17-18 June 2017, Sefton Park, Liverpool, England
In June 2012, Africa Oyé - the UK’s biggest African music festival - was all set to celebrate its 20th anniversary in grand style. Sadly, the festival’s organisers ended up having to cancel it due to extremely heavy rain. This year, the weather was much kinder; Africa Oyé had its 25th birthday party on one of the hottest weekends in British history. And what a party it was!
Over 80,000 people descended upon Sefton Park in Liverpool over the two days that Africa Oyé was on - all in high spirits and full of life and colour. Some drummed. Some drank. Some fired up disposable barbecues and served burnt burgers and sausages to their nearest and dearest. All of them danced (in addition to the artists performing on the main stage, there were three spots - Trenchtown, Freetown and the Afrobeats tent - where guest DJs spun African, Caribbean and Latin tunes from the 1950s to the present day).
All but one of the acts on the line-up had played Africa Oyé at least once before, and their sets all had a ‘family reunion’ feel to them. The Mauritanian singer-songwriter Daby Touré looked cool, playing with borrowed instruments and a band he’d only met the day before. Ghanaian reggae star Black Prophet had the crowd chanting along with his revolutionary lyrics. Dobet Gnahoré was mesmerising and the hot young Zimbabwean band Mokoomba were Saturday’s headliners - tight, sharp and overflowing with energy and charisma.
One the Sunday, two Congolese acts stood out: the old rumba legends the Odemba OK All-Stars, and Jupiter & Okwess International, who smashed it with their psychedelic blend of Congolese rhythms, electronica and rock. Reggae legend Max Romeo (the only act on the line-up who hadn’t played the festival before) closed Sunday night with a string of classics from a career that has lasted for nearly half a century.
By GEORGE LUKE