How a '90s German Pop Hit Led Nakadia to a Full-Circle Career Moment

Dec 29, 2022

Krystal Rodriguez

3 min read

In May 1997, German pop group Bellini released a new song called “Samba de Janeiro.” The track—a high-energy fusion of Afro-Brazilian percussive rhythms and bright Eurodance synthesizers— was meant to serve as the lead single for their debut album. However, It became much more than that. “Samba de Janeiro” exploded internationally, reaching the Top 10 on numerous weekly music charts across Europe, including No. 1 in Hungary and No. 2 in Germany and Switzerland.

In the months after its release, “Samba de Janeiro”’ made its way from Europe to Korat, Thailand’s third-largest city and home to one of the country’s two Seagate disk drive manufacturing factories. Before Nakadia became the world-traveling DJ and producer she is today, she worked at the Seagate factory and shared an apartment with several of her friends-turned-coworkers. As their unit had private access to their building’s rooftop, they often held parties soundtracked by Nakadia’s cassette tapes of Western hits.

In her Artist Spotlight interview, she recalls one night when things got particularly wild: “We were drinking cheap Thai alcohol. It smells really bad, it tastes really bad, but we wanted to get drunk. We wanted to dance.” As the night progressed, they stripped down to their intimates and shorts while “Samba de Janiero” blasted on the speakers. “That was really fun,” she says with a laugh.

In 2002, Nakadia got her first taste of proper nightlife while visiting Germany for the first time and decided to become a DJ. Within a few years, she had achieved international status, playing in a different country almost every weekend. But she realized that she had to be more than solely a DJ to achieve the success she desired—to do that, she had also to become a producer.

Nakadia also recognized that she needed help on the production side, so she arranged her first studio sessions in 2008, and recruited sound engineers to help bring her ideas to life. However, the hectic pace of touring gave her little time to study the craft. Once she moved to Berlin full-time in 2010, she could focus on production, spending entire days experimenting with Ableton Live and mastering the terminology so she could better communicate with her studio partners.

One of the engineers with whom she’s developed a fruitful relationship is Ramon Zenker, a German musician and member of electronic outfits such as Fragma, Hardfloor, and The Bellini Brothers—the production duo behind Bellini and “Samba de Janeiro.” When Nakadia looks back on that memory of dancing to that song on a rooftop, she still conveys a sense of disbelief that she not only got to meet Zenker, but works alongside him on her music. “Yeah,” she sighs. “It’s amazing.”

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