YB Talks: Tera Kòrá

26-09-2021 Interview, Music

Yardbird Talks continues! In collaboration with Jägermeister and their #SAVETHENIGHT  project – supporting nightlife in various ways during these challenging times – we shine a light on talented creatives and artists the world needs to know, with stories we hope will inspire you. This time we talked to the talented Joshua Martina a.k.a. Tera Kòrá about finding his purpose in music, how his beloved Island of Curaçao inspires him, and his soon to be released EP! Pictures by Floor Besuijen. Interview by Natascha Sommerhalter.

Hey! Could you begin by introducing yourself to our readers?

Hi! I’m Tera Kòrá, I’d say I’m an all-around creative; I make music, produce, and DJ.

Can you tell us about how your musical journey began?

Well, I originally moved to the Netherlands from Curaçao to study psychology but ended up dropping out after the first year. Over the next months, I felt really lost and like I didn’t have a purpose. During a random night out, I got into a conversation with a bar manager at this pub. He was also from Curaçao so we instantly clicked. He told me about his plans with the place and that he wanted to get a DJ. I told him that I was one and fit perfectly for the position. I bluffed [laughs], I had never really DJed before. I ended up playing there 3 to 4 nights a week for about 2 years and it really helped me develop myself. And then I wanted to expand and started producing music as well.

How was your confidence when you ventured into the world of music? It must have been quite high if you bluffed your way into a DJ gig haha.

I like to take risks. I do. I was also really desperate at that time because I didn’t know what to do with my life. I was a little down that year because I moved from home and we weren’t rich or anything. I came all the way to the Netherlands and then going to Groningen, which is all the way up north, and then having this plan, this route that I set up for myself being cut out from under me in the first year I was like: “What am I doing”? I was lost and just grasping for stuff to hold onto, to give my life a purpose. DJing was one of them. I just went for it. Also, for example, I’ve always wanted to sing, and during quarantine last year I wanted to finally give that a shot. I started taking singing lessons. I’m partially singing on the first single that I’m dropping for the EP. I  took up bass as well during quarantine. I do have to tell myself: “I know I’m not good at it now, but I can be”. I just have to not think too much, that’s where it goes wrong.

You are originally from Curaçao, how has this influenced your sound?

On Curaçao, you would start clubbing around the age of 13/14 and you typically hear a lot of Dancehall, Reggaeton, Soca, Merengue, Bachata, and Ritmo Kombina, which is a genre that originated in Curaçao in the 90s. But at home, we would have a lot of Reggae, Hip-hop, Funk, and Soul. Everything I’ve made over the last couple of years definitely includes these genres in some type of way.

What ambiance do you attempt to create for your listeners?

I want to give people a glimpse of what it felt like growing up on Curaçao. The mood I try to set is both to dance and to lay back. It can be lighthearted and gives off a sunny feeling.

I’m curious, what inspired your artist name?

Tera Kòrá is the neighborhood I grew up in Curaçao. I was actually born in Dordrecht and then lived in Rotterdam for a bit. When I was six years old, we moved to Curaçao. My father wanted to go back for familial reasons. We moved into my grandma’s house who had passed away not long before that, and that house was in Tera Kòrá. She was actually a singer; music comes from my dad’s side of the family. I moved to Curaçao at a very early age so for me it was an introduction to my roots and in essence where I discovered I was from.

You DJ and make music, how do the two differ in terms of what they bring to you?

They’re so different but also connected. I mean, where I really get to express myself in the most authentic way is production because you start from scratch. I’m creating the sounds and putting them in. I’m basically sculpting. With mixing, it’s more like lending what’s already there. However, there are people involved, you have a crowd. With a crowd I love getting that response, that feedback. For me, it’s having that control, but in a way that I can make these people feel good, you know what I mean? I can make these people turn up and get excited and just make them dance. That’s what I really love about DJing. I’ve been learning more as well to read a crowd. That’s something that you have to do so much to become a better DJ. You are setting the tone, you’re setting the mood, but also it kind of has to be in line with the crowd. When I DJ I try to give them 60% of what they want and then the other 40% I’ll fill in with what I think they’ll like.

I first heard of you through a friend living in Toronto. She sent me “No Bad Days” plus some flips you did on SoundCloud. You are reaching a vast amount of people thanks to the internet. Can you tell me what role SoundCloud played in building up your career?

I owe a huge part of it to SoundCloud, that’s where it all started. It still amazes me that so many people in so many different places around the world have tuned in to my music at some point. I’ve always loved SoundCloud, even before making music. It’s a space that’s really receptive to experimentation and home to some of the most unique music I’ve ever heard. I remember when I first discovered it in 2014, it was very competitive in the beats genre. It would just be producers competing in who could make the most experimental/technical shit and that was amazing to me.

You’ve got quite a big following in Asia and have toured a lot as well. How did that happen?

I gotta thank my boy Hiroki Sakamoto for that. He had hit me up after I literally only had my first track on SoundCloud. He really believed in me and started pushing me early to audiences and bookers in Asia. Besides that, I think the music organically did its thing and people who resonated with it came out to the shows.

