DJs QuJo (left) and Nanoos founded the pro-liberation dance music collective Go Baba! Worldwide in 2023. Credit: Jesus J. Montero

Last month, as Chicago became the largest city in the U.S. to call for a ceasefire, the death toll in Gaza reached more than 29,000—the vast majority of whom were women and children. The entire world has its eyes on Gaza. Social media feeds have made us bear witness to the atrocities of an ongoing genocide even as the U.S. continues to veto United Nations resolutions that call for a ceasefire. A blanket of grief and pain covers many. But for the Arab community in Chicago, one form of resistance has become joy and dance. 

Go Baba! Worldwide is a pro-liberation collective curated and founded by DJs Nanoos and QuJo in July 2023. The duo hosts monthly events that combine Afro, Arab, and Caribbean sounds at venues like the California Clipper, Podlasie Club, and Blind Barber. Go Baba! has also graced venues in Detroit and Los Angeles.

“Bringing our music to the table is absolutely political because it’s an intervention to what the standards are for music and nightlife in the city,” said twenty-six-year-old Nanoos. 

DJ Nanoos.

The Chicagoland area has the largest Palestinian population in the country, with 18,000 people living in Cook county. Since the start of the war, many Chicagoans have taken to the streets to host rallies, vigils and demonstrations for a free Palestine. 

“This is part of the revolution,” Nanoos said. “It’s a cultural critique of what’s happening around us.” 

Nanoos, who’s originally from Detroit, describes herself as a Palestinian living in exile and had to make the choice to continue Go Baba! during the genocide. 

“This is an area where folks who have had a long week of organizing can then come and feel a sense of community, gratitude, safety, affirmation of their identity,” she said. “So that when Monday hits, and it’s time to organize again, we’re able to take the streets again because we had a great weekend—we enjoyed each other’s movement and rhythm.”

Nanoos and QuJo invite people to be uncomfortable because they say this is an uncomfortable time, one that’s filled with contradictions. The fight for liberation continues through their collective that brings Brown and Black people together. 

Video by Emma Soto.

“When I look into a crowd now, a Go Baba! crowd, it is so diverse that I’m able to see myself in the crowd, finally,” said QuJo, who has been DJing for fifteen years. 

QuJo’s affinity for blending cross-cultural sounds drew Nanoos in. It was this connection that led QuJo to not only teach Nanoos but also manage her DJ career. Go Baba! most recently was named “Best pro-liberation DJ collective and dance party” by the Reader

“Usually around like ten, eleven o’clock people are in it and we’re just looking at their faces and we feed off of them, they feed off of us,” QuJo said.

Go Baba!’s most recent collaboration was with Gyrate, a monthly party collective centered around the Caribbean and Black diaspora, and hosted at Bourbon on Division. Gyrate’s creator Mamicana and DJ Rae Chardonnay joined Nanoos and Qujo with sets of their own. 

QuJo (top) and Nanoos.

“You see the keffiyehs in the air, you see people dancing together,” Nanoos said. “It’s eclectic. It’s just, it’s everything.”

Pilsen DJ Mo Mami has previously guest DJed at Go Baba! and she came out to support the night. 

“The dynamic is not like anything that I have experienced before,” Mo Mami said. “It’s a great example of how joy must also exist among tragedy. As humans that’s the only way we can survive, with each other.”

Mo Mami said that collaboration between Go Baba! and Gyrate unites a community with the common goal of global liberation. She applauded Nanoos, QuJo, and Mamicana for bringing the world to Chicago. 

“To be at an event where I’m hearing ‘Free Palestine,’ ‘Free Sudan,’ ‘Free Congo’ rhythmically over a juke beat is so wonderful and unique,” she said.

Bringing communities together and offering a respite is the core of Go Baba!. The event has been groundbreaking in its fusion of Arab and Afro sounds in Chicago and they have plans to live up to the “worldwide” in their title. The two teased upcoming projects and collaborations. In the meantime, they said they hope to keep inspiring and bringing people together. 

DJ Nanoos’s mix “murder sherine wrote”

“Artists have always played a big role in social revolutions,” Nanoos said. “We’ve become like the nucleus of the city.” 

As Go Baba!’s reach grows, their mission will remain the same: to “stand by the resistance because [they] believe oppressed people have the right to resist colonialism, apartheid and occupation.” Their revolution is all-encompassing as they not only fight against colonialism but also capitalism. 

“I believe that Go Baba! stands on anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist norms that we see in club culture and nightlife in Chicago,” Nanoos said. Go Baba! has ignited a cultural shift in the nightlight industry, something that the two view as a new form of grassroots organizing. 

“If I can change this very racist dance culture and change it into something that is culture for us, that’s my contribution to society,” QuJo said. 

As the collective continues to grow, the pair intend to continuously pour back into the community. Behind the DJ decks, Nanoos can’t help but be proud as she looks at her crowd, who are healing by dancing. 

“Sometimes we dance with tears in our eyes,” Nanoos said. “But when we move, it’s cathartic, and it helps us reset. The struggle for our liberation, the revolution is happening daily, everyday, by the minute.”

Video by Emma Soto.
✶ ✶ ✶ ✶

Jocelyn Martinez-Rosales is a Mexican-American independent journalist from Belmont Cragin who is passionate about covering communities of color with a social justice lens. She’s also the labor editor at the Weekly.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *