The biggest free celebration of African music and culture celebrated a record-breaking audience on a sunny festival Saturday, as Africa Oyé crowds took over Sefton Park.
Topping the bill on a packed opening day, and joining Oyé as part of Windrush Day, reggae legend Horace Andy rolled back the years with a closing set for the ages, but not before Liverpool and been blessed with mesmerising sets from the likes of Malawi’s Gasper Nali, and South African powerhouses, BCUC.
The Diaspora was well represented across the two days of main stage music with Haitian stars, Wesli and Moonlight Benjamin providing memorable performances – the latter of which, Getintothis called ‘one of the best things we have ever seen at Africa Oyé’.
Horace Andy wasn’t the only Jamaican star gracing the stage either, with roots reggae revivalist Jah9 and her band The Dub Treatment showing why she has already cultivated a strong following in the UK. Much of the younger crowd were also familiar with American stars OSHUN and delighted in singing along to the hip-hop duo’s set on a blazing hot Saturday afternoon.
Senegalese legend, Carlou D returned to the festival after wowing crowds back in 2010 and Algeria were represented for the first time on the Sefton Park stage as Sofiane Saidi and Mazalda brought their unique brand of rai music to Liverpool. The Garifuna Collective closed proceedings on the Sunday night with the Belizeans sending the crowd home dancing with a beautifully warm and rich set; their first on the Oyé stage since playing with the late, great Andy Palacio in 2007.
The next generation of Liverpool talent was also showcased at the festival, with memorable main stage sets from soulful, singer-songwriter Satin Beige (and her cello, Kije) and contemporary R&B songstress, Tabitha Jade.
The community vibe was as strong as ever with opening performances from Liverpool youth group Staged Kaos – who performed a moving tribute to Nelson Mandela – and a rousing show stopper from samba-reggae drumming troupe, Batala Mersey.
Artistic Director, Paul Duhaney said of the festival, “Liverpool has outdone itself again. The outpouring of love during the weekend and in these last few days from the audience and from those who performed has been unbelievable. We feel like we’re still on cloud nine and are so grateful to everyone who made this happen.
We want to keep this event free as much as everyone else and if everyone who had a great time could go to africaoye.com and donate whatever amount they can – no matter how little – we can make sure it does.”
The very best in Afrobeat, reggae, dub, funk, soul, hip hop, jazz and world sounds filled the park courtesy of the two DJ stages, Trenchtown and Freetown, both of which attracted bigger crowds than ever before and kept everyone dancing, even when the rain came down on Sunday evening.
Main Stage DJs Emily Dust and DJ Edu were also very warmly welcomed by the Liverpool crowd; the former making her Sefton Park debut to much acclaim.
The Oyé Active Zone celebrated its 10 year anniversary this year, with festival-goers of all ages taking part in the free programme of workshops across both days, hosted by Liverpool dance company Movema.
The drumming experiences proved ever-popular, and there was even an appearance from Wesli, who held an insightful cultural workshop before his own main stage performance.
Food traders in the Oyé Village once again kept everyone’s hunger pangs at bay, with authentic African, Mediterranean, Asian, English and Caribbean cuisine on offer.
There was the usual huge host of traders selling clothing, arts and crafts and much more to those wanting a souvenir of the weekend.
Environmental education was also given a high profile with Incredible Oceans and ‘Oyé’s Agile Plastic Tactics’ allowing revellers to shred their drinks cups in to flakes, melt them in a fantastic molding machine and see recycling happening before their very eyes.
Oyé’s mission is to keep the festival free and ‘open to all’ and nowhere was this more evident than on the main stage where BSL interpreters featured throughout the weekend – often translating an entire act’s set. The Accessible Viewing Platform also made a welcome return for wheelchair uses, and the festival site hosted a dedicated Access Tent featuring free BSL workshops.
“On a weekend of rain and shine – mostly shine I’m happy to say – Liverpool showed us more than ever why ‘the best festival audience in the world’ isn’t just a slogan for us; it’s 100% true”, Paul continued.
“I’d like to say a huge thank you to all our funders, sponsors, partners, supporters and friends; we couldn’t do this without you”.
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