Nakadia is the most renowned DJ representing Southeast Asia right now. But the road was anything but straight for the Thailand native, who grew up in a sleepy village called Khon Buri without running water.
Previously a model, It was a fateful trip to Frankfurt back in 2002 where Nakadia, real name Seephrai Mungphanklang, first heard techno, immediately abandoning her fashion career for one in music.
It was a wise move. Today, she’s a regular at clubs like Watergate, The Egg and D-Edge in Sao Paulo, and even hosted her own night at the Amsterdam Dance Event to promote fellow Asian DJs in Europe.
A naturally gregarious woman, Nakadia carved out her own niche as the first “international guest DJ” to play in Phuket at a club called Lime, helping to put underground dance music on the map in Thailand. Today, she both plays and promotes at Illuzion in Phuket and Cha Cha Moon in Koh Samui, though she’s since moved to Berlin.
“If I would have stayed in Asia I would never be as successful as I am now,” she tell us. “Europe is still the place to break through on an international level.”
But as Nakadia admits, the real catalyst for her international success came following her first gig with Cocoon boss Sven Väth at Cha Cha Moon—the gigs came pouring in and haven’t stopped since.
Ahead of her upcoming gig at Koh Samui alongside Loco Dice, we find out why Nakadia thinks any Asian DJ should head to Europe if they want success, hear about her time at Epizode, and she tells us she’s even thinking about throwing her own festival.
You've had a great start to 2018, which included a gig at Epizode Festival in Vietnam. What did you think of it?
Epizode Festival is very much needed in Asia. Most Asian festivals fully focus on EDM and I am very happy that finally things are moving forward in the region. Festivals like Epizode, Wonderfruit and Kolour are built with so much love not only for music, but for the entire lifestyle. In other parts of the world, people have grown up being surrounded by the “techno lifestyle.” This is a totally new thing for Asia and I hope that all these festivals grow to the level they deserve.
Do you think festivals like Epizode plays an important role in highlighting local and regional talent?
Absolutely. Our problem in Thailand is the early closing time of 2AM. Around the globe, local talent have the chance to play in clubs alongside headliners and get heard and discovered. In Thailand most people are in the club only for two hours to listen to the headliner and miss out on the local talent. This is what is keeping the scene small. Festivals give local artists a chance to be heard.
What’s changed for you since moving to Europe?
Everything has changed. My entire career started with the move to Europe. If I would have stayed in Asia I would never be as successful as I am now. Europe is still the place to break through on an international level. Since my move to Berlin, people in the industry started to take me more seriously and I got the chance to work with amazing artists in the studio. But most of all, the entire “techno lifestyle” of Berlin changed the way I think about and understand music. This made me grow as an artist in a way it would never be possible in Asia.
Looking at the current scene in Thailand, would you recommend the same for local female DJs?
If you are serious about your career and want to get to achieve international success, it won’t be possible in Asia. Even if you lock yourself in a studio and release amazing tracks that would just lead to a few bookings outside of Asia. But for a really successful career you have to be in the centre of where it all happens.
Who are some of your favourite local DJs right now?
Jasmine Lee from Shanghai is one artist that has a lot of potential. She plays several instruments live with her DJ sets, which makes her unique—and she is working hard to grow the local scene in Shanghai. For Thailand I would say Dan Buri. We have shared the stage regularly in the last decade. Now he has developed into a great artist who runs his own label, Neverest Records, and he’s gaining more respect internationally.
You travel back home to Thailand quite often, what are some of the positive changes you've noticed each time?
I have been building the scene in Thailand for 15 years now. It was slow in the beginning especially when the parties mostly attracted more expats and tourists rather than locals. In the last few year more Thai people are seen at these parties. I’m so happy to see dance floors filled with locals who know how to move, know how to feel the music and obviously addicted to the techno virus. This is the most positive change I’ve seen.
You've hosted Sven Väth several times in Thailand. How do you keep those experiences unique every time he performs?
This is the seventh event I produced for Sven and myself. We have explored three locations that were all very different from each other. In Koh Samui we did it at a tropical beach club called Cha Cha Moon, which isn’t as high tech as other venues but its tropical vibes are unmatched. The opposite of it would be our events at Illuzion Phuket, where I host him at one of the most high tech super clubs in the world. In Bangkok we had one event at an old warehouse and again the vibe was completely different.
How has Sven influenced your career as an electronic dance music artist?
He has partly influenced me musically and also the development of my career. After our first event together on Koh Samui I suddenly received endless booking requests from all over the world. People got to know Nakadia from that event and since that moment my schedule has always been packed to the brim. The snowball continued to grow year after year and now I am playing 130 gigs at top events all round the globe yearly. So I have say thank you to Sven Väth for believing in me and giving me this opportunity.
What are the ups and downs of working on the other side as a promoter?
Promoters have so much responsibility and there is always the risk of failure. It means anxious days and hours of uncertainty while hoping for the best. As an artist you just go on stage and normally you don’t need to worry about anything. Since I started working as promoter I have the biggest respect for promoters and understand the things they go through.
Have you always wanted to try it out?
In my early years as a DJ, I experienced so many bad parties and I always thought if I was the promoter I would do it totally different. Then, I had times when the music on my home-island of Samui was so bad that I always wished that I could bring good artists to the island. This opportunity came when Cha Cha Moon opened its doors for high quality music only. The club gave me the opportunity to host my own nights and allowed me invite some of the artists that I’ve always wanted people to hear.
Fresh from hosting Sven Väth in Phuket, you’ll be hosting Loco Dice and Yaya in Koh Samui. How do these two islands offer the best underground music experience?
The two islands are totally different to each other. A long time ago Koh Samui used to be the coolest island with great underground parties and venues. After the tsunami hit Phuket, all tourists travelled to Samui and the island lost its purity and charm, so the “cool” people moved on to neighbouring Koh Phangan.
Today it is very difficult to host underground parties on Samui. Cha Cha Moon Beach Club is doing a great job bringing the greatest artists of the underground scene to the island. Dede, the owner, just loves music and worked hard to make it all happen. Phuket is completely different as there was never an underground scene before.
I was actually the first “international guest DJ” to play in Phuket in 2007 at a club called Lime. Phuket never had any underground music before and for years I was the only techno DJ playing there sometimes. Now, slowly, several groups like Bermudos are delivering cool parties on the island, and five times a year I host my techno night at Illuzion. The island is moving forward, but there is still a lot more work to do.
What other international DJs would you like to bring to Thailand in the future?
I have limited time to host parties in Thailand mainly because I’m usually back home in January and February. In the future I hope to start a festival and hosting several great artists within a day or two. I had this plan for a long time but I don’t have the resources to make it a success. I think I might be able to pull it off in 2019. Several DJ friends are on my wishlist but I can’t mention anyone at this point.
You’ve traveled to several countries, but would your dream tour be?
I think I have played at all the dream destinations a DJ can have like Ibiza, Brazil, Colombia and Mauritius. I really would love to see New York, San Francisco or the Grand Canyon. One month travelling through the US is the dream for now.
Can we expect more produced work from you this year?
That is one thing that is for sure. The past three years I have been touring non-stop and hardly had time for studio work. But I made myself a promise that I will release at least four EPs in 2018. One solo EP is already finished and I’m currently working on the second. There is a 1-track EP that was produced with Citizen Kain and it will be out on January 26th. It’s called Rumble in the Jungle via Filth on Acid. It also comes with an amazing remix by label owner Reinier Zonneveld. I am sure this will by far be the biggest year for me and I promise the world will hear more Nakadia music from now on.
Nakadia will be hosting Loco Dice and Yaya at Cha Cha Moon Beach Club in Koh Samui on February 10th, 2018. Check out the event page to see how you can be part of this epic event. Check out Nakadia's latest collaboration with Citizen Kain below.