Review: ‘One Africa Music Fest’—The First of Its Kind and Hopefully More To Follow
By Monsurat Adebanjo, Contributing Writer, July 30, 2016
Keeping true to my fanaticism for Afrobeats music, when I heard that an Afrobeats concert series was coming to New York with some of the biggest recording artists in the genre, I knew I would be in attendance. On July 22, I had the immense pleasure of attending the One Africa Music Fest at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The lineup featured Wizkid as the headliner, hosted by Banky W., with performances by Tiwa Savage, Flavour, Stonebwoy, Davido, Diamond Platnumz, Seun Kuti, Machel Montano, Jidenna, Don Jazzy, Timaya, Praiz and Ayo Jay. Wale was listed in the lineup but was a no show.
The One Africa Music Fest is the first of its kind in the United States. Never has a show this large with such major names performed on one stage, in one night. The show was slated to start at 7:30pm, and I, as many other concert-goers, assumed the show would not start on time. Many people were outside posing for pictures and relaxing in the warm summer weather, many of whom were gorgeously dressed in their beautifully tailored Ankara clothing (Ankara is a wax cloth material with bold and vibrant colors, patterns and designs). My friend asked me if we should proceed inside and take our seats, I replied, “Let’s just hang out a bit, it hasn’t started,” but before I could finish my sentence, a Barclays’ employee informed us that the concert had already started. We quickly rushed through security to our seats to find the audience was only about fifteen percent full, but within the next twenty-five minutes the entirety of Barclays was full of attendees vibrating with African rhythm.
As a result of my tardiness, I missed performances by Praiz, Stonebwoy and Sound Sultan. Each artist performing his or her biggest hits, therefore ensuring that the crowd would be on their feet and singing along throughout the evening. I took my seat just before Banky W. introduced Tiwa Savage, who performed “African Waist,” “Girlie O,” “Without My Heart,” and “Eminado,” with a surprise guest appearance from Don Jazzy. Although, I am not as familiar with Diamond Platinum Z as the other performers, I can say that he performed with great enthusiasm and his music had a contagious rhythm. He also showcased his amazing footwork while remaining in sync with his background dancers. Ayo Jay performed “Your Number,” his huge breakout hit; this song has gained a vast popularity so quickly that it is hard to find a radio station not playing it. Seun Kuti, the son of the legendary Fela Kuti and the originator of “Afrobeats,” also performed an ode to his father; Fela! is the Broadway musical based on the lyrics and life of Fela Kuti. Davido performed his hits “Duro,” “All of You,” “Gobe,” “Skelewu,” “Life Is All About The Money,” and “Aye.” Flavour sang “Nwa Baby Ashawo,” a song famous throughout Africa, the West Indies, and South America; he also performed “Ada Ada,” “Adamma,” “Shake,” and “Sexy Rosey.” Timaya and Machel Montano performed their world hit “Shake Ya Bum Bum.” Timaya also performed “Bum Bum” and “Concur” featuring Don Jazzy. Jidenna shared an anecdote about his father with the audience before performing “Chief Don’t Run,” “Little Bit More,” and his huge hit “Classic Man.” The host, Banky W. surprised the audience with his songs “Jaiye Ori Mi” and “Yes/No.” And last but not least, the headliner WizKid closed out the show. He shocked the crowd by bringing out Swiss Beats who quickly performed some of his most-known anthems. WizKid continued the excitement by performing “Shabba,” “Slow Down,” “Don”t Dull,” “Caro,” and “Show You The Money.” He also sang his chorus from Drake”s “One Dance” and closed with “Final,” all of which the audience enthusiastically sang along with, in the words of WizKid himself, “the problem is I have too much hits!”
The DJs were skillful at mixing current Hip-Hop hits such as Drake”s “Controlla” with old school hip-hop jams and dancehall classics in between performers. It was an additional delight, when Banky W. acknowledged the significant number of audience members who were not of African descent. Afrobeats which originates from Africa is currently one of the largest growing genres of music in the world, but still tends to be quite underground in America. I was happy to see so many people of different nationalities enjoying the music I have loved since childhood. In addition to the pleasure of seeing several of the artists who fill up my playlists perform, two of the most moving moments of the night occurred when the DJs cut out the music and the audience continued singing without the aid of background instrumentals or the artists; the best examples of this occurred during Davido”s “Aye” and Wizkid”s “Final.”
The One Music Africa Fest experience felt as if everyone in Barclays Center belonged to one huge African village, and we had gathered in celebration together; it was absolutely beautiful. I enjoyed the concert greatly and am so proud to see such an event come together in the U.S. I look forward to many more Afrobeats concerts of this caliber in the future!