BY Maury Matos (@maurymoto)
Q. For those that don’t know can you explain what WEPA means?
A. This expression goes wayyyyyyy back! It’s is an exclamation of happiness and approval amongst Latinos, like “Ohhh yeah!” It is used for almost anything good: food, music, whatever feels good.
It’s normally said out loud. You’ve got to say it nasally or else it’s just not right. It is pronounced “weh-pah” with an upside-down exclamation in front and upside-up on the back. ¡WEPA!
Q. What’s the concept behind the WEPA parties?
A. It’s a celebration that is based on our Afro-Latino roots, creating “the way it was on the block” vibe we experienced growing up as New York Latinos (Neoyorquinos).
We incorporate a wide range of our culture’s musical wealth, blending Afro-Cuban, Latino Tribal, Orisha chants and straight up percussive rhythms mixed in with old Salsa classics and, of course… House music.
Our thing is to incorporate the ‘vieja escuela’ traditions of a cigar roller, domino table and clothesline strung from the ceiling with that trendy new vibe of the ‘here and now’.
Q. What is your goal with the WEPA Parties?
A. To take it back to the vibe at the block and weekend parties at home. People just wanted to have a good time, dance and chill. They weren’t posing or being too cool to dance, it’s was okay to break a sweat. Everyone treated each other like family. You felt welcomed and you knew your spot. It was comfortable; easy… we just want to take it back to the basics.
Q. What does it mean for you to bring WEPA to Washington Heights?
A. I was born and raised there so it feels like I’m coming home to share what I’ve been doing downtown for 10 years. It’s a great place to be, especially after coming from El Museo del Barrio. It feels like we are moving in the right direction. I’ve wanted to do something Uptown for a while but just couldn’t find the right venue to work with. APT78really understands the concept, the style and our people. This is a grassroots movement with people’s feet planted in a proper groove. We don’t need heavy security for this! Know what I’m sayin’?
Q. What can people expect at WEPA “Welcome to the Heights”?
A. From my observation, when it comes to music, there seems to be a gap between the older and younger generation. I believe our crowd; our vibe is going to bridge that gap. Our older folks still do handstands if given the room to do it. I also see that there is more separation up here when it comes to sexual orientation. A gay party is gay and straight party is straight. We are bringing in a MAJOR MIX where you just don’t know who is what because it’s so integrated and because it really doesn’t matter. It’s not really about who you are, it’s about what we all like… this music.
Q. This summer you hosted WEPA at El Museo Del Barrio. How was that?
A. It was incredible! The staff was great. We had people all ages, races, shapes and sizes. New friends were made, a stronger community was built and we showed them how we do FREELY. The environment and the location were perfect. It was a great accomplishment to bring our party to “El Barrio” and to be in such a ‘key’ venue. There were many people who lived in NYC all their lives and went there for their first time. We certainly hope to be there again next year.
Q. What kind of environment does the WEPA party provide?
A. It’s a family type vibe. Just chill, very old school kind of ‘back in the day’. Like going to your old family friend’s house. People are into getting their groove on, meeting their friends, connecting with new people. There is no set way to dress, dance and be… just being free to be.
Q. How do you think WEPA brings people from various cultures to dance under the same roof?
A. I feel the way Antonio and I relate to our culture and our people has a great deal to do with this. We consider our selves ‘world’ and so we treat and feel that various cultures make up all of us. We celebrate our differences as well as our commonalities. In reality, the music does it all for the most part. He expresses this in the way he plays…. his style is ‘universal soul’. It touches every corner of the world with a heavy percussive and conga rhythm, raw Afro-Latin Jazz and deep house music. As a prominent storyteller, Antonio pays homage to our upbringing by spinning tales of musical tradition and experience, taking the dancer through peaks and valleys, building anticipation with every turn of the record. He is able to blend our story with everyone else’s creating a place everyone wants to be, no matter where you come from. Music is key…
Q. Where do you see WEPA in the future?
A. Our sole purpose is to bring people together, to inspire and nurture our spirits. Through this unity, we honor our culture and pay homage to our ancestors through music, drum and dance. We put love into every corner as we celebrate the true meaning of tradition, joy and freedom.
We see ourselves in EVERYTHING… EVERYWHERE!
WEPA IS COMING TO WASHINGTON HEIGHTS BABY!!!
BEGINNING TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13TH
Every 2nd Tuesday
6pm – 12am :: Free
Joann Jimenez presents…
Afro-House & Latin
music by Antonio Ocasio
Please Note: November 15th
Joann’s Birthday Celebration!