A couple of days ago, the following clip appeared on my YouTube feed. Two of my favourite music artists of all time – Janet Jackson and Daddy Yankee – performed together live at The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Their newest hit: ‘Made For Now’!
My first reaction after seeing this clip was: ‘No way this is happening! This is just TOO AWESOME to be true!’ But it IS true! As an eclectic afro latin dance instructor and entertainer from Dutch Caribbean descent, I myself was – and still am – in awe with the jaw dropping performance. My second thought: ‘Wakanda Forever! Not only the intro of the African percussionists, but the whole stage performance in that clip has a Black Panther movie feel to it. If you want to ‘get’ where I’m coming from, just read the (political) thoughts I had after seeing this now iconic Marvel superhero movie.
I started dancing as a teenager in the 80’s on the island of Curacao, which is a Dutch colony nearby the island of Aruba. At that time, Janet Jackson’s music and dancing were not only very inspirational to us all, but especially the lyrics of her songs gave us the drive and the will to dance and live by Jackson’s standards. The following article in Dutch describes my first experience with dance competitions on the island, featuring Janet Jackson!
The Official Clip and Sensual Zouk Dance
Having the song on repeat, I noticed some very familiar sounds. There was just something about the song that made me go like: ‘I recognise elements from some other songs and musical genres, but I can’t put my finger on them… yet’. It took me 3 days to figure it all out. First, the feel of the song reminds me a lot of Lionel Richie’s hit ‘All Night Long’. That goes for the 3 word soft sung chorus. The guitar play is from Senegalese music, well known from Paul Simon’s repertoire. The latin superstar from the Dominican Republic Juan Luis Guerra y su 440’s merengue song ‘A Pedir Su Mano’, which – coincidentally – starts and ends with African chanting, brought merengue from rural to classical and back to it’s African origins. And – like ‘Made for Now’ – it also promotes racial and cultural diversity.
The poly-rhythm of ‘Made For Now’ has a distinctive Haitian/French Antillean zouk music at it’s very core. That’s why the best partnering dance which is perfect to include in this clip is the Brazilian zouk dance. It’s direct predecessor – the Brazilian lambada, is a combination of the ancient carimbo and the more modern forro dance, which was introduced in the 80’s as a new dance craze for the yearly carnival festivities in Bahia (Brazil). Lambada music was made internationally known when a group of clever businessmen from France went to Brazil, bought the rights of hundreds of songs and started the band Kaoma, which had a mega-hit with the song ‘Dansandu Lambada’ (1993).
The French-Antillean zouk music, which Brazilian dancers and instructors had chosen to replace the dying lambada with, started to gain worldwide popularity when artists such as Kevin Lyttle started to mix the sensual and slow zouk with R&B music, thus creating what we now call ‘Zouk Love’ music. Dance wise, the Brazilian born Claudio Gomes started to teach lambada dancing in Amsterdam (The Netherlands) in the early 90’s. After the lambada dance craze subsided, Claudio then proceeded to create a hybrid dance form by mixing the popular salsa dancing with lambada dance moves. I call this unique salsa dance style ‘zouk salsa’. Watch the following salsa dance instructional video of Claudio Gomes which was produced in the mid 90’s. From the 26.18 mark onward, he and his dance partner also demo the Brazilian zouk dance.
The Brazilians then chose the sweet French Caribbean zouk music to continue their dancing because they had lost their right to dance to their own music. It was forbidden for DJ’s to play it at the clubs. Nowadays, the partnering dance we call Brazilian zouk is one of the most versatile, adaptive and eclectic partnering dance styles there is. Zouk dancers dance on all kinds of music. From kizomba music, electronic beats, to reggaetón: if the dancers can dance to it, they will! Subsequently, there exists many sub genres of the zouk dance with contemporary zouk being one of the most popular dance styles in 2018.
Brazilian zouk is danced in Brazil (of course), The Netherlands, Australia, The U.K., Spain, U.S.A., Israel, Belgium, Zwitserland, Japan, Thailand, Germany, Poland, France, Portugal, and in Denmark. Claudio left to his beloved Brazil. Luckily for the Dutch, other great zouk teachers emerged such as Gert Faber and Remy Vermunt. One of Holland’s most prominent international zouk dance teachers is Pasty from Curacao. Check him out in this clip of a contemporary zouk dance together with Hilde from Norway! 🙂
The sensual Brazilian zouk dance is truly the hallmark of eclectic partnering dancing!
Daddy Yankee and Janet Jackson connected by Eclecticism and Reggaetón
Raymond Ayala, aka Daddy Yankee, “El Cangri” or “The Big Boss” has sold millions and received a staggering 105 (!) awards. The pioneering latin music artist created eclectic sounds which became extremely popular. Who doesn’t remember his reggaetón mega hit ‘Gasolina’ ? This song is credited with making reggaetón a worldwide phenomenon.
And Daddy Yankee’s 2018 hit ‘Dura’ is still dominating the (latin) music charts at this very moment. How eclectic is Daddy Yankee, you ask? Now, let’s see. For his album ‘Mundial’ (2010) he blended bachata, soca, vallenato, cumbia, dancehall, merengue with reggaetón, electronic music and hip hop! And Daddy Yankee never stopped searching for new musical horizons. So, I think it’s not a question of ‘if’, but rather ‘when’ these two megastars would join forces. And the answer is..
Janet Jackson said in a recent interview that she grew up listening to many musical genres, including latin music. The grammy award winning artist told the example of her listening to reaggaetón music together with her bodyguard, which she has had for 22 years. Now, these two icons came together to deliver one of the most catchy songs of 2018.
You haven’t bought ‘Made For Now’ yet? Well, that’s the first thing you’ll have to do after reading this article. Put it on repeat. Ask every afro latin dance teacher you know to play this song at their salsa, kizomba or zouk dance classes. Ask every DJ to play ‘Made For Now’ at the parties. And keep it’s message of positivity & love deep within your heart.
I know I’ll be playing ‘Made For Now’ A LOT (!) at my salsa dance workshops. Will YOU?
If so, let me know how it went! 🙂
Peace and love.