Remembering José Padilla – Legendary Café del Mar DJ

The Spanish DJ and producer was best known as the resident DJ at the iconic Café del Mar in Ibiza, and curator of its early compilation releases...

Remembering José Padilla, the legendary Ibizan DJ who passed away on this day three years ago.

Born in Girona on December 4th, 1955, José María Padilla Requena was a Spanish DJ and producer, best known as the resident DJ at the iconic Café del Mar in San Antonio, Ibiza, and curator of the early compilation releases of the same name.

Padilla spent his early years on the island running his own nights at Museum in the south, with guest spots at Nitos in San Antonio, before the tragic suicide of a business partner, followed by a bout of excessive drinking, forced him out of the DJ game. He started producing mix tapes at home, blending ambient, lounge, reggae, soul and other genres, adding tape machines to keep up with demand as his popularity grew, and returning to DJ work, taking up the Café del Mar residency in 1991.

It was the only place, the beginning of something new, a great crowd, a magical time of unique circumstances

However, Padilla soon became a victim of his own success, and when others sought to profit off his work, producing pirate copies of his mixes, he decided to make things official. He travelled to London, approaching record companies with mixes using the Café del Mar brand, initially without success, until James Horrocks’ React Music showed an interest. Volumen Uno of the series was released in 1994, selling 8,000 copies. Over the next few years, Padilla spent the summers in Ibiza, perfecting his infamous heliocentric DJ sets, before moving to the UK for the winter, compiling follow-up releases and touring the DJ circuit to promote the brand. Volumen Dos shifted 30,000 units, and when Volumen Cinco was released in 1998 it hit the half-million mark.

A producer as well as a DJ, several of Padilla’s tracks, such as Agua, Que Bonito and Walking On Air, featured on early Café del Mar compilations, before the release of his debut album Souvenir, in 1998, followed by Navigator in 2001, which received a Latin Grammy nomination, and So Many Colours in 2015. Several of his tracks received the remix treatment, including Way Out West’s seminal take on Sabor de Verano and Leftfield’s classic reworking of Adios Ayer.

Forever humble, never ostentatious, for Padilla it was all about the music, and taking his listeners on a journey. He remained a firm fixture on the global DJ circuit, with a career spanning more than 40 years, his eclectic sunset journeys and unforgettable Essential Mix broadcasts, capturing the hearts and souls of clubbers the world over, before succumbing to colorectal cancer in 2020.

📸 PYMCA/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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