How is your relationship with social media?

It’s a love/hate relationship [laughs] because I feel it takes so much energy and thought, and I would rather spend that energy and time on something else like reading. Overall, it’s pretty on and off, to be honest. I have times that I’m very active and post a lot and times where I don’t feel like posting anything at all.

Do you have a social media strategy?

I don’t really have a strategy. I am learning more about it now. Ideally what I want my social media to consist of, and I’m trying to dive back into more, is doing shoots and stuff like that in order to elevate my brand. I also want to be more spontaneous and natural with my content. When I was traveling in Bali, I shared an image where I was wearing this robe that I bought in South Korea from Soap. I was just sitting there with my friend’s dog and they captured goofy pictures of me. I find that fits me more because I’m not a serious person at all, so I don’t want the serious pictures to dominate. I have this finsta account, and I feel like I’m my most authentic self there. Pure jokes!

What is the most difficult part of being an artist?

Finding stability, I think, is the most difficult part. It’s not a 9 to 5 so you really have to plan out your time well. I’m almost always doing something that has to do with it. Most of the time if I’m not working on it, I’m thinking about it.

What do you enjoy the most?

That’s a good question. I love it because it gives me the opportunity to really be myself and express myself the way that I want to. I think I was talking about it recently with a friend of mine, I’ve always kind of felt like the black sheep, always feeling different. For example, in my household, I grew up in a house of women, I was the only man. In high school, I kind of thought that I never really fit in. And since I’ve been doing music, I found the confidence to just completely be myself. I could just do what I want and truly be me.

Best advice someone in the industry has given to you?

“To be good at something, you must be willing to be shit for at least a little while”. And I love that because I have this very perfectionist attitude with certain things and I feel like, oh my God, I can’t do it unless it’s going to be really, really good. That’s just not the way life works. It’s trial and error and being willing to put yourself out there.

The meaning of success differs based on who you ask. What does it mean to you?

For me, success is being able to live off of what makes me happy. I feel like I really don’t need much as long as I have the freedom to do what makes me thrive. I also want to be an inspiration to others. I want to be someone’s drive to be better, just like people I look up to that have driven me.

Biggest role model?

Diplo, what I really admire about him is his business side. He’s dipped his toes in so many different scenes and parts of the industry and basically really attained a sort of empire. I really, really look up to that, and him also just being a cool guy. It would be an honor to work with him. He actually played out tracks from my edit pack during Major Lazer live streams. He played two remixes of mine back to back. That was so cool to see. His influence is very spread out and that’s where ideally, I would love to be as well at some point.

Who would you love to work with someday?

Thundercat, Amber Mark, Smino, Rema, Ir-Sais, Slowthai, Mura Masa, Dijon, Medasin, Duckwrth. There’s so many more.

What is your go to song/edit to fire up a crowd?

That is a hard question, there’s so much heat out there to fire up a crowd with. But I love playing this Baile Funk edit of Satisfaction if I really want to get them riled up, or a Be Honest remix I did with Midas Hutch to get them grooving. It really depends on the vibe you want to set. I love playing anything my friends put out. Paul Mond, FS Green, Jael, Jengi, Wantigga, Paquito Moniz etc. There’s too many.

Can you name three of your favorite places in Rotterdam?

My top three spots would have to be Bar when Chips used to be there, Worm and Bird. Dak is also a favorite during the summer.

Best show you’ve been to?

That’s gotta be Anderson Paak LowLands 2019. It was one of the cleanest, tightest, most emotional shows I’ve ever been to. That show was the pinnacle of where I would want to be. He is just an amazing live performer. You could also see years and years of built chemistry between him and his band. I’m so impressed by him drumming while being the lead singer and how he so skillfully caters to the crowd. At the end he did a Mac Miller tribute with the song “Dang!”, and that’s when Jael and I both started shedding tears. And me personally, I’ve cried to Mac Miller before [laughs].

You are currently working on an EP, what can we expect from it?

The EP is called UltraMar, and this is my first original EP, with some of my first original sounds. With UltraMar I want to introduce people to my sound, I want to take people into my world and give them the feeling that I had growing up in Curaçao. That summery island feeling, basically just good vibes. At the end of the day, I want to make people happy with my music, in whatever form that is. And so, with Ultramar, meaning overseas, I literally want the listener to go on a trip to the other side of the world, across the sea on an island. That’s where the inspiration came from. “Summertime” was the first single as an introduction to that vibe and from here on out, I try to lean into that more.

What are your plans for the upcoming year?

I’m very ready to release this EP, and after that be able to focus on three other projects that I have been working on. There is a lot in the works, I’m planning a live DJ set with a brass band which are these drum bands that you have during carnival. I want to cater to big crowds with it, with a light show and visuals. I also have a whole Caribbean acoustic EP that I want to drop. Lastly, I’m working on an Afro Gospel EP with an African producer from Burundi. I’m excited to finalize all of that!