Studio Tupi #1 – Jonathan Kim

The Tupi Studio project is out!!

It means that once in a season we will invite a Dj to come to our studio to record a set of  Brazilian grooves.
For the first edition we invited the Dj and record collector Jonathan Kim from LA that we had the pleased opportunity to meet during his stay in Montreal.
We made an interview asking him to talk about his story on the music and about his passion for Brazilian Music.

Tupi Collective: Jon, can you tell us about how you started to be a Dj and about you passion for music?

Jonathan Kim: I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California.  I grew up in a family full of music although my two older brothers and I were victims of a familar stereotype: All Asian immigrant parents make their kids play at least 1 instrument.  Well, I played 2 instruments, the piano and cello and as I look back on those early years, I actually did enjoy playing those instruments and Classical music.

I feel in love w/ Hip Hop from an early age.  I was the youngest of 3 sons so I would remember my older brothers playing RUN DMC and LL Cool J when I was 6-7 years old.  During my early teen years I really dived into catching up on all the Hip Hop i was too early to catch while fully engaging myself in what was being released at that time: Nas, Wu-Tang, KRS-1, DITC, The Alkolholiks, Snoop, Dre, Gang Starr, etc, etc.  Even during those years, I would think about how these artists would produce the beats they were making.  Did DJ Premier really play the bells?  Did RZA really know how to play all those string instruments and the piano?  And how the fuck did Jay Dee play the drums like that??  Upon reading album linear notes to all of the albums that I was buying, I quickly learned that these beats were being made from ‘samples’ of various Jazz, Soul, Funk, and Rock records primarily from the 60s-70s.  I started to DJ and collect records in High School.  I couldn’t afford my own turntables at that point and my parents wouldn’t buy me the equipment, so I started to learn at my friend’s house.  But I worked various jobs throughout the year and finally was able to start buying my own records and at the age of 17 I finally bought my first DJ set-up.

Tupi Collective: What about you passion for Brazilian music? How did it start?

Jonathan Kim: Around that time period, I remember The Pharcyde’s song “Runnin'” produced by Jay Dee aka J. Dilla and one day when listening to records at the store, I came across the sample on a Stan Getz and Luiz Bonfa album.  It’s a very common record to buy in the US and shouldn’t cost more than $5-7 but not only did I love how Jay Dee was able to take that small portion of the song and use that part to create one of my favorite beats at that time, but it also was an early spark to further research more Brasilian artists and styles.

Jump forward some years to around 2008.  During that time period, Mochilla’s Keepintime and Brasilintime was already released, Madlib and some of my other favorite Hip Hop producers already sampled a ton of Brasilian records, DJ Nuts already released his Brasilian mixtapes, etc.  I had the opportunity to work with Mochilla for their Timeless series.  In short, Timeless produced three concerts in Los Angeles: Suite for Ma Dukes (J Dilla’s music performed and arranged for an orchestra), Mulatu Astatke and Arthur Verocai.  I was already a huge fan of Verocai due to the Ubiquity re-release but during 2008/09 and having the opportunity to work closely with Mochilla’s B+ and Eric Coleman, that was the point where I really started to dive deep into Brasilian music, just like I did w/ Hip Hop, Jazz, Soul, and Funk during my earlier years.  I really do owe Mochilla for being a huge inspiration and in particular B+ (Brian Cross) for the opportunity to visit Brasil with him for my very first time.  Actually my first two trips to Brasil were with B+ and not only did I learn a lot about Brasilian culture but I was also thrown in, head first, into the record community in Sao Paulo and Rio.  Since that point, I have never turned back.  I’ve been to Brasil multiple times after those first two trips and lived in Brasil for 6 months in 2013.  And I’m going back this year (actually tomorrow!) for another 3 months.

All in all, I have to say I’m quite fortunate to be able to share this music w/ you.  I live a privileged life that allows me to work and make money from my computer and these records aren’t cheap so one has to understand that there is an economic/class divide when people gloat their record collections.  In the end, it’s not about having the original pressing or even having the music on vinyl.  People who appreciate a primary document (OG Vinyl Pressing) and who enjoy their music on the vinyl format are more than welcome to nerd-out on someone’s collection but it’s really about the music at the end of the day, while also placing Brasilian music within the larger conversation of music inspired and created from the African diaspora that has effected the entire world – in my opinion, for the better!

Tupi Collective: We would like to thank you for accepting our invitation to come to our first Studio Tupi. We hope to have you again in one of our parties!! Keep doing the great work and keep digging and sharing good brazilian records!! Do you have some links that people can be in contact and see your work?

Jonathan Kim: Thank you guys, I hope you enjoy the music.  For any faults within the mix, feel free to blame my own talents – not the cachaça and beer that was involved.

I hate facebook and suck at Twitter.  But I somewhat enjoy Instagram.  Feel free to lurk me out here:


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