CULTURE: ONE AFRICA MUSIC FESTIVAL - THE GOOD, THE BAD, & THE UGLY
Nigeria's obsession with partying, lateness, forming/packaging (the art and science of frontin’), and poor execution is amongst the many things that goes beyond the continent and plagues it no matter where folks go. One Africa Music festival made it very clear this past weekend the industry has a long way to go if they plan on competing in the global market.
A lightly dimmed Brooklyn studio space served as the setting of One Africa's Premium Fashion event. One day away from the star studded event, the festival organizers host a pre-party to celebrate the anticipation of the concert. With a last minute invite from the PR department of the festival, the invite reads a night of fashion, music, and R&B--whatever that was supposed to mean. Scheduled to start at 6:30PM, the event didn't kick off until 7:30PM. Barely decorated and quite hot it was evident the event was not coordinated well and off to a shaky start. The space filled of melaninated models draped in Ankara sitting and standing showcasing designs from Queen E. Collection, Chidex, and Ezinne Designs.
Barely filled up the DJ requested the crowd move towards the front to introduce the first performer—Kenyan singer Victoria Kimani. The night proceeded with performances from Nigerian singer Emma Nyra, Nigerian Houston-based rapper Bils, Ghanaian songstress Efya, and an impromptu performance from event host/comedian Chief Obi. Just as the event struggled to keep momentum, RL of Next and Chauncey of Blackstreet hit the stage to perform old school hits of theirs. The event initially listed Falz, Emma Nyra, Victoria Kimani, RL of Next, Chauncey of Blackstreet, and Wande Coal. However, towards the end of the night, it was made clear that Soft Work rapper Falz and Iskaba singer Wande Coal would not be in attendance for the event. If that was not bad already, what was even more worse was the failure to inform attendees about the absence of the two musicians. The R&B crooners closed out the event but struggled with poor sound and repeated track plays at the hands of the DJ.
Things happen but the show must go on! Leaving the venue it was official--we were hours away from the highly anticipated return of One Africa Music festival. 15,000 attendees and a line up only one could dream of at the famous Barclays stadium in Brooklyn expectations were through the roof. Last year, the One Africa Music festival brought the likes of Wizkid, Davido, Timaya, Tiwa Savage, Flavour, Jidenna, and much more. An epic night with minor glitches but nonetheless a night to remember. Returns are usually anticipated to be bigger, better, extraordinary--but most importantly game changing. However, One Africa fell short and found themselves fumbling and stumbling every single moment. Whether it was the poor management, communication, and distribution of press access to publications, excessive focus on after party activities, show order of musicians, lack of time allotment to artist, poor production and sets of the concert, sound quality, NEPAs light outage, or better yet the windows media player appearance on the jumbotron.
Despite the festival mishaps, there were some high moments that aided in watching without complete horror. Back for a second year in a row, EME boss Banky W served as the host providing multiple outfit changes and banter from time to time. The show kicked off with singer Victoria Kimani taking the stage performing hits “Show” and “March Along.”
Family Tree CEO Cassper Nyovest brought the South African swagger when he came on to the stage performing a variety of hits from “Ragga Ragga,” “Doc Shebeleza,” “2 Legit.”, and crowd favorite “Tito Mboweni”. Whenever, someone ask you if you’re up for something. Be sure to say “Sha-sha” (slang for “We’re ready”). Tell them Cassper Nyovest taught you.
As the night went on, fans were graced with performances by Efya, 2Baba, Alikiba, and Falz. There were several major moments that night but nothing topped the moment when Ghanaian dancehall musician Shatta Wale stormed the stage with all of Ghana to perform tracks like “Baby (Chop Kiss),” “Everybody Like My Ting,” “Kpuu Kpa Challenge,” and “Ayoo.” Still on a dancehall vibe, Timaya brought the party to the stage while performing "Shake Yuh Bum", "Sanko", and "Bang Bang". It was pretty hard to decide which one had the crowd more on their toes the most—Timaya’s back to back singles or his daggering moment on stage.
