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Words by Philip Sherburne
Batida is, at its heart, a music of exchange. Born out of Angolan styles like semba, kizomba, and kuduro, and encompassing a growing constellation of contemporary variants (tarraxo, tarraxinha, fodencia) along with global sounds like house and Afrobeats, it’s a little like a game of telephone. Rhythms bounce between Portugal, Angola, São Tomé e Príncipe, Cape Verde, and other points in the Afro-Lusophone diaspora, changing shape all the way; they ricochet back and forth across Lisbon’s suburbs, with crews on opposite sides of the Tagus river coming up with different takes on the ever-mutating form.
Nídia represents a widening of its global footprint. She grew up in Vale da Amoreira, a working-class Lisbon suburb, but she moved to Bordeaux, France, in 2011, when she was 14 years old. In Vale da Amoreira, she had danced to batida with a group of friends who dubbed themselves Kaninas Squad. In France, armed with FL Studio and some YouTube tutorials, she set up her own bedroom studio, Estúdio da Mana (“Sister’s Studio”), and set about developing her own take on the sound. For a time, she went under the alias Nídia Minaj, a tribute to one of her idols. But she loses the borrowed surname on Nídia é Má, Nídia é Fudida, her debut album. The record is both a contribution to the style and a fierce declaration of independence.
Its title translates loosely as “Nídia is bad, Nídia is dope.” (That’s “bad,” of course, in the “not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good” sense of the term.) The opening track is all swagger: Insistent horn fanfare, rattling percussion, the defiant cry of “Mulher Profissional!” (“Professional woman!”)—as defiant as a fighter’s ring-walk anthem, it’s a triumphant way for the 20-year-old musician to declare that she is all business. What follows this brassy intro is a succession of short, devastatingly kinetic tracks. Most of them are well under three minutes long, full of brittle percussion samples, mind-bendingly complex syncopations, and rapid-fire synth bursts, as though someone had tossed a brick of firecrackers onto a Korg factory assembly line. To listeners familiar with DJ Marfox, Nigga Fox, Firmeza, and other Príncipe musicians, Nídia’s music won’t sound completely alien. But much of the album is imbued with a tough, almost confrontational tone, a not-to-be-fucked-with vibe that is hers alone.
Her rhythms are unusually intricate. “Biotheke” rides a complicated drum groove that feels perpetually on the verge of collapse as it traces its tornado-like path through a mess of metal and wood. In “É da Banda,” the clattering drum sounds seem almost random at first; it’s only when the kick asserts its gravitational pull that all the elements fall into place. Stripped of everything but snapping drums and a high-pitched, hiccupping refrain, it makes for a dazzling display of her rhythmic skills. What’s most striking about her music, though, is her use of dissonance. A handful of sharp, key-clashing sounds lent 2015’s Danger EP an extra hint of menace, but here they definitively become her signature. The eerie, haunted-carousel melody of “Biotheke” sets into stark relief the tune’s clanging percussion and deadweight bass riffs. “Mulher Profissional” is a riot of tinny frequencies and stabbing motions; “Arme” bristles with needling tones, vocal shots pitched a half-tone apart, and a piercing melody that sounds like a tape being fast-forwarded.
The slow, grinding “Puro Tarraxo” is a good example of the mind-bending complexity of her approach. Over an almost dembow like groove, the sounds pile up: high-pitched, staccato vocal samples; video-game bleeps; a harsh, buzzing sound that splits the stereo field wide open. In between these hard, bright tones, a weird, modal melody dances in circles, all but invisible amid a collection of elements so shrill they could set your teeth on edge. It sometimes seems like the main organizing principle of her music is the lattice of crisscrossing lasers found in Hollywood bank vaults: Getting inside is tricky business, indeed.
But there’s also a softer side to her music. In one of the album’s finest tracks, “Underground,” her fondness for dissonance yields fluttering, guitar-like chords jumbled up with jagged synths, a balance of soft tone clusters and sharp angles as tactile as a fistful of dandelion tufts and broken glass. And on “I Miss My Ghetto,” brooding piano chords apply the brakes to runaway drums and breakneck syncopations—the rare moment of introspection from a young artist who clearly seems more interested in moving forward than looking back. It’s also a suggestion that, no matter how far batida travels, it’s not likely to forget its roots.
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Any artist who wants to stand out from the crowd should aim to create something unique – something that defies easy description. But what if your whole damn scene is doing exactly that? Actually, that’s not even a problem for Nídia, the barely-20-year-old producer whose slippery, futuristic take on kuduro – the heavily percussive, polyrhythmic dance style originally from Angola – has propelled her to the forefront of the Afro-Portuguese club movement with roots in Lisbon’s suburbs.
That’s not the only reason the young producer (formerly known as Nídia Minaj, in tribute to her hip hop fave) sticks out from peers and mentors like DJ Marfox, DJ Nigga Fox and DJ Dadifox. As well as being the most visible woman in a male-dominated scene, Nídia’s geographical distance from her home turf – she’s been living in Bordeaux, France, since her mid teens – keeps her ears fresh and her mind clear as she blazes her own trail. “Everything comes from my head,” she says – there’s “no influence from anyone.”
Though only just out of her teens, Nídia has been involved in the Batida scene (short for “Batida do gueto” – the “beat of the ghetto”) for many years, first dancing in an all-girl kuduro crew before learning to make her own beats on FL Studio. In 2015 she released her debut EP on Príncipe, the Lisbon label set up in 2011 to spotlight the city’s kuduro mutations, and since then she’s been balancing her school work with a burgeoning DJ career, taking the wonky euphoria of Batida to dancefloors across Europe.
On July 14 she returns to Príncipe for her – and the label’s – biggest statement yet. Her debut LP, ‘Nídia E Ma, Nídia E Fudida’ (which translates roughly to “Nídia is bad, Nídia is a badass”) is a 14-track riot, an autonomous, lawless territory of tweaky synths and off-grid percussion where the ass-grinding stutter of ‘Puro Tarraxo’ rubs up against saucer-eyed mongrel-house on ‘House Musik Dedo’ and ghoulish club-noir on ’Sinistro’. It’s something special, and she knows it. “I wanted to jump higher than I had jumped so far,” she says proudly.
We meet Nídia in London, ahead of a DJ set supporting the mighty Alva Noto, to find out why she’s not afraid of imitators, what advice she gives to new producers, and why her parents hate her music (and that’s a good thing).
Why did you decide it was time to release a full-length album?
I wanted to jump higher than I had jumped so far. It was the right time to do it.
The album title is a little bit naughty. Could you explain it?
It’s not that naughty, it’s a naughty word. Fudida is like badass, like “don’t fuck with me”.
There are a few different musical styles on the album – what was influencing you when you were producing? Were you listening to any music outside of the Batida scene?
Each sound was made in its own way. Each sound is independent. There was no influence from anyone, just my own, and each track offers something different. Everything comes from my head.
Which track on the album are you most proud of?
All of them. When I make a track I have the same love for each. Like a mother with five kids – she can’t pick a favourite one.
One of the tracks is called ‘I Miss My Ghetto’. Does that feeling of homesickness affect your music?
Not really. It gives me strength to continue – but I go back [to Lisbon] quite often.
Do you make music every day?
Not at this point, there was a time when I did but not right now. I’ve got school, and too many gigs, and the gym…
It seems as if you’re quite prolific, though – you’ve been uploading material to SoundCloud as well. How many tracks do you have still unreleased?
I have about 38 tracks that are unreleased. There are loads of others that died. In my shows I play a lot of that stuff, but the stuff on SoundCloud has usually been released.
Have you added any extra equipment to your studio over the years or is everything still done on the computer?
I’ve got new monitors so I can listen better, I’ve got a MIDI keyboard. [The production is] better quality. The songs are better produced, particularly because of the speakers, and it’ll keep going as I add more.
Where do you like to find your sounds and samples?
I have used the samples that I have for a long time. I also use samples that I get from my DJ group of Portuguese DJs. We swap samples.
When you’re starting to make a track, how do you know when you’ve got a good idea? What are you listening for?
I start with rhythms and then the melody has to come pretty quickly. If it doesn’t, it goes in the trash. It doesn’t have to be quick, but sometimes it takes a few days to know if a track is going to be worth working on or not. There’s no rush. For example, if I’m composing something but my head is not in it, I stop, do something else. I come back and usually it works out, or I do it the next day and it comes out better than before.
Have you ever thought about rapping or singing on your own tracks?
I sang before with a group. I’ve got a few rhymes in my pocket, but nothing definite.
When you play your own tracks in your own DJ sets, is there something that you’re looking for to know they are successful?
No, I make music mostly for myself and if I like it I’ll put it in the set and if I don’t I wouldn’t put it in the set.
