We exported, we saw, we entertained and we conquered.
New York was smothered with a wave of Africa on July 23, 2016, as the first US edition of the One Africa Music Fest was held. It was an unforgettable night of Afrobeat and Afropop music, broadcasting live from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and presented by Upfront & Personal.
Coming to the U.S. for the very first time and hosted by Africa’s R&B King Banky W, the festival features live performances from Africa’s biggest music stars, including Wizkid, Tiwa Savage, Banky W, Flavour,Stonebwoy, Wale, Davido, Diamond Platnumz, Seun Kuti, Machel Montano, Jidenna, Don Jazzy,Timaya, Praiz, and Ayo Jay.
With set after set of unforgettable music drawn from the best in the continent. What went down on Friday was a masterclass in the all-encompassing and highly influential music from the black continent. It was Lagos meets Accra, meets Tanzania meets New York. Soca was also on offer coming in from the respected Trinidad artiste, Machel Montano, who in 2014 featured on 2face Idibia’s ‘Go’ single. Bongo came from Diamond Platnumz, the East African star whose star has risen tremendously across the world since 2013.
Ghana was loud, clear and hip, as Efya serenaded her way into hearts, with rich Afrocentric costumes and moves. Stonebwoy had a dancehall mini-fest, and the duo collaborated right on stage for what was more than a performance.
The Afrobeat contingent were the cream of the night, with Tiwa Savage, bringing all the years of showmanship, ruling African divadom, and sonic royalty to the stage. Hers was a performance not lacking in any element, as the dancers, the band, the vocals, and everything aligned to devastating effect. Davido was exuberant, performing his hit songs including ‘Tchelete’, and ‘Owo ni koko’. Praiz, Timaya and Seun Kuti also did come on.
Jidenna, sleek and suave, was electrifying. Decked in the a three-piece suit with a touch of African print, the Nigerian-born singer identified with his roots, giving off performances of ‘Chief don’t run’, before sliding into the hugely successful ‘Classic Man’. There was also some Igbo accent thrown in, and hugely engaging dancing.
Banky W, who had been the host of the night, switched mantles, and wore his most prominent skill – entertainer – before proceeding to make love happen with performances of ‘Jaiye ori mi’, Yes/No, among others. There were dancers, sleek moves, and nothing lacking.
Wizkid, the Starboy of Africa, and current commander of the incursion of our sounds into global spaces, held the headline spot. The ‘Baba Nla’ singer has had a special year, and a dream one. He was in form, as always, feeding off the crowd for a solo performance that had punctuations from Swizz Beatz, who was brought on and also Stonebwoy, who sneaked in a little Ghana into the set.
Starting off with his most recent single – ‘Shabba’ – he was turned up from the start, before launching into his ‘Wizkid Classics’ running off with tracks such as the smash hit ‘Ojuelegba’, the formative ‘Don’t dull’, and the banging ‘In my bed’.
An awkward moment was quickly averted at some point, where the singer expressed love for some female fans, and offered to take them home, saying ‘I promise I’m single’. But some female fans were having none of that, screaming “Tania”, the name of his most popular (ex)girlfriend, who coincidentally works as a top executive of the Upfront and Personal, the company heavily involved in the organisation of the concert.
But danger was averted by the singer, and he brought attention back to the music, performing ‘One Dance’, his single with US pop star, Drake. For the first time on live TV, the singer gave a performance of the song, singing his muffled part “Got a pretty girl and she love me long time, oh girl she steady on time’…
One Africa Music First was a success of immense proportions, and marks the first of many to come.