It’s the 4th edition of CKF (Christmas Kizomba Festival) and I’m counting the hours till I board my plane to Lisbon, if anything work has become irritable and I find myself dazing and switching off from time to time, if that’s not an alarm bell for a holiday, then I think I’ve got holidaying all wrong.

It’ll be my second time visiting CKF and Lisbon and although everyone craves hours of dance, I’m carefully planning out schedules of sightseeing in and around Lisbon.

Belem and Sintra for sure this time.

REMENISCE – Christmas Kizomba Festival 2016

The image of my first time still tingles lightly in my subconscious, and if anything, it was my spark to committing and learning these beautiful dances called Kizomba & semba. I still reflect on this memory with sweet fondness, losing my caipirinha virginity and staring into the crowd as I lose myself in the dance, music, fancy footwork everywhere.

I came only knowing how to side-side, one to three, stop and if you ever tried explaining a Saida or Virgula to me, you’ll have me taking majority of the dancefloor. I still feel sorry for my early victims, suffering the pain of a beginner. I led with my left hand most of the time and when I was done stepping on their toes, I calmly settled for some tarraxinha and even that was no easy feat but thank God, my hips don’t lie.

This time around I decided to stay in Santos and spare myself the hassle of commuting everyday for workshops, socials and parties. Not to talk of the number of taxis and I wasn’t about to bankroll the lots at UBER, no, not especially with Christmas on the way. I did the sensible thing and got myself a place, somewhere around a 15mins walk would do just fine. Hello, Airbnb.

FLIGHT TO LISBON

It was an early flight so I did the only practical thing anyone would have done, stay awake all night. I know what you’re thinking but this isn’t my first rodeo you see, in fact I’d always stay awake through the night whenever I was catching an early flight, the plan was always the same – catch some snooze on my way there. Unfortunately, this time, it didn’t go as expected and my plan for a 2 hrs shut-eye was met with a 2 years old crying constantly and a father that didn’t know what to do anymore.

I felt his pain for a moment and then hated him the next. This was the story of my 2hour journey. During that time, I swore from never taking my kids on a plane, never having kids, to designing a plane specifically made for kids and eventually settled for a drug that knocked kids out immediately when they got on planes. I know, I’m a good person I promise. Something interesting happened though that proved I wasn’t the menacing human being you all think I am. 30mins to landing, this kid that has almost driven me to insanity fell asleep and lay his head into my left arm. His father looked at me almost apologetic, readying to pull him away until I placed his head into my arms properly, dropping my shoulder for comfort, his father smiled and nodded to his wife and two little children across the aisle as if they had won me over. This lasted about 5mins until the little vermin began crying again. Morale of the story, always travel with headphones.

FRIDAY: arrival, timeout, fashion show and a 4am finish.

I arrived to the sunshine of Lisbon, ordered an UBER because life’s too short trying to get a taxi. The lady at my Airbnb was kind enough to wait for me at the apartment. Pamela insisted I visit Timeout when I told her I was starving and could pass out at any minute. I mean I wouldn’t but you get what I mean. It was a 10mins walk and I was relishing the prospect of putting my Portuguese to test after a few hours on Memrise the night before.
The next person I saw was greeted with a ‘Com licença por favor, qual é a direção timeout’ he responded in Portuguese. My eyes lit up and he continued, gesturing with his hands as he gave directions. After he was done, I responded ‘Obrigado’ he smiled and I skipped along sharing the news. ‘Guys, we just spoke full blown Portuguese, no word of English there.’ They could see my excitement so they proceeded in putting me out of my misery for feedback by smiling and nodding politely. I didn’t care and continued skipping into the sunshine of Lisbon never to be seen again.

Timeout was better than I expected with stalls of dishes from every cuisine. I initially went on a hunt for some ramen but opted for some Gyoza and soup with a glass of white to wash it all down, starting light on an alcohol induced weekend. I’m so adult!

It was a 5mins walk to the venue of the party rather than the 8mins I initially dreaded. I got to the venue, Barrio Latino and was met with warm welcomes at the reception. Showed my ticket, received my wristband and party was a go. My full pass was an inexpensive £55 compared to all other festivals I’ve browsed. Although I knew it was impossible to attend workshops especially with my itinerary it still felt good knowing I could attend if I wanted.

I walked in and the dancefloor was glowing with smiles all around, lights perfectly lit to reflect the mood in the room. I saw a few familiar faces, hellos were said, eyes met, smiles were exchanged, hugs were given. I needed a quick visit to my old friend. After a year, I was reunited with my love, miss Caipirinha. Such a shame no other bar made it like this. I ordered and she was brought out. I held her gently in my hand and whispered into her ears, ‘I miss you’ and sipped. We were reunited.

