The Big Apple, for many people, embodies everything that the American Dream is about… the aspiration for bigger and for better. And through hard work and resilience, this was a dream that became a reality for Anane and Louie Vega.
Born in Cape Verde and The Bronx, the two first crossed paths at the Underground Network at Sound Factory Bar on a Wednesday night many moons ago.
Now happily married and touring the world together, the Vegas have developed a rich and personal history with New York City and translate such a companionship and vibe through the magic of their respected concept, The Ritual.
A 10-week exploration of euphoric proportions, The Ritual bridges together people and styles of music in an artistic form whilst in a beautiful atmosphere allowing all to become lost in a ritual of soul-stirring house music together at HEART.
We caught up with two of New York’s finest underground talents, Anane and Louie Vega, and discussed The Ritual at HEART, how they first met one another in New York and 10 years of Anane’s label, Nulu Movement.
Firstly Anane, you come from an island background, Cape Verde. How difficult would you say it is for someone of your cultural backgrounds to take the plunge, move to a thriving scene and become a success in dance music today?
Anane Vega – I was born in Cape Verde so I came to Rhode Island first, but my family and I came in exile. I think that experience alone already had set me up to move to New York to pursue the big dream in the Big Apple. It gave me strength and resiliency to move to a big country where everyone goes to fight for their dreams.
Later, it is all about work, work and dedication that you put in with a bit of luck. It’s that fire that burns inside of you. There is a term called ‘hitting the pavement’… so it’s all about constantly doing this, pushing, networking and taking all of the lessons possible in order to prepare you for a moment like this.
Talking of thriving scenes, Ibiza is renowned for being the capital of dance music. When did you first visit the island and what keeps drawing you back?
Louie Vega – I came here first in 1993/4. I played at Pacha first, I don’t even think there was a booth, we were just playing on a floor to a group of people on the same level. It was DJ Pippi who got me in, a man who has been here for many years. This was the first time I had stepped foot on the island. During those first 10 years, I never really spent a lot of time on the island because I was always in and out and touring a lot.
But it wasn’t until I started spending some time here and making friends through the years, and receiving the opportunity to really experience the island which was really wonderful. Myself and Anane have spent a lot of time together on the island too.
What were some of your earliest memories on the island together?
AV – Pikes Hotel! Jumping off of the rooftop into the pool. You would play, go and hangout at Pikes and then it was daylight. This was a continuous cycle.
LV – You would have the famous breakfast too with all of the older women cooking it.
AV – We heard so many stories about that place too… all of the Freddie Mercury ones, who stayed there and even when we stayed there, there was some interesting people. But for me, that was the most memorable, and my first time at Pacha was quite memorable too. Pikes however was a staple.
LV – The island too as a whole was memorable, we remember jumping off of cliffs that were 30 foot high.
AV – So many memories!
2018 sees you host your fifth summer of The Ritual – an educational trip back to your roots in New York City. What can one expect from this throwback concept?
LV – This is our fifth year on the island, our second at HEART. We started off at Blue Marlin for two years, then we did Ushuaïa Tower before finding our home here at HEART. This place is really special though because we are able to really express ourselves with how advanced the production is, we really want to take it to the next level and give everyone the New York experience.
We are both a big part of NYC, I was born in the Bronx – I have been there all of my life and she has spent a lot of time there too. She came to NY from Rhode Island… but NYC is our home. We wanted everyone to experience it and all of its roots, the music and the artistic side of the city.
HEART offers a multi-sensorial clubbing experience. How do you feel it reflects the NYC vibe?
AV – It reflects things in a newer way because of the modern technology it has to offer. However, New York is just that… it’s a place where the arts and music, whether its graffiti, whether it is the Block parties Louie was doing, it showcases a blend of all of the styles and cultures.. all of that is New York and here, at HEART. Together, with the production, we can give off that feeling with the music we play, but also with the presence of the visuals, the dancers and the team we have working with us uniting together to create that vibe every week.
In an interview with Clubbers App To Ibiza, you said: “One of the beauties of being around NYC at this time was really experiencing all these sub-genres and cultures.” What sub-genres and cultures helped shape your careers the most and why?
LV – I think it is a mixture of everything because you had the whole rock scene where it was that mixture of rock and dance because you had the likes of Talking Heads and Injury and The Blockheads and Keith Haring. You had that whole scene in NY from the Paradise Garage all the way to the Bronx River Projects with Jazzy J, Red Alert and then DJ Hollywood in Queens. That is a huge part of what comes out of us when we are playing music, but in a more modern way because there is a lot more music today that we play.
