In Conversation With: Anané Vega
Anané Vega is a music powerhouse. Singer, songwriter, producer, radio host, club DJ, label manager: it is all music magic that happens in Anané’s World. She walks the lands of electronic dance music with giant steps fuelled by her devotion to, her roots in, her knowledge of and her affinity with deep, tech yet soulful house sounds.
The Cape Verdian-born Anané has this summer been travelling beach clubs and music festivals far and wide while hosting her weekly Saturday Nulu Movement radio show on HouseFM. For the forthcoming Bank Holiday weekend she’s in town for HouseFM’s 15th birthday bash down at Koko alongisde Louie Vega, Josh Milan and Bobbi & Steve.
We caught up with Anane at the end of July in the dreamy environs of Tisno, Croatia during Suncébeat where she dazzled on the ‘We Dance Again’ boat party alongside Black Coffee and later that week brought the sun out with her diverse Beach Stage set. Someone in the crowd was overheard calling her a Goddess; perhaps because she climbed out of the booth mid-set to jump on the wall for some hot Latin dance stepping. Exclusive interview and playlist from Anané right here.
Anané, coming from a diverse ethnic and cultural background, from Cape Verde off the coast of West Africa, born from a Portugese father and Cape Verdian mother, how did these influences inform your taste in music?
Well Cape Verde is, as you said, very diverse. Where it is placed on the map we’re right off the coast of Senegal, about 500 kilometers, so being that Cape Verde was colonized by Portugal. There was a big melting pot of music and because of where it is placed on the map it was actually a stopping point of many slave ships from Africa to Europe so there was a lot migration. Cape Verde is really rich in music. I come from a musical family, known as the Xalino family. The Xalinos made all the guitars and violins and cavaquinhos (small, 4-wire string instrument) on the island so my mum as a little girl tells me stories of what she did and watching them put the wood into the solution and bend the wood to actually make the guitars. So all my uncles, aunts and my mum are all musicians: guitar players, composers and singers. I come from a very rich musical family. Flash forward some years once we left and went to the United States, we left in exile actually from Cape Verde being that my father was Portugese during the time of this revolution and wanting to become independent. Once in America is when you really understood all the different kinds of music and so for me music was my escape. I think through all my years of this new country and also exploring all the different sounds from R&B, reggae, Cape Verdian music of course, rock & roll, metal, then I got into dub, reggae. I am a real music lover so in my car for example you find anything from opera to Cape Verdian music to rock & roll or The Clash so yeah I guess all of that just kind of makes me who I am today.
Can you describe your two music labels and the various artists that fall under, can you make a distinction between why one exists and how it exists and what it is and the other one?
I started NULU 8 years ago. NULU means Nothing Ultimately Leaves Us and that’s kind of like music: music never leaves you. You may forget it and then you hear that one song and it takes you back to a certain time and place. So I wanted to have music that takes you always there so it was natural for me to gravitate towards an afro sound. But when I started NULU the purpose for starting the label was as a kind of a platform to give back, being that I’ve been given so much and so many blessings so it was kind of like finding new artists and giving them a platform to release music. And so that’s what NULU was and the first release was from two guys called AM Roots. One was from Mozambique and the other one from Angola and the track was called ‘He Africa’.
And after that it was just really natural that all the demos that started coming in were from Africa, from Nigeria, from Congo, South Africa. I’m really proud to say that a few of the artists that launched from NULU are now doing really well. I mean, they came to me with their first demos: Black Motion out of South Africa, who now just got signed by Defected. They came when I was there with their first CD, with their demo and then I signed. And there’s DJeff (Afrozilla) as well. He released his first demo on NULU called ‘Tambuleno’. And now he is doing really well so I’m really proud that these artists, producers coming from Africa, I was able to give an international platform. And so from there I just started picking up a lot of afro music because that is the music that touches me and my roots. At the same time my work is mostly in Europe.