After all the small-talks, it was time to dance. I looked around and before manoeuvring to find my first dance, I was approached with a smile and a gesture to dance. Here goes my 10 months of classes and workshops! After a few more dances, I was starting to get into my groove then the music was cut abruptly, the stage was vacated and an introduction was given by Paulo for the impending fashion show.

Paulo and Miguel kept the crowd entertained with their charisma, Paulo speaking in Portuguese with Miguel translating in English. The show began.

I’d be pretending if I didn’t say I was initially irritated with the show interrupting the dance but I was quickly won over. The show was a great spectacular of culture, heritage and professionalism. The hair, the clothes on show, the shoes and the catwalks were executed with aplomb.

Towards the end, I took my ass back to the bar to top up on my Caipirinha as I was starting to feel myself get way too sober. Please, I’m on HOLIDAY! I wouldn’t recommend anyone drinking to the stage of being completely paralytic which virtually means your night is over. Alcohol should be drunk with a considerably level of maturity when you’re at a dance festival. Drink responsibly!

The night continued and I remembered again why I was so taken by my night in Lisbon a year ago.

I was starting to feel like I was getting into my zone, you know those saidas and virgulas were getting smoother and smoother. The tarraxinha came in, mixed so effortless and I was in it – mind, body and spirit, you know the slow and sensual drop of the body mimicking the sound from the speakers. A bit of passada as the voice came in and the beat intensified, the music slowed down and dancefloor reacted, a few goose bumps here and there as two became one. I was enjoying myself and I didn’t want it to stop and suddenly, it was time to go. I checked my watch, it was 4am. It was meant to be 6am. I wasn’t happy, everyone wasn’t happy. The night was over.

SATURDAY: Social, Lobster, Karaoke, Performance and a Pre-Party

I knew I wasn’t going to make the classes during the day but wanted to make sure I attended the social. I’ve heard good things about the social and a few people even swore by the kizomba bible that they’ve gone to a few socials that were better than the main parties at night. I wasn’t to miss it.

I dragged my ass out of bed as early as possible, 3pm. I arrived at the social about 15mins late when the dancefloor was in full flow. I wasn’t there to wait, or look around, it was business as usual. I invited a lady to dance and it began. Hugo Boss was on decks. It started very innocent, the guy teased us into some ghetto zouk, tarraxinha here and there. We were loving it and then bam, some popular kizomba came in, you could see the light in the eyes of everyone.

You had people on the dancefloor that by fire by force had to showcase their best routines or moves. Who am I kidding!? I joined them. Life’s too short and I was enjoying myself. And suddenly, this crazy ass DJ mixed some semba into it, the mix was like peanut butter on toast. Everyone went mental!

Paulo and Miguel put on a show, tricks everywhere. The ladies didn’t care, the space was plentiful and they weren’t hurting nobody. I moved myself to the corner. My dance partner was feeling herself and so was I. All the moves that were locked up were unleashed. Most of them didn’t work but she didn’t care. After twenty minutes of continuous intensity, the music stopped, social was over. We begged for it to continue. We were sweating. We were all smiling. Classes resumed and I went back to my Airbnb to shower.

I wanted to eat in the city centre, you know something classy, something that made me feel like I had more money in my bank account. I googled a few places and settled on one, ordered an Uber and on my way to the restaurant the driver convinced me he knew of a better place I ought to go, and although I was quite hesitant but who am I to go against the advices of TripAdvisor and a local taxi driver. The driver changed route and I was there in 15mins.

I got a ticket standing outside amongst a crowd of 20 people all waiting to be seated. I went inside and spoke to the headchef who told me it would be another hour till we could get a table for 7 people as the kitchen upstairs don’t open till then.

I spent sometime walking around and found a small restaurant with music, ordered a coke and watched a performance unfold. There I was, sat alone and enjoying the company of Lisbon. I headed back after and finally we had a table.

I knew what I wanted, I wanted lobster and every variety of shrimps. I dug deep. Jim and I went halves and ordered every lobster, crab and shrimp related type meal on the menu. It was amazing and we didn’t pay for the bread. REWIND… Well, Manuela got into a tantrum about not paying for the bread as she thought it was free. The waiter responded it wasn’t. They both got in a long-heated debate and afterwards the manager decided it was on the house. I didn’t pay much attention, I didn’t care, my overdraft would bleed and I was happy with myself.

We had to hurry back to our Airbnb to freshen up for the dinner party organised as part of the event. It was my first time going to it and I’d be lying if I told you that I was brimming with excitement. Everyone was excited for the food, apparently it was meant to be really good but I’m picky as hell so I only had a few nibbles and red wine, loads of red wine and I don’t even like red wine, unless its port. I really like port.