We can take it back too, but when you are here on an entire night, you can feel that journey and you can feel the people that we bring in as our guests and they have some of that energy in them too, even the ones who aren’t from NYC because their roots is a part their journey too. For example, Masters At Work etc were a big part of the house music genre, back in the 90s especially. I think a mixture of all of that taking it from way back until now, we try to give you that experience with The Ritual.
Anane brings another side of it, she has Nulu Movement, her own imprint. This reaches far and wide beyond New York City stretching around the world, we are kind of bringing you a little bit of everything. This applies to different nights too because every night is different. We have brought in Moodymann, we have ushered in artists from her label including acts from Sicily, Greece, South Africa… Anane welcomes acts from all over. Then we have the likes of Joseph Capriati. It just goes to show the length of spectrum of music we have and how open-minded we are and that is what New York is about. That is how everything ties in, NYC was about great music and not about one tempo, it was about different styles and if it was good, then it was good. That’s why we have all of these artists here, because they are special and they are good at what they do.
Of course, you met one another in the Big Apple. What was the first venue you went clubbing together? What do you recall from this particular night?
LV – We first met at the Underground Network parties at Sound Factory Bar on Wednesday nights.
AV – That was actually my first experience in NYC, I had driven up with friends four hours from home and it was your classic case from the movies… there was a huge line down the block to get in and at the door was Willi Ninja, which was also another scene within NYC, the underground ballroom scene where Madonna had got her influences from. Willi Ninja was the head of the House of Ninja’s and he did the door. You walk into the club, there were big, red, velvet curtains and you open the curtains to discover magic, there was an amazing dance floor. You couldn’t really see Louie up in the booth, but he was up there doing his thing and on these nights, you saw everyone. You saw Eric hanging out with Todd Terry, you saw Queen Latifah on one side. It was an amazing night at that’s what New York was all about.
LV – Then downstairs, sometimes you saw Tony Humphries, Francois K, Kenny Carpenter… at the door as well, head of security, Rob Fernandez… he was a huge promoter, one of our closest buddies. It was full of a lot of people who later on became great artists… You had Frankie Knuckles too.
AV – I came as a fan with my girlfriends three and a half hours away, that was my first experience and when we met, that happened there. I then ended up moving to New York with the classic case of $100, a bag of clothes, a one way bus ticket and I said to my mum: “I have a dream” and she said: “Go and follow you dreams.”
LV – I met Anane through a friend, our friend was a promoter, Tom Mello, and he promoted a party where Mark Ronson was a DJ.
AV – Tom Mello threw these incredible raves and we went along, and it was he who introduced us and during this time, on the line-up, you had Louie Vega, Josh Wink… it was just amazing and that was when you just has all kinds of music which you could listen to.
What about your first gig together?
AV – It was during that Winter Music Conference, it wasn’t for The Ritual. It was a party that we did where where we kind of ended up…
LV – It was the party we did with all of the DJs from South Africa… Black Coffee was there, everybody. All of the DJs were together.
AV – I was playing before Louie, then he came on and then we shared a little moment behind the decks together and then somebody suggested that we should do something musically together.
LV – The night was called South Africa’s Finest – we were introducing a lot of talent from South Africa during one of our parties in Miami and we decided that night to try this thing at the same time to play together. Anane had already started DJing, she had already started playing at the Submercer in New York. That was 10 years ago!
AV – We are also celebrating 10 years of Nulu Movement and Nulu Music, which is a label that focuses on the Afrosound. The first artists that I signed came from South Africa, Angola, Mozambique and now, 10 years later, I am celebrating this sound which at that time, wasn’t even on any digital portal. Now we have so much incredible talent coming from that region in the world.
How would you say that sound has evolved during your label’s existence?
AV – It has been amazing to see how the sounds have evolved.. into so many sub-genres as well. You have this Afrosound which is more soulful and melodic, and then you have Afrotech which is full of African rhythms and chants, but with more of an electronic side. Then you have Afrohouse, which is similar. It is really interesting to hear the interpretation of these kids, just scraping enough money together to buy a computer and going on to make this music… that is part of who they are, but expressing it in an electronic way, it is very interesting.
Then every country has their own sound… South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Nigeria… they all take inspiration from their roots and their culture. Now it has evolved to a place where digital portals have their own categories and selling the music under the Afrohouse category. Now we have such names as Black Coffee at Hï Ibiza and Culoe De Song at Blue Marlin and even Shimza at Privilege. So it is amazing to see its growth and where it is going.
Finally, what can party-goers expect from you both in terms of chemistry together when locked in the booth…
LV – It is a feeling thing, I feed off of her, she feeds off of me. We just like to get behind the decks, play good music and have a good time.