The Johannesburg Afro-Latin Festival
is about bringing cultures, nations, races and age-groups together through Afro-Latin music and dance and celebrating the energy and regeneration of johannesburg, otherwise known as ‘jozi’
The term Afro-Latin broadly groups various genres of music and dance that have evolved from exchanged cultural expressions between people of Africa (particularly East and Central) and the South Americas. Afro-Latin influences are forged largely from the expression of cultural identity amongst Africans at a time when they were forced into slavery, particularly by Spanish and Portuguese colonizers and traders. With its roots therefore in Africa, Europe and South America, Afro-Latin eventually became a global phenomenon via integration into other artistic styles developing in major centers, especially the cultural melting pot of New York City. Its influences throughout international music and dance styles are vast. The Johannesburg Afro-Latin Festival focuses on street, club and social dance styles and African, Latin and Jazz music styles.
In Johannesburg and around the country and African continent there is a significant and growing Afro-Latin social dancing and music scene with many organisations and companies offering classes, events and performances as well as musicians, bands and specialist DJs. There is also an increasing international interest in Afro-Beat music that overlaps with the Afro-Latin umbrella.
Because we wanted something that was more than a dance congress, we launched in 2018 with a programme that included music and dance education workshops and seminars that offered knowledge, focused training and fun for dancers, music and dance enthusiasts and musicians, along with an exciting crash-course option for absolute beginners. We welcomed modern African dance into the mix as well as a community group from Alexandra Township, the Gumboots Foundation and celebrated the history and evolution of dance and movement with African heritage. Our 2019 Festival continued to develop these principles, when we developed our community involvement with the SOS Children’s Village, Ennerdale and the Music Enlightenment Project, Braamfontein, whilst collaborating with music industry experts and musicians as well as local and African regional artists in an effort to develop our industry.
2020 brings the third edition. Watch this space to find out what we have in store! We remain committed to celebrating and promoting Afro-Latin dance and music in Johannesburg and South Africa. The event aims to be an enlightening and entertaining experience for local and international attendees, focusing on salsa, bachata, kizomba, tango and African music and dance, including more in the Afro-Latin spectrum such as capoeira and Brazilian samba.
The festival takes places over four days from Thursday 12 to Sunday 15 March 2020 and features four parties, 35+ hours of dance and music workshops and seminars, local and international artists and DJs, city and national tourism opportunities and community projects.
Background : The Festival is co-founded by Catherine Peter and Olu Kongi who became friends in 2004, both owing much of their salsa education and passion to the city of Leeds, UK and some special mutual friends. They have travelled together both for and outside of the salsa world and have a shared love for Afro-Latin dance and music as well as the City of Johannesburg. Olu and Cat hope to create a festival that can do what Afro-Latin music does best: bring people together.
In that vein, for Olu and Cat the event is about bringing cultures, nations, races and age-groups together through Afro-Latin music and dance and celebrating the energy and regeneration of Johannesburg a.k.a “Jozi”
Biography: Olu Kongi
Olu Olu has been dancing Salsa for over 20 years but prior to that he was loosely involved with the UK Freestyle Jazz dance scene especially in London and Leeds. His salsa dancing started in one of the premier regular salsa nights in Leeds, the now-defunct Casa Latina which also happened to attract the jazz dancers of the day who viewed salsa music as Latin Jazz.
Olu Olu’s preferred salsa style these days is NY Style On 2 but he is equally comfortable On 1 or with the Cuban Style. His main influences and inspiration not only include Eddie Torres, Frankie Martinez and Santo Rico but also Susana Montero and Super Mario of London, UK.
Olu Olu also taught salsa for over 10 years having started with the Latin Quarter Dance Company in Leeds under the tutelage of Nicolai V and Alan. He has also performed with the Latin Quarter around the UK. He has taught for Manhattan Mambo in London, one of the pioneer On 2 teaching outfits in London.
Olu Olu has been a regular teacher at Mambocity 5 Star Congress in London since its inception but he has also given workshops in Leeds, London, Copenhagen, Shanghai and Qingdao in China. His dance style is best described as smooth and jazzy.
He has appeared as a dance extra for numerous UK Television dramas that feature salsa, most notably Fat Friends.
More recently Olu Olu has been concentrating on his other hobby, photography. He has been taking pictures practically all his life and has been dancing for almost equally as long so combining his passion for travel, dancing and photography he can be seen at many of the dance festivals around Europe capturing memories from the dancers' point of view with a keen eye for detail and an unusual perspective of the world at large. He has featured as an official photographer at many festivals and congresses: check out his photo page Olu Olu Snap Snap [https://www.facebook.com/OhMyLeftEye/] on Facebook.
Olu is a self-confessed social media addict and he can be found across many platforms either blogging (jazzman.blog.co.uk), sharing his photography on Instagram (@oak4jazz) or musing on Twitter (@oak4jazz). He is the host of the online virtual Coffee Lounge on Facebook where salseros and salseras discuss a variety of topics affecting the Afro-Latin dance community. He has hosted live Coffee Lounges at various festivals and events.
Olu holds dual British and Nigerian nationality, is a Civil Engineer, and enjoys spending time travelling and learning about the African continent.
Biography: Catherine Hill
"MamboCat" or "SambaCat" depending on the day!-- has been dancing within the Afro-Latin umbrella since 2002. Finding Miami-style salsa via her best friend's Colombian family during her high school years in Fort Lauderdale, USA (gracias Beatriz!), she continued to dance whilst studying at the University of Leeds, UK, training and eventually teaching cross-body style salsa ('on1' and 'on2') with Nicky Lloyd-Greame and Gormack Dione (The Salsaholics). Whilst in Leeds she also discovered Brazilian samba and reggaeton, learning and working with Ella Mesma and Elisa Aloe, and quickly developed a love for all things Brazilian.
Eventually moving to London, UK, Cat continued training and teaching salsa and performed samba, salsa, Latin Jazz, reggaeton and other styles with various Latin cabaret and Brazilian groups in London, including Samba Collective, Yes! Brasil, Tropicalia, Oi Brasil and the London School of Samba. In 2008 she was invited to parade as a 'Passista' in Rio Carnival with the samba school Alegria da Zona Sul. She has featured on BBC's Strictly Come Dancing and performed at international samba festivals and parades, such as the Coburg International Samba Festival. In London she had the great privilege of working and training with Cuban salsa and kizomba legend, Angolan/Portuguese Iris de Brito, a seasoned and renowned choreographer, performer and instructor.
Cat returned to South Africa in 2010 where she founded SambaJozi, and has taught and performed with various local salsa and kizomba dance companies including co-founding BailaAfrika in 2012 before taking a sabbatical for two years before reviving SambaJozi and then founding Candela Jozi Dance Company in 2016 as an Afro-Latin dance entertainment agency and company.
Cat's first love is dancing and teaching New York style salsa and cha cha cha whilst sharing her dance-heart with samba and reggaeton. As a choreographer she relishes an opportunity to create a story of movement to a great track.
In her 'other' life she is a consultant focusing on brand management, strategy and organisational development, and working with various international non-profit organisations including the role of Chairman of One Young World’s Africa region.