I would say 85% of my work is in Italy. And I did notice that I would play a lot of electronic clubs so I thought, ok, maybe I should open an electronic side of the label where I can also play that music and also put that music out? And so I opened NULU electronic and it’s interesting some of the music that I’ve put out, there is a similarity, or a lineage throughout the music of even the electronic side that almost has this kind of afro influence And so Diephuis released ‘‘Crossing Borders’ that did really really well. It was remixed by Manoo. And Black Coffee was a huge supporter, added it to his Mixmag special issue he did with a compilation. He picked that up and supported as well as Foremost Poets and DJ Angelo as well. Defected picked up from there. So it’s been really amazing to see the support that the labels are getting from big guys, of course Louie Vega. Louie has been supporting from day one and had really encouraging words when I started the label and is still there really supporting. And, I mean now, you know David Morales, and just so so many guys I can’t even think of the top of my head.
So with that I started NULU movement for ADE last year because it was bringing both labels together and creating this movement of afro electronic sound because I think sometimes things are so separated but yet with the ability and capability you can mesh things together and make them happen. And so that’s kind of what NULU Movement is now: is bringing and mashing these sounds because I think, I feel that’s kind of how I play anyway, I sometimes go from electronic, afro and whatever the crowd is giving me.
Your set today was diverse. You just took it from one house end and gone up and down, and round. And then ended up with something completely different. Do you tailor make your sets to the crowd?
No. You know it’s funny you say that because I was so nervous for yesterday and I have to share that everyone asks me: “ Do you prepare your sets… playlists or whatever?” and I don’t. I never do. I like to go and really feel what the crowd gives me you know and just kind of be able to be free. And yesterday with Black Coffee because it was so limited, the time: it was an hour set, it was Black Coffee oh my God, this opportunity. I was like, OK let me prepare something. And it was so… I felt so constricted and not able to be myself. So I like to be free and I strongly suggest everyone do so.
Can you give us a brief description of the projects that you are working on that are forthcoming, perhaps the singing, the production and the DJing, a bit of forward looking?
I just signed a cosmetics deal with a major cosmetic company in Italy. They wanted to sign a woman to represent what it means to be Y-conic. A woman of strength and so they chose me. I have my own little capsule of make-up that I chose the colours and the names for the colours for. It is launching September 20th. Then November. Well October I go to South Africa for a big festival so I come back with Elements of Life. We’re doing a live festival, myself, Lisa Fischer, Josh Milan, Louie Vega and all the band. Then November I’ve dedicated to being in the studio and working. Someone in Italy has commissioned me to do an Italian album. Because I had done an Italian song called ‘Parole’ that I remade, that was my first production myself, and it did really well. I haven’t decided between an EP or an album of Italian underground cults from the 60s and 70s and I’ll be remaking that. Then with the label we are preparing for ADE with NULU Movement. We actually have a few places in Italy, a few clubs I am meeting with at the end of summer who want to schedule NULU Movement for next year for next summer, with some of the artists. And some compilations, tons of music to come out. New artist coming from South Africa, Pax Africa is his name… NULU electronic… I mean there is so much, there’s a lot happening. And then being a mum. I have my sixteen-year old, so I get to be home, and mum, all that other good stuff.
What is your summer anthem for 2016?
Anané: ‘Soy Latino’! I happen to be a producer on that with Louie (Vega). Manoo did the original with Alex Finkin. You know It’s interesting because that record no matter where I go, what kind of club I play. I happen to be in Milan in a very… how can I say… they weren’t music lovers. But you know, they were just, Milan, beautiful people, style and no matter where I go I can put that record on and it just sets the tone and everybody just enjoys themselves. So Latin music always brings a joy to the dancefloor.
Tickets for HouseFM’s 15th Birthday Bash with Anané are still available here. With thanks to Nick Connolly and Gavin Kendrick at Suncébeat. Anané would also like to give special thanks to her personal and label manager Christian Mantini, without whom it would not be possible.