, with Kaptcha-affiliate Kerox and Príncipe Discos DJ Nervoso and RC crew members Lieke TR, Ask Me Later and Narathip. Mina, a queer feminist rave collective, takes care of the clubs bookings.

“A really cool place,” Kamila says. “And much needed. Several queer underground collectives finally have a place here. It hasn’t always been that way.”

Club music has always found fertile ground in the Portuguese capital. Spaces like Lux Frágil have been around since the 90s. But in recent years, community-building collectives like mina have been creating more room and support for marginalized people both on and off the dancefloor. For an extensive deep dive into Lisbon’s dancefloor resistance, read for example this beautiful story published on DAZED or this background article in Huck Mag.

King Kami is clearly pleased with the developments in recent years. The Lisbon scene is recovering after the pandemic. “It’s happening again,” she says. “More and more people from outside Portugal are coming here to strengthen the scene. That excites me.”

“I love to walk out of the club with the thoughts in my head: shit, I want to learn even more about music and discover more tracks and styles.”

In particular, the arrival of many Brazilian artists provides a breath of fresh air in the musical landscape, Kamila explains. “The past few years, due to the political and economic situation in Brazil, a lot of Brazilians moved to Portugal.” Kamila herself is also Brazilian, and at the age of 13 she moved and settled in Lisbon. “The arrival of many Brazilians to the city is an extremely interesting development. The wave of immigration changed the club scene. The language is the same, but the sense of rhythm people have is different than in Portugal. Brazilians are really good at mixing club music with funk or batida music. The result is more eclectic, with batida brasileira and rhythms and melodies from peripheral genres incorporated. Europeans are more straightforward in their techno and electronics. Brazilians use the foundations of techno but try to take it to another level. They change or add lyrics and switch rhythms. It’s still music within the realms of techno, but it surprises you from time to time and has more cultural weight.”

In her own DJ sets, Kamila is also increasingly looking to add funk to the more bassy sounds that you often hear in clubs. “I find that evolution of rhythms, when you throw different genres in the blender, interesting. As a club goer I’m looking for places where they try toexperiment. Where they try something new. I love to walk out of the club with the thoughts in my head: shit, I want to learn even more about music and discover more tracks and styles.”

That drive and passion to look for new music and play it for a crowd doesn’t come out of the blue. Kamila’s father used to go out on the streets in Brazil, armed with a big set of speakers in his car. “He used to play a lot of brega music, a specific genre from the north-west of Brazil. It’s very cheesy and romantic, with dirty lyrics. It has this blend of dirty romantic vocals. He was really into this specific genre. My mum was playing Brazilian rock all the time, mostly from the 80s.”

“Want to know more about brega funk music? Here’s a wonderful Mixmag feature on its rise.

Explaining and teaching people about all the varieties and differences in Brazilian music is very important to Kamila, becomes evident from the conversation we have. She loves to surprise people with new finds and rare grooves. To offer people a different view. “Brazilian music played in clubs was always really tacky, we try to bring something new. The Brazilian electronic club scene wasn’t having the amount of attention that it has now.” Of course, she is not alone in that quest. Artists like larinhx, Mu540, Pininga, FKOFF,  Saint Caboclo (founder of Dengo Club)and Gavi inspire her enormously. “They don’t follow the strict lines of the genres anymore. They’re pushing the creativity of what songs can be. People are really open to that. Besides that, people are open to hear more remixed stuff, also of pop music. DJ’s incorporate that into their sets, and it’s not cheesy anymore. It’s more sophisticated.”

In addition to sources of inspiration, King Kami also has a number of artists she turns to when she could use some mentorship. Naive founder Violet is such a person. “I really look up to her”, Kamila elaborates. “She’s moving things and pushing upcoming artists. She’s holding us with her hands, letting us fly! I like her vibe, her concentration. I Had the pleasure to be invited to work with her on a residency project and was super glad with everything she taught me. Her and Photonz, Phoebe, Rastronault, Pedro da Linha are people that I look up as artists and I think that they are good ambassadors of the scene.’