NANA KWABENA is a Ghanaian-American, Philly-bred global DJ, Producer, and Artist whose mission lives at the intersection of creativity, culture, and social consciousness. As a Grammy-nominated artist, NANA has produced for artists including Kanye West, John Legend and Rick Ross. He is a longtime collaborator of Wondaland label-mates Jidenna and Janelle Monae and the writer/producer of double-platinum and critically acclaimed anthem, “Classic Man.”
Music, magic, and innovative technology create the alchemy of NANA’s creative approach through a new genre and cultural movement known as SWANK.
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, vocal advocate for Sickle Cell Disease and founder of the AllOneBlood foundation, his distinct style, infectious & signature rhythmic sound, and philanthropic spirit prove that you can be young, intrepid, and enterprising all while being an active and contributing member of the community.
The Afrotropolis Mix is NANA’s latest mix catering to a global audience, with Africa taking center stage. Notjustok.com caught up with the superstar DJ to get his thoughts on a few pressing issues. Here’s what he had to say:
What are your thoughts on African music going global?
Africa has historically played an integral role in the development of global culture, arts and letters, since the beginning of time. The current resurgence of African music on the world stage is a reminder of this and, even more, a prelude of what’s to come.
In terms of taking our sound global, what should we continue doing? What should be done differently?
The greatest thing we can do in this moment is to be custodians of the culture. Beyond celebration, in order for this moment to last beyond today, we need to continue to protect and preserve its legacy throughout the Diaspora. We should continue to position ourselves, not only in the creation of our content, but in the ownership of our works. As thought leaders and cultural influencers, we should continue to tend to our own gates. That looks like Bozoma Saint John and Issa Rae. That looks like Diddy and Revolt or Jay-Z and Tidal. That looks like Tonje Bakang and AfroStream or Charles King and Macro. That looks like Ava DuVernay and AFFRM, Shonda Rhimes and Shondaland, or Oprah Winfrey and OWN.
When and how did you start working with Jidenna?
We first met when we were in college, Stanford and UPenn. Jidenna would come to Penn and we’d link at some of the parties I was DJ’ing on campus. We reconnected years later in New York and realized we had a lot of similar experiences, had the same influences and shared the same vision for music and what it could do for Ghana, Nigeria and Africa at large.
What is Swank? Are there any similarities between Swank and Afrobeat(s)? Is there a point where they meet?
As a genre, SWANK is the bridge between class and funk. James Brown had swank. Fela Kuti had swank. Beyond that, swank is not being afraid to sweat and show that you’re having a good time. Swank is about knowing when to be bold when others are timid or when to be cool when the pressure’s on. Even more, Swank is less about how you present yourself, and more about being sharp in mind, body, and spirit.
What’s the one thing listeners should expect from the Afrotropolis Mix?
Swank. Jams. Vibes. Chunes. Some old. Some new. Some next.