Afronation returned to Portugal after a 2 year hiatus. The festival took place from July 1-3 in the Algarve region of Portugal. We caught up with JJ Wong for the the low down on the weekend.
Many of you may know JJ from his viral afro dance videos. His energy is infectious and his raw passion for the culture is inspiring. JJ recently visited South Africa where he soaked up amapiano and Gqom culture. 3 months after his South African adventure he headed to Portugal for Afronation, and we want to know all about it
AFROCONEX: JJ thank you for taking the time to talk with AfroConex. We have followed your Afro dance journey for the past 3 years and it’s been beautiful to see you manifest into this confident dancer and lover of the culture. Before we jump into your Afronation low down, can you briefly introduce yourself for those who don’t know you?
JJ WONG: Thank you for the kind words. I'm an English teacher by day and a dancer by night. I'm Cantonese-Canadian, born in Hong Kong and now consider Toronto home. I started dancing in university, jumping from Hip Hop, Dancehall, Soca, Salsa, Bachata, Kizomba, Afro-Cuban, Rumba, and in 2019 started taking Afro classes with Percy Anane-Dwumfour, an amazing teacher and dancer here in Toronto. There's so much to learn! Whether it's "Afrobeats" from Nigeria and Ghana, Ndombolo and Soukous from Congo-Kinshasa and Congo-Brazzaville, Coupé-Décalé from Côte d'Ivoire, Kuduro and Semba from Angola, or Amapiano and Gqom from South Africa...Music and dance is embodied storytelling, and every day I'm grateful to continue learning about the dance and cultures throughout the African continent.
AFROCONEX: So you are recently back from Afronation, what’s one word you would use to describe the experience and why ?
JJ WONG: “Enjoyment”. People were so happy! Even when I was out getting breakfast, walking around the Algarve, or just waiting for each day’s festivities to start, the vibe and energy throughout the Algarve and among Afronation-goers was full of joy and excitement. It was three days where you could be your happiest, foolish self without worrying about judgment or how others might see you.
AFROCONEX: Your trip to South Africa solidified your love for the Amapiano sound. Did Afronation capture any of the essence of the South African scene you personally experience? If yes, How so ?
JJ WONG: Yes (speaking about the Piano People Stage). In South Africa I had the privilege of exploring Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town. Johannesburg was my favourite city by far, as I got to dance and train with the awesome Soweto’s Finest Dance Studio and experienced one of the best parties of my life at Boiler Room curated by DBN Gogo. At Afronation’s amapiano stage, most of the attendees were hardcore amapiano lovers. People knew words to every song, some danced the choreographies to certain tunes, others hit every beat and drop… it was awesome.
AFROCONEX: the event was divided into afrobeats and amapiano Themes. We know from your videos you were at the amapiano stage. What was the vibe ?
JJ WONG: The vibe at the Amapiano stage (Piano People Stage) was insane. I was originally planning to bounce between the Amapiano stage and the main stage… But life had other plans. The energy, groove, and spirit was so good at the amapiano stage that I literally spent all three days in the front row dancing for seven hours straight each day. No food. No toilet breaks until after the music stopped. We groovists at the amapiano stage were not playing, yanos are a lifestyle.
AFROCONEX: we know you love dancing, was there lots of dancing at the festival ?
JJ WONG: There was tons of dancing at the festival. My soul left my body during the amapiano tracks so I wasn’t paying much attention, but spontaneously pockets of the crowd would open up and people would jump in the circles and show off what they could do. I would also see people dancing while I was walking around the festival, so yes, the festival was for dancers and music lovers, not for people who wanted to stand around looking fancy.
AFROCONEX: what was your most memorable moment from the festival?
JJ WONG: Honestly every moment was amazing. I flew to Portugal all the way from Toronto, Canada and due to plane delays, I missed a connecting flight within Portugal. Every domestic flight, train, and bus was fully booked because of the festival. I ended up taking an Uber from Lisbon (2.5 hours away) and made it into the festival five minutes before they stopped giving wristbands on the first day! Just getting to the festival was an adventure in and of itself. Musically, the most memorable moments for me was the set by Vigro Deep (I think a part of me is still at that set jamming out to “Vulu Vala” and “Africa Rise”) as well as the performance by Young Stunna (I’m still trying to figure out the name of some of the tunes he performed!).
AFROCONEX: so it’s safe to say you will return next year and you highly recommend Afro lovers to check out this festival?
JJ WONG: Yes, I was impressed with the overall organization and professionalism especially with the amapiano stage and the security personnel there. They were very kind to me and gave me lots of bottles of water to keep me hydrated. My recommendation to everyone would be to come because you want the experience or because you want to see specific artists/DJs. Also, book everything (especially accommodation) early! I chose to come to Afro Nation Portugal because I wanted to see at least 90%+ of the artists performing and it was definitely the best weekend of my life. Time and finances permitting, I’ll be back!
Be sure to follow JJ on social and do check out his podcast: Microphone munchies where he covers thought provoking topics relating to culture, multiculturism, music and dance.
Here are some of JJ's high-lights from Afronation