What a night! Last night history was made in at The SSE Stadium. Thousands gathered to witness a truly Pan African celebration of music. Of course I’m talking about London’s very first edition of the One Africa Music Festival.
I remember scrolling through Instagram last year when One Africa first hit New York’s Barclays Centre, envious that I couldn’t be there myself. This first ever show was running in its own unique lane. So many events had tried to achieve the magnitude of a show like this, a show collating the biggest names of the African music industry on one stage. It truly was a phenomenal moment. And this year it could only get bigger and better.
Tekno, Praiz, Davido, Tiwa Savage, Sarkodie, Jidenna and Awilo were just a few several acts that were set to perform on the night. For weeks we joined other media outlets in promoting what was to be an unforgettable night. The hype was definitely real.
The concept of one united Africa is one that is so dear to all of us. The divisions on the land we call home is not by our own doing. As the “new age African evolves” (both on the surface of Africa and all over the world) we are working to undo the separation our colonial history places on us.
We are a people of stories and we tell these stories predominantly through music. Music is the core of who we are. The stage of One Africa saluted this reality and applauds us for being where we are today.
And last night it was the music that took centre stage. I could never convey through words the feelings the pervaded the stadium last night, no matter how much I equivocate meanings with my words. The energy Cassper demanded of the audience, the nostalgia Awilo exposed in us, the soke Tekno impelled us with to dance, the ‘Hallelujah’ and azonto Sarkodie incited in us and the pure sound of one united voice Davido drew out of us was so beyond cathartic. (It is that moment that resonates with me most. In that moment we were all professing our affections for nonexistent lover; let’s not forget the thirty billion for the account if I tell you sey I love you.)
Music is far louder than any voice. It has a power that words alone cannot evoke. It is unifying. People with origins from all over the African continent were united, even if only momentarily, by music. That is the very essence of One Africa Music Fest.
However there was so much that contributed to the disappointment that many of us experienced last night. Timing was not a strong point for last night’s show. Not only did it run over time, not everyone was able to perform. Why are we still using “African Time” to justify and even dismiss our lack of punctuality. Every single African concert I’ve been to in London seems to fall short when it comes to timing; the guests arrive late, the performers fun late and the evening is either rushed or elongated. I think what disappointments me most is the complacency; none of are surprised when we see these things (even at a venue like Wembley), and b so few of us do anything to address them. It just isn’t good enough. We need to demand more! We must do more!
I’m sure by now you’ve seen Jidenna speak his peace about the London rendition of One Africa.
Like him, I are not laying blame or pointing fingers. I am not trying to disparage the blood sweat and tears that is put into making an event like One Africa happen. Platforms like these are essential! Our artists need to know that they are loved, their artistry is valued. As guests, we need the Pan African unity such spaces provide. Our music is sacred because it is rooted in more stories than we can ever retell fully or absolutely. But with this high regard for our art, our music, our core, we need to be more diligent.
If we truly believe it our time, as Africans, we must be on time.
With all that said, these discrepancies did not distract from the beauty of the music. This was only the first (possibly of many) One Africa Music Fest in London. And for its London debut the festival had Tidal exclusively streaming every moment. Having such a large mainstream platform made the show so much more accessible to a western audience.
One Africa Music Fest can only get bigger and better.
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Feature image by Michael Tubes.