The shape-shifting Egyptian-Italian musician has composed for fashion world titans from Gucci to Prada, but her Burn To Make It Glow EP is testament to a multifaceted artist approaching her wildest, truest form
“In order to rise/From its own ashes/A phoenix/First must burn,” so says Octavia Butler in her novel Parable of the Talents – a story swirling with themes of spirituality, transcendence, and striving for personal and freedoms.
Burn to Make It Glow, Kidä’s debut EP release, parallels that expansive message in both its title and inner guts – pull from your pain, and from it, emerge with wisdom and power. The record, an alchemical concoction of psychedelia, R&B, and retro, villainous-sounding Italian film scores, is a “spiritual release” for the Italian-Egyptian musician and producer. “The Garden” is an aching reflection on growth and goodbyes, the bravery in ending something – a relationship, a creative pursuit – for uncertain but exciting future joys. “Brother” is a ferocious track on the importance of solidarity and fighting for the people you hold dear. It’s a surreal, pop astral projection. Though Kidä says assuredly this is nowhere near her final form, Burn to Make It Glow is testament to a dynamic artist’s tendriled vision.
This record marks her debut, but Kidä’s A Portal To Jump Through project has seen her create original scores for titans of the fashion world, traversing the industrial and psychedelic with Gucci and Prada, among others. Her visual world is a total trip, with hypnotic music videos in collaboration with Luke Jascz that nod to art-rock, The Factory, and B-movies.
Below, Kidä catches up with Dazed: on building her nostalgia-tinged but future-facing identity, her chameleonic personal style and how fashion influences her sound, and hustling a release as an independent artist.
How has the last year treated you?
Kidä: It’s been odd. I feel like a caged animal. I just really want to take a vacation and swim in the sea.
How did you get into making music? You have a musical family right? When did it become something you wanted to seriously pursue?
Kidä: I started cutting my teeth young.... not many people know. I was classically trained in piano and on track to go to Juilliard and singing backup for Pharell in high school. Then I tried to avoid music entirely for a while. I think, in hindsight, there was a part of me that was a bit spooked by my own shadow. Like a dog when it sees its tail, and thinks “what the fuck is that”, and tries to bite it off. That lasted about one year before Red Bull Music Academy grabbed me by the ear and put me back in a studio. It turns out you can’t escape your shadow. Or tail.
My family has a bit of a musical legacy: Ruggero Leoncavallo who wrote the opera “Pagliacci” about a lovelorn clown. This opera is where the trope of the sad clown originated.
How does your work as a Portal to Jump Through intersect with Kidä, and where do the projects diverge?
Kidä: My sound design work under A Portal To Jump Through opened me up to a library of textures that naturally crossed over to Kidä world. But i think in all other ways they are massively different. Kidä World operates in the sensual realm of emotions and instincts, and AP2JT employs a much more strategic, almost utilitarian approach to creation.
What statement does the EP make about you as an artist, and the message you have? What do you find most challenging in the process?
Kidä: This EP is really just my way of saying hello to the world and goodbye to a specific set of memories and emotions. The main message is in the title Burn To Make It Glow – use your pain and catalyse it into beauty, wisdom and power. This “EP release” has felt like a release on a spiritual level. I’ve felt a bit lighter with each song that has come out. That being said, there has been an onslaught of hurdles to jump over. It looks all glam from the front but it’s been bloody. Lots of people assume there is a label behind this project because of the content that’s accompanied the releases, but it was a hustle. We put these visuals together on almost no budget. It’s definitely not my final form, but I’m happy to hatch from my egg. In a way I feel very disconnected from these songs now. This EP doesn’t even scratch the surface of what’s to come.
How does fashion and style influence the music you make?
Kidä: I feel it sort of occurs in the other order. Music influences fashion and style! But I think naturally there is an overlap, the shapes, the cuts, the fabrics, textiles, references – they all hold their own energies you know. Same thing goes for instrumentation. An electric guitar hits differently than a harp. Working as a composer definitely has made me connect certain sounds to certain styles though. For example, when there is a campaign that has all these romantic references it just makes sense to me to use fluttery, harmonic, orchestral sounds. Or if a collection is super sleek and streamlined, my instinct is to create something more propulsive and industrial, to mirror the edges of the garments.
You’re influenced by retro Italian film scores – what is it about them, and are they any special ones for readers to check?
Kidä: The narrative arcs and the instrument profile are honestly so sexy: harpsichords, glockenspiels, orchestral arrangements of bells, harps, flutes, strings. There is a largeness to it but it remains warm and embracing, mischievous, romantic, tender, villainous, delicate, mysterious, bombastic... all at once... for me these scores are almost archetypal in cinema – many of them are instantly recognisable but the composers and track titles are forgotten.
Personal Favourites: La Polizia Sta a Guardere – “Main Theme” by Stelvio Cipriani (and anything else by him), The Fox soundtrack by Lalo Schifrin, Le Mariage collectif soundtrack by Jean-Pierre Mirouze.
Much of your work is about transformation, and hopscotches genre and scope – how do you remain ambitious and expansive in this way, while also establishing a true sense of self and solid identity in your work?
Kidä: I just try to follow a flow of attraction. It’s definitely an organic process. Plus, genre is just a metric box invented by labels to catalog and itemise things, so I generally try to avoid even thinking about it. When everything around you is fake, authenticity is a rare exotic drug. Apparently, it’s an acquired taste! *shrugs.. blows kiss*.
How do you stay future focused with your music, while also referencing elements of the past, from 70s psychedelia to 20th century surrealism?
Kidä: I wish I had a nice coherent answer for you, but truthfully I’m just being naughty and blending spices. Recently, trying to organise all my inspiration feels a bit like trying to catch a herd of mysterious, poorly behaved mice. But I always try to keep a finger on the pulse of the future, otherwise, what’s the point? We have to forge ahead and leave a meaningful and unique fingerprint. Plus, I’d rather rouse the living than summon ghosts! Hybridisation seems inevitable.
“This surrealist world that I’ve been building around Kidä is a form of escapism. It was a safe space in my mind where I could build my own walls and create rivers of lava to burn people who tried to hurt me... where I exist in my wildest, truest form” – Kidä
How would you describe your own personal style? What designers, eras, or people influence you?
Kidä: Hm... it’s hard to quantify and subject to change. I’m sort of a chameleon. Recently feeling inspired by Leonor Fini, Lena Platanos, Fuji Terayama, Nina Hagen, Grace Jones, Gaultier, Siouxsie Sioux, Galliano, Remedios Varo, 070 Shake... I’m always inspired by my friend Yves Tumor for his ability to create his own mythology. I think I’m mainly attracted to eclectic shape-shifting sorts of people. Many people find these personality types unpredictable and therefore untrustworthy but I’ve always very much resonated with people that collect ideas and personas. I sort of imagine them as gatherers, finding berries or strange fruits and stuffing them into their hat. I’m also inspired by my partner/designer/artist (Zwyrtech) for his work ethic and vision.
Your visuals feel so otherworldly, what is the world you wish to create?
Kidä: This surrealist world that I’ve been building around Kidä is a form of escapism. It was a safe space in my mind where I could build my own walls and create rivers of lava to burn people who tried to hurt me. The actualisation of this world into visuals has allowed me to unravel the threads that connected me to the past versions of myself that were locked in survival mode. It’s just my own form of coping – trying to re-write my traumas as steps in a staircase leading up to a climactic moment of rebirth. So this visual landscape of Kidä World is where I exist in my wildest truest form, reflecting my deepest desires, fantasies and visions of beauty.
Who are your dream collaborators?
Kidä: There are some noteworthy collaborations already baking in the oven. We don’t kiss and tell around here though.
How do you stay creative outside of music and your art?
Kidä: Just allowing myself the pleasure of being awe-struck every day by small things. I see music as a mechanism to continue to make art for the rest of my life. Whether that be books of short stories, art films, sound and video installations, photography, animations, sculptures, virtual reality. Music is the gilded plate to serve the tapas on.
Kidä’s Burn To Make It Glow is out now