On Saturday 26th May 2018, history was made. Afro Republik, an indoor festival celebrating Afrobeats, took on the prestigious O2 Arena. (For early musings on the night, click here.)
The atmosphere in the arena reminded me very much of last year’s One Africa Festival at Wembley Stadium, pure good vibes. As ever, I was early. It is always so satisfying to see a stadium slowly fill up from a few hundred people to several thousands. By the end of the night there was hardly any space to dance! The show was completely sold out, full of people from all over the world with one purpose, to enjoy good music.
“There’s only one rule tonight,” our host and comedian Eddie Kadi told us. “Dance your life away. Dance like your British passport depends on it.” And we did! Heels came off, flats came out and we moved to the music.
On the night’s line up was Eugy, Maleek Berry, Yxng Bane, Mr Eazi, Tekno, Not3s, Tiwa Savage and of course, Wizkid. What a collection of artists! These musician also brought out artists like Afro B, Kojo Funds, Giggs, Skepta and many more. The official DJ on the night was Tim Westwood, weaving London sounds with African music. We went old school, playing songs you only hear at family parties. Westwood even had us doing the Candy at one point, all twenty thousand of us! Then we came right back to music of today.
It truly was an amazing night. To be part of such a large crowd of individuals united in their love of Afrobeats music was such a significant experience.
The night highlighted how far the presence of our music has come in London over the past few years. When I first started at Glam Africa, concerts and music showcases were my thing. I remember when I first saw Eugy perform at one such showcase. Very few of us were in the audience and even less of us knew his music. I recall when Maleek Berry produced music for other artists such as Wizkid, behind the scenes almost. Now both artists were up front and centre on an international platform.
Let me take it even further than that. I remember the days of sharing songs in high school playgrounds via Bluetooth, our non-African friends being lost as to who the artists were and what was being said. Now we hear them on drive time radio. We hear their beats inflected in mainstream music. London itself has such a unique sound when it comes to (UK) Afrobeats. Our music is getting better. Concert productions getting better. Crossing over no longer means changing your sound to make it more palatable for pop culture. Music of African origin has arrived on a global stage and it is not leaving anytime soon.
With the increasing popularity of Afrobeats, Afro-Pop, Afro-Swing, UK Afrobeats, Afro-Bashment and what ever else you want to call it, come important conversation. DJ Neptizzle took to instagram last week to share his concern about the of visibility for Afrobeats DJ’s for events like Afro Republik. He suggests that an opportunity was missed to include DJ’s who have been working on the ground to promote Afrobeats for years, way before its growing popularity.
Neptizzle and Eddie Kadi continued this conversation last week on their weekly catchup show (click here to listen back to it). This then lead into questions about distinctions and separations within the African music community, spreading out from London, the UK and Africa. This industry is ever growing, becoming part of the mainstream music scene. In order for this growth to be mutually beneficial, do artists, DJ’s and promoters need to join closer together, working as one community instead of creating factions amongst ourselves? I’m curious to hear your thought. Share your comments with me below.
Backstage with Wizkid, John Boyega, Tiwa Savage and many others:
Images by Michael Tubes.
Don’t forget to follow us on: