A Breath of Fresh Air

I guess we should start off with an introduction. Hello, I’m Micha de Jonge. Google Translate will tell you I’m called Micha the Young. I’m also known as Kita Menari in my native country, The Netherlands. You know the one. People always say “Oh you mean Amsterdam? The country of drugs and prostitution.” However, Amsterdam is only the capital 😉 and indeed famous for its legalization of marijuana. Sorry to fall short of expectations here, but we’re not stoned all the time. That’s something only the tourist do ;). We do have a program called Drugslab that is paid for by our government where presenters on YouTube use every type of drug and explain it to their audience, just so you can learn how it works. Enough about drugs, let’s talk about bikes.  It’s true every Dutchy has a bike (or two) except me, mine got stolen years ago and I never bothered getting a new one. And why would I? I just love to walk and wander around. We live under sea level and since our country is so small, every meter of space is put to use. We’re the country that has many EDM DJs, (Tiesto, Hardwell, Martin Garrix, the list goes on) but not so many indie-pop musicians, so please adopt me, USA!  🙂

Photo by Joram Kaat & Rens Polman

For some reason, I just love indie-pop music. Bands like MGMT, Foals, Phoenix, and Passion Pit always made my heart beat faster. You might label my music as ‘Poptimistic.’ Why? Well, I’m lucky to be making music, actually I’m lucky to be alive at all. You may have noticed ‘Kita Menari’ doesn’t sound very Dutch, in fact, its origin is closely linked to my dance with death. Let me explain…

It’s July 13th, 2016 probably around 15:30, in D’lagoon, Perhentian Islands in Malaysia. I’d been in Asia for a vacation and I was going for my final dive to get my scuba license. The night before, I was very nervous and paranoid as anyone can get with new things. It’s heaven on Earth being on the Perhentians, however, that morning was very chilly. Tourists visit this island sometimes thinking they’re going to spend just a week there but end up staying for up to a year because they love the place so much. I fell in love as well, and I had already planned to return to write some music.

Let me just say, it’s amazing diving underwater; a new world opens up for you. I’d been doing the course with a very fun girl who definitely displayed some ADHD symptoms. It was hilarious during the entire course, we were all over the place. But also dedicated to doing it right in the end. Thankfully we had a very relaxed instructor, Buddha himself, so he had the patience to cope with us. My first lesson went terribly, I couldn’t get my ears cleared which was very annoying. I tried several techniques to bypass this problem and on the second dive, I finally found my way.

The big day was the third diving session, I was rather nervous. We would dive around 18 meters underwater. Quickly, my nerves disappeared as I was stunned by the beauty of the corals the colorful fish. I even swam above a giant stingray. My air levels were all good during the dive (now and then you have to check how many bars of air you have left). Everything was going according to plan. As the dive went on, I felt very confident and even started to swim freely, sometimes a little far away from my friend and the group. 

Rens Polman

They say all good things come to an end, and sure enough we had to leave this underwater paradise. My air levels were still all good and we were already halfway back to the surface. Then things took a turn for the worse. Suddenly, I couldn’t inhale any oxygen. It took me another attempt to breath to realize my air tank had jammed. Very quickly, this beautiful serene wonderland I didn’t want to leave had turned into hell. I panicked. I didn’t even think to check my backup emergency air supply as I’d already gone into survival mode.

Instead of steadily ascending, I immediately raced for the surface. I can’t remember how long it took me. It wasn’t like it went in slow motion, but at that moment I couldn’t remember what I had learned from my diving lessons. Luckily, I had enough breath left in my lungs to get to the surface, but I was shaken and a little bit dizzy. Looking back, I can honestly say that the first breath I took in filled me with something new. I didn’t know it then, but I was a different person from the boy who had gone under the water earlier in the day. My first thoughts were, “did someone pull a prank on me” and “why would someone do that?” I again checked my air supply and it was jammed tight. I also checked my reserve supply for the first time and much to my amazement, it didn’t work either. Of course, no one sabotaged me. The instructor checked the bottle. He was baffled by it as well. He was on his phone, trying to reach out to colleagues to check how this could have possibly happened. While sitting in the boat he said, “You were swimming too far away from the group, if this would have happened a couple of minutes earlier, I don’t know if you would have made it.”

To say I was in shock is an understatement. I became very silent and just watched the waves while we were making our way back to the island. The thought of the sudden end of my life really hit me hard.

Photo by Iris Hendricks

Arriving back at the island, people were preparing a big festival that was planned for the night. I got a large vodka and laid on a beach, staring into the distance, still a bit shaken up. Slowly, from shock, I went to joy. I was still here! People were dancing around me and I went for it. I let go of that experience and threw myself into the experience. The drinks kept coming and from what I can remember, we danced the night away.

I woke the next morning with some joy still in me (and also a killer hangover). While getting dressed, I found a little note in my trousers which had the words ‘Kita Menari’ on it. I presume I wrote them down sometime during the night of celebrating. I had no clue what these words meant, so I went outside and asked a local I saw. I was informed it meant ‘We Dance’ in Malaysian. And there it was, the birth of my new project Kita Menari. This is what it should be about: celebrating, taking life in the moments as they come, fully and with no hesitation. To dance with life, for as long as you have it. I still had a week of vacation left in Malaysia, but I couldn’t wait to return to the Netherlands to continue writing and recording.

And that’s how Kita Menari, both the name and the psyche, was born. Literally from a breath of fresh air. I don’t blame anyone for my bottle being jammed; it’s a one in a million chance. The chance that my backup was jammed too was also one in a million. So a million times a million…you do the math. If you can’t, let’s just say I was very lucky. I sometimes ponder that if I checked my back up supply underwater I might not have had the time to make it to the surface with my last breath. Maybe something, someone, somewhere knew I needed this experience to convince me to make the most out of life.

It’s no coincidence my first EP was called Lagoon and my following EPs have always centered around the thoughts about waking up and dreaming. Finally Awake was named after how I felt the next morning after my diving experience.  These tracks are vibrant, energetic and center on throwing myself into experiences while I still have the chance. It’s a message I want people to take on and put into practice. My new EP, Dreaming All The Time, deals with slightly darker themes but musically and sonically it links back to the tracks on Finally Awake. Into The Dark is about realizing you’re stuck in a cycle that you can’t get out of. There is another track on the EP that is about a close friend of mine who died after an overdose. This is not the “depressing EP” but one that looks at things from a slightly different angle. But the Kita Menari message is still there and will forever be flowing through everything I do, musically and in life. 

What do I want people to feel when I listen to my music? Simply I want people to dance or to dream. There are no two better things in the world. 

Listen to Kita’s new song “Into the Dark”

Cover photo by Joram Kaat & Rens Polman

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