What would One Africa be without a little bit of sexy? Bringing all the flavor from Africa, the indigenous Igbo singer Flavour hit the stage in standard uniform shirtless and waist ready for gyration. Swooning the crowd without singing a line, Flavour begins to hype the ladies with his seductive moves and breaks into the first song of the set “Ada, Ada” a soft highlife driven track about his love for his “lady” whom he will marry. Flavour sets up the remaining of the set to be a scream-filled, steamy, and if you brought your girl or girl of interest consider her gone for now. Performing old and new tracks “Nwa Baby (Ashawo Remix),” “Sexy Rosey,” and “Baby Na Yoka” and several other tunes. Flavour definitely added to the humidity that night.
7 years since their iconic sold out concert at Amazura in NYC, the legendary music duo P-Square was live and full of so much energy reminding folks why they fell in love with them with “Ejeajo” to “Do Me”, “Personally”, “Chop My Money (I Don’t Care)” to their newer track “Bank Alert”. It’s not a P-Square show unless there’s a proper dance number, the musical brothers managed to throw in a bit of some MJ moves to woo the crowd. P-Square reminded fans how much they’ve been carrying Africa musically over the past decade. On the matter of carrying Africa musically, this guy carried the Summer on his back with hit after hit after hit. Mr. Slim Daddy aka Tekno made his way to the stage performing “Yawa”, and “Be” right before he stopped mid-way to interact with fans and make himself comfortable. He continued to perform hits like “Dance”, “Samantha”, “Wash” and “Pana”. Though his set was very rushed, it was nonetheless enjoyable.
Holding it town for the gals dem, Mavin Records/Roc Nation signee Tiwa Savage came on stage with her army of female dancers ready to dominate. From “My Darlin'” to “Keys to the City” to “Bad” Tiwa had the energy that kept the crowd screaming. With the fans still on 100, things got even more hype when MMG rapper Wale surprised folks with a small performance of “PYT” and fan favorite “Fine Girl”. Due to the birth of his daughter last year, the DMV-native was unable to attend the show. Never shy of his Nigerian roots it was great seeing him on stage.
Just when you thought the night was over, in typical OBO style straight off the plane from LaGuardia Airport from Atlanta. Davido is introduced by hype man, Special Spesh with an WWE Undertaker theme track playing. Off the high of a successful ongoing US tour, Davido is back in the Big Apple and hits the stage strong performing both classics and recent tracks from “Dami Duro”, to “Gobe”, “Skelewu,” “Aye,” “The Money”, “Fans Mi”, “Fall”, and the song you sing to bae or a guy to find out if he’s capable of cutting a check “If”. 30 billion in everyone's account, abi—we wish! We can all dream sometimes.
Overall, the concert was ok. Lukewarm at best. Not a show that you would regret not coming out for. Comparing the show to the one of last year, One Africa 2016 definitely trumps this year's without a doubt. Bigger venue, better line up arrangement, slightly better sound, more brand visibility and promo, and way easier process for press/media outlets. Several things could have changed the flow and outcome of the night from proper time management, pairing DJs with artist to create cohesiveness, and stage effects just to name a few. So many chances to be great but One Africa Music festival fell short. Moments from DJs scrambling to arrange songs, to artist lip synching or under performing, random pauses during Tiwa Savage, Tekno, and Davido sets to drink Pepsi (all brand ambassadors--but seriously, if dehydrated soda isn’t the smartest choice of drink and I don’t recall Pepsi being an announced sponsor. Just plain odd.) to poor dance numbers served as cringeworthy moments one should not be subjected to watch. A major moment that went unnoticed by folks, was South African DJ Maphorisa who mixed live and played the original track of “One Dance” followed by his rendition of “Wild Thoughts”. All that can be said is those who know know how big that was.
Great objective but poor execution. Being the first at something comes with several challenges. However, these ones are big ones that have to be fixed fast. Africa is under a huge microscope and Africa can not afford to look bad. Africa is the center of all things cool. With that being said, to whom much is given, much will be required. This is not the time for screw ups. A screw up for One Africa is a screw up for the entire African entertainment community at large and will and can be Nigeria and Africa's detriment if not taken seriously. It is the responsibility of those in position that matter to showcase the culture to the mass and create the standard. But when you fail to do so, take the mass for granted, and fail to perform not only are saying you are incompetent but that the consumer is stupid and not deserving enough of quality. A small word from the wise,“Eme ngwa ngwa emeghara odachi (in translation: Attending to issues at hand prevents problems from arising. A stitch in time saves nine).” or better yet “Do berra!"