Winter Music Conference

A Soul Thing

After more than two decades of one of the most celebrated careers in dance music, Little Louie Vega is still teaching the new jacks — and making bodies jack. But in recent years, Vega, ever the boundary-pusher, has expanded his conception of the groove beyond plonk-plonk-plonk. As Eddie Amador once famously said, "It's a spiritual thing, a body thing, a soul thing."

As half of the legendary Masters at Work production duo, along with partner Kenny Dope, Vega crafted some of the biggest dance-floor anthems of the Eighties and Nineties. They reigned supreme all the way up to "Work," a Caribbean-flavored stomper first released in 2000 that still pops up every couple of years. And there were Vega's countless hit solo records; "Deep Inside," for one, still causes uncontrollable hip gyrations more than 15 years after its original release.

But with Masters at Work on hiatus, Vega is spreading his wings even further. He started becoming master of his domain by founding Vega Records, an independent label, in 2006. Like peer King Britt's FiveSixMedia, Vega Records comprises a small, lovingly assembled stable of diverse artists who focus mainly on digital distribution. Artists include R&B singer Sara Devine, house tribalist Mr. V, and Latin percussionist Luisito Quintero. Of course, there's also Vega and his favorite vocalist, Anané.

In fact he waxes truly rhapsodic about his latest pet project, a solo album by Anané. Produced and partially written by Vega, the record is an aural journey into the singer's soul. "I started feeling from her that there was all this music inside of her that wanted to come out," Vega recalls. "It ranges from rock to reggae to calypso to pop to dance to world music, even R&B. She's got this flavor that is all these different colors of music." It's multilingual as well — Anané sings in five languages, including that of her native Cape Verde, Portugal.

And Vega just completed a world tour with his live band, Elements of Life, a shifting constellation of musicians whose jaw-dropping versatility and relentless groove have landed them slots at an unlikely wide range of global gigs, from the Montreal Jazz Festival to the rock-heavy Roskilde Festival in Denmark. An original solo album that's due out in 2009 called Elements of Life will feature a similar stylistic diversity.

Vega Records' website,, is chock full of live DJ sets in both audio and video. There are also frequently updated interviews and photo sections, and a new track for streaming every week.

Vega must not get much sleep, but his countenance is enviably friendly and chilled-out. It must be the quiet satisfaction of sitting for twentysomething years at the top of the game he helped create. "I think there's soul in all kinds of music," he says. "There's a certain feeling you get; there are tones that just give you goose bumps."