Preview - Africa Oye
A regular event on any Liverpudlian worth their salt’s calendar – Africa Oye celebrates it’s 25th anniversary this weekend (17 & 18 June).
2017 sees the festival pay homage to its past, inviting back a selection of its finest alumni. But before we give you a what’s what of this year, it feels apt on this special birthday to look back at the festival's unique history.
The festival that now brings tens of thousands of revellers from across the country to Sefton Park came about almost by accident. 1992 was the year that Glaswegian Kenny Murray returned to the UK after an eye-opening journey across Africa. What he discovered on his travels was a culture of insatiable music he felt compelled to share with people back home – people too used to seeing negative representations of the continent in the media. His naturally adventurous spirit led him to select his base for this new venture by literally sticking a pin in a map; fortunately for us, that pin pierced Liverpool. That summer Kenny organised a series of shows across the city centre under the umbrella name Africa Oye, and he never looked back.
The festival moved from a multi-venue event in the city to the green expanse of the park in 2002 to cope with increasing demand. Over the years greats of African and Carribean music have graced the festival with their presence including Femi Kuti, Tinariwen, Marcia Griffiths Bassekou Kouyate and Frankie Paul among many others (500 to be exact).
Despite the festivals' popularity, for many, African and Caribbean music is still an unknown quantity. With this in mind, we have picked out a couple of musical highlights, as well as looking beyond convention to some of the other hidden treats the weekend has to offer.
At risk of being populist, we can’t start this without highlighting special guest, Max Romeo. ‘The Son of Selassie’ first came to prominence in the late 1960’s with his ground-breaking overtly sexual lyrics, particularly on the track ‘Wet Dream’. His controversial lyrical content caused outrage in the UK at the time and he found himself banned from both BBC radio and performing at a number of venues across the country. This controversy did not stop his rise and Romeo has recorded and released records ever since – but for many, the landmark of his career is the reggae classic War ina Babylon which he recorded with The Upsetters. Like many of his contemporaries he is now revered as a pioneer of the Jamaican sound and sample credits from the likes of Jay-Z and The Prodigy support this point of view.
Black Prophet aka Kenneth Wilberforce Zonto Bossman is one not to miss on Saturday. The vegan Ghanaian Rastafari melds traditional African rhythms with elements of Reggae to create a truly unique sound.
Diabel Cissokho returns to the festival having played twice before. Take some time to watch him on Sunday and you will be witness a true master of the kora –a 21string lute/ harp used extensively in West Africa.
Kicking things off on Saturday is Bonga, more than just a great name, his music has often reflected on the troubles his native Angola has faced and is seen as ‘the voice’ of a modern, peaceful country.
In between bands we are blessed to have Esa Williams taking care of selections, he is a unique DJ that is bridging the gap between electronic and world music – not to mention his role in rekindling the legacy of Ata Kak.
Half the fun of Oye is just soaking in the carnival atmosphere, spend some time in the Oye Village where you can eat a crepe, take part in some capoeira, grab a can of lager and hear Andy Kershaw DJ.