My grandfather died of heart failure two months before my eighth birthday. I was there, with him, when that heart attack—not his first massive heart issue—struck him at the jamatkhana. It took me several hours to understand what had happened, but when it finally did hit me, I realized that my grandfather had passed away doing what he loved: celebrating with his friends and family, and dancing.
I didn’t realize this until recently, but my father also loves dancing. Growing up, my father was stern, strict, and serious; sure, we had tons of fun together and we laughed a lot, but I didn’t take time to notice when my dad would just let loose, let himself get carried away by music, by celebration. Only looking back, now, I realize that my father is at ease on the dance floor, and that he cherishes the moments he has to move in time to the music.
Friends have often told me that I have an innate sense of rhythm, that they find me moving to music even when I don’t realize that I am. Indeed, I approach all motion as a type of dance, as being coordinated to a beat that plays in my mind even when nobody is around. (It is no surprise that, in my musical endeavours, I was drawn to percussion.)
Dancing brings me immense amounts of joy. I spent a good part of the first twenty-five years of my life searching for opportunities to go dancing, and then spending the night with friends as hip-hop, R&B, and dancehall reggae sounds pulsated throughout the room.
Songs I could dance to were the soundtrack of my life. As I’ve grown older, the opportunities to go out dancing all the time have lessened, but I still bounce in my seat in the car when the radio is on, still tap my feet at restaurants when the beat is prevalent. Like my father, like my grandfather, dancing is in my blood—it’s something I will keep doing, in my own way, until my last days, whenever they may be.
Dance, dance, dance.
For this month’s edition of The Mixtape Concern, here’s a playlist of hip-hop and R&B songs, all about dancing, that I have spent hours dancing to in my life.