DJ Vera, founder and host of N’Zinga Dance Hall Photo Credit: Oscar Correcher
Dateline: Eixample, Barcelona, Spain
When I was growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, our birthday parties were dominated by American music of the 60s and 70s. At university, artists from the 80s unapologetically ruled the dance floor. Who can forget the electrifying effect of prominent performers such as Cool and the Gang, Earth, Wind and Fire, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, Diana Ross, the Jackson Five, etc? The breakdancing was out of this world. Fast-forward to 2019, things are different.
Today, African music has taken center stage and rightly so. But wait. It is not only widely popular within the continent. It’s making waves across the world, so much that foreign producers are desperately itching to get a slice of the pie. In the digital streaming age of YouTube, Spotify, Google Music, Pandora, African music is traveling far and wide.
N’zinga is an African dance hall organised once a month in Barcelona by Vera G. Moumie, aka DJ Vera. My first experience at N’zinga at Sala Venus (the venue), knocked my socks off. I’m not joking. It was truly a thrilling sensation. The music was so good that I boogied from 10pm to 2am. I did not seat down for a minute.
The interesting thing is that more than half of the hall was full of white people dancing to songs in African languages. That’s the power of music. It’s universal. People intuitively respond to rhythms they enjoy whether they speak the language or not.
N’zinga harvests music from all of Africa: Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Congo DRC, Ghana, Gabon, Congo Brazzaville, Cape Verde, Angola, Cameroon, Tanzania, Uganda, Senegal, Guinea, etc. Vera seamlessly mixes the unique sounds from these countries, enabling a smooth transition that leaves the listeners wanting more. It’s an unforgettable experience. You would recognise big names like Davido, Wizkid, Tekno, Yemi Alade, Patoranking, Finacon, Zibo Ciborg, Meiway, Magasco, Shan’L, Ferre Gola, Koffi Olomide, Awilo Logomba, Ofori Amposah, Diamond Platinumz, etc.
The first noticeable thing about Vera is her attire. Her style is edgy. Her hair is permanently wrapped in colorful headgears. She accessorizes with jewelry, mostly beads. DJ Vera boldly shows her distinctive traits through her fashion sense.
Born of a Spanish father and Cameroonian mother, Vera was steeped in music at a young age. Literally, every activity at home was punctuated by a variety of melodies. Her father played genres from Brazil while her mum danced to Funk and African tunes. Perhaps, this partly explains her personality. Boisterous, exuberant and amiable, Vera has stage presence.
At 18, she left home to the big city in Madrid, where she tried her hands at turntables and then became a DJ. She also took up other jobs that play into her natural abilities: make-up artistry and modeling. She would later start a jewellery business following her studies in jewellery design.
A few years ago, there seemed to be an awakening among African descendants in Spain who yearned to celebrate their roots. Consequently, groups such as Black Barcelona were set up. Vera was asked to be the DJ at an event for Black Barcelona. She received so much positive feedback that she was encouraged to set up an African dance hall. What about a suitable name? She and her friends debated over a few names. She finally settled for N’zinga because of its significance.
Ana de Sousa Nzinga Mbande was a fierce Queen who ruled the Ndongo and Matamba territories in the 17th century, in what is today Angola. Queen Nzinga ascended the throne following the death of her brother. A great military strategist, she is reputed to have fought against the Portuguese invaders, warring to colonise Africa. “I like Queen Nzinga because she was a fighter,” says Vera.
Vera also recalls her first time in Africa, Cameroon to be specific, at the age of 14. She says that she felt a connection. She can remember vividly the colors, food, insects, huge families, trees, red earth, and music. Now, she hopes that her dance parties will “bring unity.”
Queen Nzinga must be giving her blessings from the grave!
Folks, if you visit or live in Barcelona, N’zinga is the place to be! It’s totally worth it. Let me know your thoughts on African music.
Have a wonderful week!