How do you prepare for a DJ set?
I don’t prepare too much now. I’ll have all my tracks and then see what the feeling is during the night. I’ll start with one track and then remember, “shit, I’ve got this track, this track” – so it’s improvised.
How do you feel about taking a very local scene around the world? Do you feel protective of the scene and how people understand it?
It’s very gratifying. There’s no words to describe the love we get from the crowds. All I can do is be grateful for the love that we get and all we can do is keep doing what we’re doing so people will keep enjoying it. We’re not that protective because we know we’re the real deal. Imitation is an imitation. We do our thing. It’s like if you’ve got an imitation iPhone, you can tell straight away the difference. It’s the same thing with what we do. So we’re not protective, we’re confident.
Are you still studying?
Yes. I’ve finished high school and I’m going to start university to study nursing. But I’m not sure. [DJing] is my job. Studying is more because of pressure from my parents. They support me – they’re not musical though. My mum doesn’t like [my music] at all – it’s too “chka-chka-chka”! But if she liked it, it would be ruined – if my parents were into it, it wouldn’t be very fresh.
What is your best skill that’s not related to music?
I play pretty good football. I consider that one of my talents. That’s my third backup plan!
When you started out as a producer you got production tips from Dadifox. Now that you’re established, do you have young producers asking you for advice?
Yeah, I help out when they ask. It doesn’t happen that much anymore because there’s loads of tutorial videos these days and the kids go for that, but yeah, when they ask I’ll give them stuff that’s not on the tutorial videos. There’s a few Batida tutorials, not many, but the thing is the videos show how to work the software – they don’t teach you the rhythms, they teach you how to get around the software.
So what would your best advice for new producers be?
Don’t give up, because a lot of people do give up. You’ve got to be persistent and stubborn. You have to give yourself the opportunity.
Which is more important to you now – producing or DJing?
DJing. Because when you’re DJing that’s when the people really listen to your stuff and realise you’re badass. You can listen to Beyonce on your headphones and it is what it is, but when you see her live you realise she’s badass and you go, “wow”.
Do you think we’ll see more women producers making kuduro-influenced style of music? Why aren’t there very many at the moment?
I would like to see more women producers, because it would make women more prominent in the scene. Maybe women are not patient enough, because you need a lot of patience to produce.
What is the important thing you’ve learned since your first record came out?
That without work you won’t go too far. You’ve got to work hard to get the results.
Words by Angus Finlayson
Six years since the Lisbon label was born, describing the music on Prìncipe remains a tricky task. Numerous genre descriptors swirl around its strange and vivid records—”kuduro, batida, kizomba, funaná, tarrachinha,” reads one label biography. Formulas are broken more often than they are upheld. Perhaps Prìncipe’s one constant is flux. As the label’s Pedro Gomes said to Ryan Keeling in 2014, “This music has been brewing for centuries, through the slave trade, through immigration, and now through digital technology.” Made by Afro-Portuguese producers in Lisbon’s poor neighbourhoods, it channels flows between Portugal, its former colonies and the rest of the world, and between the city and its deprived suburbs.
This state of flux is coded into Nídia’s music. She grew up in Lisbon but moved to Bordeaux when she was 14, and her music echoes this displacement. On her debut release, 2014’s Estudio Da Mana on Brother Sister Records, was a track called “V.A.G.G.”: V.A. for Vale De Amoreira, the ghetto where she grew up and where “kuduro ruled”; G.G. for ghetto gang, “because it’s my ghetto and my gang. I was always told not to forget where I come from.” Two years later, on her debut album proper, is “I Miss My Ghetto,” whose melancholy piano chords are fractured into stark shapes over a wildly broken groove.
This emotional edge might help explain why Nídia (formerly Nídia Minaj, after a musical idol of hers) has become one of Príncipe’s more widely known artists. Though 2015’s Danger, her Príncipe debut and breakout record, packed plenty of dance floor heat, there were some surprisingly gentle moments among the neck-snapping drum loops. Nídia É Má, Nídia É Fudida, her debut album, has its tender spots too. On “Underground,” a liquid guitar lick loops morosely; right after, “House Musik Dedo” ups the melodrama with a brash lead and heat-woozy chord stabs.
