The First Lady Meets…Iola Williams and learns about Zumba Zumbata!

December 14, 2011

Iola Williams – Zumba Zumbata founder

I have heard of Zumba, but what is Zumba Zumbata? 

It’s still the same Zumba everyone loves, but with more flavour.  African/ Black people always like to add more spice to things (whether it’s an extra ‘oh’ at the end of a word, or hot pepper sauce to a meal – you know what I’m talking about, right), and so (being of African Caribbean decent),  the same applies to me with my Zumba classes.  The bata is a traditional ceremonial drum (and dance) which originates from Nigeria (specifically of the Yoruba tribe) and was transported to Cuba during the slave trade. I’m taking the Latin-inspired fitness craze back to its African roots!

What lead you to train as a Zumba teacher and combine it with a more Afrocentric sound?

Dancing has always been a passion of mine. I’ve previously danced and performed with several groups (from street dance to traditional West African dance) but stopped years ago after injuring my knee during an audition.  2011 has been quite a challenging year for me, and I really needed a boost, so a friend of mine encouraged me to do the instructor course.

I’m glad you asked me about the ‘Afrocentric’ element…Whilst I love the concept of Zumba, as with many things (be it fashion, music or even invention generally) its strong African influence is downplayed. We shouldn’t get it twisted, most Latin dances and music genres, from salsa to samba or cumbia, are heavily influenced by African music/dance.  Also, I became frustrated with the annoying ‘African’ soundtracks available and so I’m taking the opportunity to represent in a more authentic style.

Iola with 2face Idibia

What do you do apart from Zumba and how do you balance this?

I’m a full-time student, working shifts, as well as a freelance writer and copy editor.  It’s not easy at all, but balance is integral to my health and wellbeing, and so I’m constantly working on being still and ‘me’ time (you can call it meditation), plus dancing (Zumba) is always good for the soul.

You have a health issue do you mind sharing this and telling us how it has impacted your life?

I had a (benign) cyst the size of a grapefruit and so was advised to have it surgically removed in June. The laparoscopy revealed that I have endometriosis, which is a gynaecological condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other areas of the body, causing severe menstrual-like cramps and in worst cases, infertility.  On top of that I had a lumpectomy a few weeks ago, which turned out to be fibroadenoma – I believe it’s all relative in terms of hormonal imbalance.

Unfortunately, doctors (in my experience) are not well informed about the guidance or even medical advice to offer endo sufferers and so I regularly seek advice from my naturopath/Chinese herbalist.  I have drastically changed my diet – no meat, no dairy, no wheat, no gluten and definitely no SOY.  The internet, evening primrose oil and the love and support of friends and family are my lifelines!

I find Black women in particular tend to be more introverted when it comes our bodily concerns. I encourage everyone to get to really know their body.  If you have any concerns, share them with a confidant – don’t keep it to yourself as stress is the biggest factor in worsening conditions in most cases, always seek immediate medical advice, do your own research and be persistent (doctors are not Gods and do not know everything). Our bodies are our temples, plus they’re the only ones we have.

How do you stay motivated?

This may sound cheesy, but I’m motivated by my immediate circle of phenomenal people I am blessed to have around me. They provide encouragement and support, and kicks up the proverbial behind when needed.

In terms of fitness regimens, I’m very lazy. I joined the gym in September and I couldn’t tell you what it looks like inside – thank God for Zumba!

I also love a good quote/proverb, this is the one I’m using for now:  “When the music changes, so does the dance”, which for me means, don’t stop in the face of adversity, keep dancing.

What can we expect from your Zumba class at The First Lady Fayre?

FUN, Zumba favourites, afro beats and live drumming – so lose your inhibitions and don’t watch no face – it’s not Strictly and I’m no Janet Jackson either!

Do you have a class timetable?

Classes will commence in January 2012. You will be able to find the New Year schedule on my website.

Where can we find you? 

Web info:


Twitter: @ZumbaZumbata   / @Iamiola

 We love the sound of Zumba Zumbata and cannot wait to give it a go!  Make sure you bring some trainers and comfy clothing to take part in the Afrocentric fun that is Zumba Zumbata.  We are also totally moved and inspired by Iola’s journey and have certainly made a note of the saying, “When the music changes, so does the dance”.  Iola’s tenacity and outlook on like is heart warming and motivational.  Life is for living so go and live The Rag Factory with us on 18th December! ;)

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