The dinner was great and the drinks flowed with good conversations, we invited a few humans back to our Airbnb for quick pre-drinks. Josipa promised to make some drinks, I was excited. After the food and some cakes, the karaoke began and everyone showed off their voices. I was tempted but my vocals weren’t playing ball so I sat my ass down on the chair and enjoyed some pretty good harmonies.

We left for the apartment soon afterwards. Josipa delivered on the drinks, I got a bit too excited and drank a lot. We all had heated but friendly conversations about Nigerians and Ghanaians, it was fun. It was time to go back for the party, I had a few more drinks. I walked outside to be welcomed by the evening breeze of Lisbon, I liked it. We walked to the venue to be surprised by a long queue and I hate queues. I didn’t care, I was buzzing. The drinks were already at work. I walked in, it was busy! I loved it! Magda was nearby, I invited her to dance and suddenly it hit me. That was it, the end of my night. I reiterate my point above about drinking. Jim walked me back to the apartment. I tucked myself in and slept like a baby.

Oh okay, I lied. I didn’t sleep. I was awake and spent the rest of the night in the bathroom.

SUNDAY: B’Leza, Performance and After Party

This was the last night of CKF and amongst conversations came up a suggestion to break the night even more. Everyone I knew suggested we visit an event called Beleze. I was eager to oblige. Start off my night with Beleze and end it at CKF. I liked it and a few people would call that killing two birds with one stone but what do I know!?

Especially after the mixed nights in CKF, I was eager to experience something else in Lisbon. It was Lisbon afterall! A place where kizomba addicts come to retire. It was also an opportunity to dance with some of the locals. A quick google search showed it was within walking distance, I had a few drinks to keep the body warm for the 15mins walk. I locked the door behind and we set-off.

We almost walked past the venue at first, and even after realising, struggled to find the entrance. After a few minutes spent deciding whether to get a burger or not, looking around, we found the entrance and were finally inside. Before too long, we were met by familiar faces with the same idea who ushered us to where they kept their belongings. Jackets came off and I was ready to party. The music was special. I spent a few minutes watching as everyone moved to the rhythm, gliding across the dancefloor and the dances flowed throughout. It has an electric atmosphere with friendly people who wanted to dance and have fun. Sian danced with Dasmara and wouldn’t shut up about it. Hello Sian, I danced with you too – I don’t hear you raving about my humble saida.

A few hours passed and after many last dances we eventually decided to leave. We skipped our way to the venue. We didn’t want to stop dancing.

We walked in and it was another performance. It was energetic, it was fun but at this point I just wanted to continue dancing. I went to the toilet and realised most of the doors were broken with issues with leakage and tissues. It wasn’t nice. I heard a few of the ladies complain about how the female toilets were in worst condition.

The performances finished and the dancing resumed. The dancefloor was packed and if it wasn’t for tarraxinha, you could barely move without someone trying to shove their elbows in your eyeballs. Maybe I’m being too harsh but it dampened my mood and especially an event which I held to such high standards. I went outside to freshen up.

I left the dancefloor at the bottom for the stage area which was much better. I mean it wasn’t too spacious but it wasn’t choking packed either. I had a few more dances and before you knew it was 4am and the night was over. CKF was over and we all had to wait until a whole year. A lot of people lingered on as goodbyes were said. I could see the long queues of jackets in my peripherals.

Monies were paid for drinks. I said goodbye to my love, miss caipirinha and went outside but as you know the party never stops at 4am in festivals as there are always an after-party happening and it wasn’t too long before I got an invite to an after-party hosted by the Habibis. It kept me out till 7am. Not a bad day at all.

CONCLUSION: Christmas Kizomba Festival 2017

Now that the festival is over, I’m sat here trying to separate my experience of Lisbon from CKF, waiting as my plane ready itself for take-off. I can’t deny it, I’m left frustrated at how disappointed the festival has left me. It was meant to be an exception.

It was one of those festivals you spoke about in high regard, one you gushed about, one you and your friends had plans about in secret, ‘you dare tell no-one’ you’d tell each other. It was a popular secret. You raved about it throughout the year. Heck, I coerced everyone to come along with me. I re-assured them all to ignore every other experience/emotion they had felt in any festival and wait to be taken aback. I was wrong, maybe I was naïve, or maybe it was love.

CKF is now a popular secret and one that needs fine-tuning. The fantastic four still have work to do.

KEY HIGHLIGHTS
– Lisbon
– The Socials
– Karaoke & Dinner
– Workshops
– Performances were good although very long
– Pricing of the festival

KEY IMPROVEMENTS FOR NEXT YEAR:
– Too much Ghetto Zouk, as result of having less space to dance. If I wanted to tarraxinha all night, I’d go to an Urban Kiz event.
– Too crowded
-The bathroom
– Longer Parties
– Longer socials
– Less performances

FESTIVAL RATING: 6.5/10
LISBON: 9/10



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