But Nídia’s music isn’t just sad. More than her past releases, Nídia É Má, Nídia É Fudida demonstrates her range, twisting the unplaceable grooves of the Afro-Portuguese style into numerous intriguing shapes. There’s thunderous beat science (“É Da Banda”, where toms, snares and kicks form a dynamo of flailing limbs), shrill fanfares of digi-brass (“Mulher Profissional” and “Arme,” at opposite ends of the record, both headache-inducing), Belgian-style rave gear (“Biotheke”) and a detour into tarrachinha slow-mo (the sly “Puro Tarraxo”). As an album, it’s scrappy. Nídia’s short, anarchic tracks were never going to play nicely in the LP format. But as a document of a sound in flux, it’s as bold and fascinating as anything on the label.
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Words by Selim Bulut
The last time we spoke to Nídia she was 17 years old, going by the name ‘Nídia Minaj’, and had only just started playing parties. Three years later and the Portuguese producer/DJ has toured all around the world, contributed to Warp Records’ Cargaa compilation series surveying the country’s club scene, and is gearing up to release her debut album Nídia é Má, Nídia é Fudida this Friday (June 30).
Nídia got her start in high school as part of an all-girl dance group called Kaninas Squad. The group would dance to kudoro (an ultra-rhythmic style of Angolan dance music) as well as write their own tracks, and it wasn’t long until Nídia was taking a deep dive into YouTube tutorials and learning to make beats of her own. Soon, her tracks caught the ears of Príncipe, the Lisbon-based record label who have for the past few years have been the go-to place to hear the latest sounds from the city’s suburban housing projects and ghettos.
Nídia is now based in Bordeaux, and she uses Nídia é Má, Nídia é Fudida to look both forward and back, with tracks like “I Miss My Guetto” simultaneously pining for her old home while demonstrating her innovative and future-facing take on Afro-electronic club music. Nídia created a rapidfire mix ahead for us of the album’s release – we caught up with her over email to find out more about it.
How’s it going?
Nídia: I’m doing good, feeling good. Always on the run.
When we last spoke to you, you were 17 years old and still in school. What’s been the biggest change in your life since then?
Nídia: I’m still at school – I’m 20 now. Not a lot of change except for the work me and Príncipe have been doing!
You’ve been DJing all over the world over the past few years. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your travels?
Nídia: Yep, I’ve been to a lot of towns around the world. The most important thing I’ve learned was that hard work pays off. With commitment comes work, and work takes you a long way.
How long have you been working on Nídia é Má, Nídia é Fudida?
Nídia: It was a team effort. I make the music, and Príncipe does the rest. It took a while working out the record – I’m not sure how long.
How does the album represent an evolution in your sound?
Nídia: For me it’s clear in the music. It’s a personal goal to feel I can show my potential and evolution.
One of the tracks on the album is called ‘I Miss My Guetto’. What do you miss most?
Nídia: My girlfriends, living there, the parties. I miss being at my home.
You’re one of the most prominent female DJs to emerge from the Portuguese scene. Are there any other female emerging artists that you’re excited by?
Nídia: Yes – I’ve just met her and her music recently. She goes by the name BLEID, she’s really good, has a luminous, powerful sound. Do a search online – you’ll see that she’s the real deal.
We loved the ‘Minaj’ in your name! Why did you drop it?
Nídia: I decided to stop using that name because it never belonged to me. Everybody knows who’s the real Minaj!
What’s the best party you’ve played recently?
Nídia: At La Réunion island. Also, São Paulo was lit, documenta 14 at Kassel, and a bunch of others.
What’s going on in this mix?
Nídia: It’s got my tracks and tracks by other DJs that I like – I can’t say much, people will listen to it and will have their say about it.
What else do you have coming up?
Nídia: You can expect my new record Nídia é Má, Nídia é Fudida just about to drop. There’s a lot of carga and work in it, from the sounds to the cover!
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Words by April Clare Welsh
When Príncipe’s grande dame kicks off Nídia é Má, Nídia é Fudida with a track called ‘Mulher Profissional’ (‘Professional Woman’ in English), you know she means business. When she includes a Simone de Beauvoir quote in the album’s press release, you know she’s not to be fucked with.
Nídia’s first full-length goes way beyond consolidating her previous tarraxinha and batida-spun work into a coherent whole. Instead, it mines an even wider variety of influences, touching on everything from boom bap and balearic to deconstructed club and hoover bass. Her unmistakable taut looped drums are still a force to be reckoned, with some of the album’s best moments built around ideas of repetition and precision, but there’s also a mysticism that wafts around its darker corners, betraying an almost devotional fervor.