West Philadelphia is home to a diverse mix of African restaurants, residents and markets;
and the social and nightlife scene for the African community is changing for the better.
Beginning Thursday, there will be new opportunity to enjoy African sounds and dancing at a monthly African dance party hosted by Elena’s Soul in West Philadelphia.
Every first Thursday of the month, Elena’s will host the Sonic Diaspora dance party with music from Africa and the African Diaspora.
Elena’s, located at 4912 Baltimore Ave., is an artist showcase lounge and café offering great food, live performances and a diverse ambiance.
The event will launch Feb. 2, from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. with a special tribute to Bob Marley.
DJs Brotha Onaci and Champé will spin high-energy dance cuts that promise to uplift the soul and release the mind as they take everyone on a musical exploration of Africa and the African Diaspora.
Attendees can expect to hear afrobeats, cumbia, kuduro, reggae, house, dancehall and soca music all night long.
Aside from the occasional songs on rotation at area restaurants or guest appearances by DJ Fresh and DJ Black Coffee at popular Philadelphia clubs, there are limited options for those who want to hear and dance to African inspired music.
According to Tanzanian native Kathleen Bomani, there is a definitive void in Philadelphia’s music scene.
“Most of my non-American friends are from Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Botswana, Haiti and Trinidad,” Bomani said. “I came across Brotha Onaci’s mix tape on OkayAfrica.
“When I saw Brotha Onaci was based in Philadelphia, I was elated, especially at the possibility of him having a residency here in the city,” she added. “I immediately followed his activity.”
Bomani is a fan of the West African 1970s Afrobeat tunes by notables including E.T. Mensah and Ebo Taylor.
“The complexity of the melodies is an attestation to me that we Africans have always been just as complex, hip and great,” she said.
Brotha Onaci has been a DJ for 15 years. It was a borrowed CD of Fela Kuti that inspired his fascination with African music.
“From this CD, I learned about different parts of the world,” Onaci said. “I absolutely love music. I like to share what I enjoy with others. Being able to feel, see and hear the responses from the crowd when my music is in tune with the dance floor gives me an unmatched response of reciprocity and unity.”
Onaci is not able to select a favorite style of music, but is an admirer of the percussion instruments.
“South African house and kwaito music have really strong drum sounds where it seems like the song is built on the percussion instrument,” Onaci said.
Having moved from Chicago to West Philadelphia in August 2011, Onaci has made his mark in Philadelphia by performing for Occupy Philadelphia and Sanctuary Holistic Arts, in addition to spending time with broadcasting staff at WPEB 88.1.
Onaci hopes the West Philadelphia community embraces something new at a familiar venue.
“I want people to have a good time, free themselves on dance floor and enjoy the moment,” he said.