Interview: Juanita Euka – ‘Music, It’s a Trip’ (April 2022)

The end of March saw Juanita Euka release her first self-penned album called Mabanzo with Strut Records. Meaning ‘Thoughts’ in Lingala, it’s a sonic pot of musings. It’s laden with hooks and ever so danceable with a mix of Afro-Latino influence from soukous and son, to rumba and hip-hop.  She spells out messages in French, Spanish and English via the musical influences connecting her to her childhood and heritage.

Born in Congo, she has lived in Buenos Aires and London, and currently calls London her home. Euka is not only an impressive singer and songwriter, but an infectious performer. Having led vocals on groups such as Cuban collective Wara, London Afrobeat Collective and Animanz over the last decade, she is well versed in effortlessly engaging crowds.

Winner of the Latin LUKAS Awards for Vocalist of the Year 2017, Juanita Euka has been building her identity. And she is not scared to immerse us deep into her worldwide rhythms that will have you swinging on the dancefloor. A celebration of life, love and joy, this album is sure to bring out smiles. The first single on the album ‘Nalingi Mobali Te’ embodies this to its core.

She chatted to us about her journey to releasing the album and what drives her to write. She will be performing her new songs at The Jago in Dalston this Easter Saturday.

You’ve been on quite a journey already as an artist. How do you feel this comes through in your work?

I guess I have, yes. Well music is changing all the time and as an artist you adapt to that. I constantly get inspiration from show after show, as well as the people I’ve had the chance to work with.

I’ve been so lucky to work with great artists in the Afro-Latin community in London and I’ve enjoyed so much in this time.  I’ve been writing for a while now, but this is the first time I have released a compilation of my own work.  I started in the pandemic and it’s exciting to see it finally be released.

How do you want people to feel when they listen to your music?

I intended my music primarily to be a celebration of culture. It is heavily influenced by Congolese music, where I was born.  At the beginning of Colonial times, there was so much Afro-Cuban music that came from colonial Belgium.  It was used as music of joy but Rumba was also used as a weapon against oppression.

Congo has a painful human rights history, years of brutal history. But with that came the resistance.  And music was such an important tool in that.

What do you typically write about in your music?

I try to tell stories of my life and talk about the things I care about. And then marry that with the cultural music from my heritage.

I tend to talk about belonging, as I think that is something that everyone can relate to. And I explore the earth through my music. This allows me to break down boundaries, and music helps heal any missing connections.

To be honest, getting to write about things so important is a trip!

What feeds your creative hunger?

My insatiable love for music. Singing. Dancing.  If you think about it, music is what we use to bring celebration and joy to most things.  For me it is quite a spiritual thing, if you are feeling down you can go and play some of your favourite tunes. It really is powerful and it almost makes me cry thinking about how beautiful that is.

But you really have to love music, because working in music is a discipline. You are entering an industry and you have to learn your trade. It’s important to really take the time to learn how it works and also learn how to work well with other people. I’ve been so lucky with the amazing people I’ve had the chance to work alongside.

How did you find it being vulnerable in writing and how much of your own story do you put into your work?

I am so grateful that I was able to work so closely with someone I trust so much, Greg Sanders. He produced the album and is amazing. I recommend you check him out.

It made recording so much easier because we have such a strong foundation and really respect and listen to each other. I met Greg when I was working with Wara and so we go back years.

It can be hard and scary to put so much of yourself out there but I think it’s so important to sing about what’s most important to you as an artist. It comes through in the compositions.

What’s in your future, what plans are you excited to do?

I have a gig on Saturday at The Jago in Dalston which will be a lot of fun.

I also have a tour coming up for my solo project, and will also be touring with some of the other groups I play with too. So a busy summer.

I’m genuinely so excited by the reception I’ve had to this album and can’t wait to grow and do more writing and performing, and see where this takes me. This feels like only the beginning.


Mabanzo, Juanita Euka's debut LP, is out now via Strut Records. You can listen to it and purchase your copy HERE

While, follow THIS LINK to get your ticket/s for Saturday event at the Jago


Photo ©: Alexis Maryon