Dance is the result of good music and for this reason we love to feature the Djs that inspire us to dance.
Dj Bembona, the self described Negrita Con Tumbao, is a known name in NYC night life. Multi-dimensional, she cannot be placed in a box. She plays for the people, always evolving as the sounds of the diaspora evolve. She has a unique ability to play the full spectrum of the black diaspora, weaving between continents, countries, cultures and genres while never missing a beat. She is one of the few djs that connects the diversity of black cultures musically, without categorizing sounds into distinct blocks.
Bembona always drops a few Afro House gems in her sets/mixes. She has an ear to the ground for the sound, and often plays tracks within the genre that are not mainstream but still bangers. How she will handle the task of an Afro house set at the Descendants November 12th party is something we are excited to experience. We caught up with Bembona to talk about her flow and the evolution of her sound.
AFROCONEX: What does Bembona mean?
BEMBONA: Bembona is Spanish for big lips; specifically big bottom lip. It is derived from the word Bemba which means big bottom lip. I used the word as way to celebrate my blackness, my black features in the context of Latinidad. (In other words celebrating something that is often viewed as a negative)
AFROCONEX: For those who don’t speak Spanish what does Negrita Con Tumbao translate to?
BEMBONA: Well, it is a phrase inspired from Celia Cruz. She has a song title: La Negra Tiene Tumbao, which translates to the black woman has power. Tumbao is like that power, that sensuality, that sense of self, that swag, and that flow you have.
AFROCONEX: We know you as an eclectic DJ who fuses the various sounds of the Afro-diaspora? Often, Djs are timid to play different genres their audience may not be familiar with, but this is something you always do. Is there a secret to genre blending? How do you pull it off so successfully?
BEMBONA: My work is focused on the black diaspora. I consider my work diasporadical. All of these genres are based on similar patterns that our roots are derived from. I really love Afrohouse, Batidas, Kuduro, Afrobeats, Afropop, Salsa, Reggaeton, Dem Bow, as well as electronic music, with a touch of New York, which is Hip Hop and Dancehall. I love unifying these sounds and putting them on the same platter for everyone to dive into. It is the fusion of these sounds that tie together the black diaspora. This has always been my approach to my work, and I feel like today it is even more accepted which is exciting to me.
AFROCONEX: You are Panamanian and Puerto Rican, two countries with significant contribution to Caribbean and Latin sounds. Do you think your background allows you to easily connect with the sounds coming from the African continent?
BEMBONA: Absolutely. Being a black woman that is Puerto Rican and Panamanian definitely allows me to bridge the gap sonically within the black diaspora. I grew up in NYC, which is part of my identity. NYC exposed me to multiple languages and cultures. Also within the last few years, I’ve been connecting with my spirituality. Through that spiritual journey and my research, I’ve become even more connected to my roots. All this makes it easier for me to bridge these cultural gaps, and I love it because it’s who I am.
AFROCONEX: Specific to the sounds coming from the continent, we appreciate that your sets play a lot of Afrohouse music from a Congolese and Angolan perspective. What about these rhythms resonate with you?
BEMBONA: I love the sound from Angolan, Congo and Portugal. I’m a big fan of the movement that’s happening (been happening for many years now) in that market. I am also a fan of Tia Maria Producoes. I love their work; people like Danifox and Lycox Fox. In Portugal people like Pedro, Boddhi Satva, Baruka Som Sistema, all these artists create a sound that just resonates with me and fill me with so much energy. I can’t really explain in words how I feel about this sound, but it just makes my body want to move and makes me feel connected to the earth and to my roots. What I love in particular about the Angolan and the Lisboa, Portugal sound/scene is that it is so in your face; so energetic, strong and powerful. This really resonates with who I am, my style and the energy that I bring when I perform. The instrumental and percussive aspect of the sound is always fun to play around with.
AFROCONEX: Your sound is evolving, as it should. What are some of the current sounds influencing your music?
BEMBONA: Definitely, Amapiano (I’m in love with the movement, shout out to South Africa) I can’t describe the feeling I had when I first heard an Amapiano track. The truth is, I can’t remember the last time I heard a new subgenre of music that created that type feeling in me. It gives me hope and fills me with so much joy and power. I feel that the long over due recognition of the continent as a whole is finally happening, and that the take over is real. These movements of dance and music from the continent are finally being appreciated and cherished. We are finally being the leaders of our movements. We are tired of being tokenized, appropriated, used and abused and taken for granted. It’s time for us to make our own movements, and music is a powerful art form that can be used to achieve this.
Yoruba house (ancestral soul) is another sound that I like. It personally connects me closer to spirit. When I’m performing, I feel like there is spirit running through me, and I am fulfilling my spiritual purpose. All of these sounds that are sonically tied to the African continent are the sounds that are really speaking to my spirit.
AFROCONEX: You are playing the Descendants Afro House Party on November 12, what can we look forward to with you on the decks?
BEMBONA: You can look forward to the whole Bembona experience; feeling the energy. As I’ve said, I’m a vessel. So whatever is meant to be released and said on the mic or through music, will be said. Whatever I feel that space needs that night, in that moment, will be felt and delivered. There will be a lot of high energy percussive. I might throw some Amapiano in there. I tend to plan a lot, but for this one I’m not going to over plan, I’m going to let the energy and spirit guide me. I am a big fan of intros, so I am working on what my intros will look like. But it will be spiritual, high energy, and black as fuck. It will be an “Una limpieza” as we say in Spanish. Which means cleaning the space of things that don’t serve us, and giving us what we need to move forward.
Be sure to catch Bembona on the decks at the November 12 Descendants Afrohouse party.
Tickets at: https://ra.co/events/1609056?p=Afroconex
Bembona in the mix: