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All Aboard the Soul Train with Strictly Soul

Not long ago, I attended Strictly Soul at La Parada in Rosebank with my co-workers and friends. Aaliyah's ageless style served as our inspiration for the evening - we sported attire that reflected her impact; from tiny crop tops, athletic wear, daring displays of undergarments (an enduring trend) and baggy pants. 


The moment we arrived, the air was electric with excitement. The majority of those present were ladies who exuded passion and sang along fervently with their friends while clutching their phones to capture every second. As a self-confessed Chris Brown aficionado, I couldn't contain my elation when "Excuse Me Miss" began playing over the speakers. Nostalgia swept me away as memories flooded back; I eagerly recorded my friend and I experiencing this song again after so long. Initially holding onto my handbag, it wasn't long before I succumbed to the beat's irresistible pull - setting aside all distractions and surrendering myself fully. Feeling incredible at that moment in perfect harmony with both song and surroundings allowed me an enriching experience unaffectable by passing time or external influence. 


With skillful finesse, the DJ paused the song while the undeterred crowd continued to sing in harmony. The charged atmosphere electrified as "My Boo" transitioned seamlessly, filling everyone with excitement and transporting me back to 2005 unexpectedly. Although released a year prior, it wasn't until then that this tune truly resonated within me like a nostalgic reminder of my first love's sweetness and youthful innocence. 


The whirlwind of the night made taking a break almost impossible. The DJ's skill in captivating us bore witness to the potency of R&B and Soul music, which reflects all aspects of affection – including elation, heartbreak, and intimacy. Being part of Strictly Soul is more than simply tuning into tunes; it requires fully submerging oneself in love's fundamental nature and connection. It is an adventure one must participate in personally to appreciate its entirety genuinely. 


After such an amazing night with Lovers & Friends [lol see what I did there ;]; naturally got home and I thought, I have to write about it. So I took it upon myself, to some deep-diving ... or should I say “Soul-Searching” on Strictly Soul to learn more about how it started and how what it’s future looks like.


Amidst the global stillness of COVID-19 in 2020, a vibrant pulse began to throb in the heart of downtown Maboneng, not within the walls of a venue, but through the soul-stirring energy of an event series named Strictly Soul. This wasn’t just another music gathering; it was a groundbreaking movement in the realm of RnB and Soul, conceptualized by the visionary “RnB Thug,” DJ Akio. With his team, Beno and Anita, DJ Akio sought to fill the voids in the music scene, not by following fleeting trends but by addressing the unmet needs of soul and RnB aficionados. Their goal was audacious yet simple: to dominate a niche market by offering an unparalleled experience in the celebration of RnB and Soul music.


Crafting a Movement with Heart and Soul 


Strictly Soul's inception was fueled by DJ Akio's goal-driven nature and love for being the underdog, as well as his desire to establish alternative spaces where RnB and Soul could thrive without limitations. Driven by a combination of cultural and personal motivations, he aimed to challenge the status quo with innovative experiences that filled a musical gap left untouched by mainstream events. All in all, Strictly Soul marked an ambitious effort towards creating something truly special – paving the way for shared passions within unconventional settings. 


Influences on Music and Creative Outlook 


DJ Akio's music inspirations originate from the soulful rhythms and uplifting beats of Hip Hop, combined with R&B melodies that were prominent during his upbringing in the 80s and 90s. He finds a special attraction to New Jack Swing era within R&B, as well as Boom Bap movement in Hip Hop; he sees these two genres' essential elements have played an influential role throughout his DJing journey. In earlier years around early-2000s used to focus on collecting only hip hop vinyl records but gradually expanded his set-list by adding diverse selection of rhythm & blues tracks since around year 2010 which reveals both the growth of musical tastes over time along with gaining expertise level through constant explorations into broader spectrum! 


DJ Akio intends to generate a broad community and event series under the Strictly Soul brand, uniting R&B admirers all over Africa and eventually beyond. He seeks to establish an infrastructure resembling that of the US and Europe - one that permits organizing events tours spanning across geographical boundaries. The framework not only promotes growth in Strictly Soul but also in other musical ventures as well. Ultimately, his vision is to extend this energetic community into Asia and the Middle East by bridging individuals passionate for soul music from around the world together.


Pushing boundaries with innovation 


By prioritizing experiences and innovating the curation of events, Strictly Soul sets itself apart. From carefully selecting music to creating captivating decor and engaging fans, every detail is thoughtfully crafted to elevate the overall encounter. This series has had a profound impact on South African DJ sets by introducing R&B tracks that have since become staples in the scene.


Branding and Logo Design


Strictly Soul's logo and branding were intentionally crafted to embrace the movement's ethos and values. The visual identity conveys an authentic representation of attendees' experiences, from their happiest moments to meaningful interpersonal connections. With a strong emphasis on authenticity, Strictly Soul's adaptable branding truly reflects what this inspiring community represents at its core. 


A Symphony of Generations 


Strictly Soul has successfully bridged the gap between generations through its music, which is one of their notable accomplishments. Instead of solely catering to nostalgic tunes, this series attracts an audience that values both classic and modern R&B genres. Such inclusivity highlights their dedication towards providing a diverse platform for musical innovation and growth. 


The Echo of Viral Success 


The impressive reach of Strictly Soul on TikTok cannot be understated, as demonstrated by the 8.8 million views garnered from a single video uploaded by Anita and backed up with over 97.6K Likes and nearly 1 Million fans - all testaments to its significant digital influence. Through careful 

curation of striking visuals coupled with effective social media strategies by Strictly Soul’s Social Media Manager, Nsamwa , this program has effectively translated its vibrant ambiance alongside an inclusive spirit into a dynamic online persona. 


Strictly Soul is no longer just an event series, it has become a burgeoning legacy in the R&B and soul community. The organization's mission to bring people together through music remains at its core as plans for expansion and diverse themes are set into motion. Strictly Soul acknowledges not only the rich heritage of R&B and soul but also looks forward towards its bright future by fostering a connected community that values genuineness, fellowship, and musical ardor. 

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