Highlights from One Africa Music Fest NYC in Brooklyn
I had the incredibly good fortune of attending the One Africa Music Fest in New York City. This, to me, was infinitely better than Coachella or Lollapalooza or any of those other summer festivals. One Africa was pretty much the dream event for me, with a spectacular lineup — Burnaboy, Teni, Diamond Platnumz, Tiwa Savage, Tekno — all my faves, except Wizkid.
I also had the good fortune of covering the event for Music Guide. I was live-tweeting all night from the Music Guide twitter, and surprisingly, rather than detracting from the experience, I’m really happy with the collection of little notes and videos that came of that. It means I can more effectively look back on it all.
The tweeting was hip and stuff, but I thought a review of the whole event was also in order. So here we are, my review!
Concerts are about the crowd- it’s not even a concert if there isn’t a crowd…and the crowd at One Africa was pretty remarkable. Not only Brooklynites or New Yorkers showed up —people from all over New England came to see their favorite artists, from college students to middle-aged married couples.
Needless to say, everyone was hyped. I myself drove four hours from Boston, MA to get to this concert, so I had been full of anticipation and excitement the whole way there.
Act I: African Time
This concert was supposed to start at 6pm, but it’s a concert, so we knew it would start late.
Plus, it was an African concert, so we really should have saved ourselves the stress of worrying that 7:30pm was a late arrival. Amusingly, the first act did not begin for another full hour after we showed up (around 8:45).
However, because it was an African concert, there was no dull, awkward waiting around for the main performers. DJs switched in and out to play some pretty great sets — I didn’t feel anxious about the start time because I was still enjoying myself.
Like I said, Wizkid was not present. But it felt like he was. Recorded music by him played before the start of the event, and between sets. You could feel the gravity of Wizkid’s massive presence in African music.
At 8:41pm an intro to the event finally began, and MC BankyW took the stage. He MC’d the whole evening, and actually threw out a few inspiring quotes. You’ll see throughout that I thought he was a surprisingly good MC (surprising because MCs are usually not good in my experience; everyone feels their job is just to stall during set changes. Lol)
Act II: Young Paris, Jah Prayzah, Speed Darlington, Casanova
At 8:55pm Young Paris took the stage. He played a few of his most popular hits, like “Juicy” ft. Olamide. Born in France to Congolese parents (one of those tweets has a typo) he moved to New York when he was 7, so this is practically his hometown.
Also, while researching for this post, I found this article from The Cut about him- and that’s about the last publication I ever expected to cover African music.
Young Paris Is Bringing Congolese Style to the Rap Game
I meet Young Paris (né Milandou Badila) on an early morning in March — coincidentally, the same day his sophomore…
The afro music nation is growing, fam!!
Jah Prayzah came on with a soulful rendition of Dzamutsana. And all my Zimbabwean friends went wild.
Speed Darlington was next, and again, BankyW was actually a pretty good MC, which is rare — I didn’t find myself having that “please get on with it” reaction to his MC-ing. He joked that Speed Darlington was “the ex-president of Nigeria”.
Casanova’s set was wild. This man stepped into the crowd, and he even pulled up a girl from the crowd to dance with him on stage. Wild.
Meanwhile, I was trying to figure out if the crowd members that got called up were plants or ‘real’ people…one always wonders…one of the later “audience members” was definitely a plant, though. You’ll see.
Act III: Diamond Platnumz, Teni, Rotimi, Afro B
Of course the natural delineation for “Act III” is when DIAMOND MUTHAFUKIN PLATNUMZ came on stage. The whole vibe of the place changed because #ThasHowStarDo. This was D I A M O N D. I myself had difficulty not freaking out because DIAMOND PLATNUMZ WAS A LIVE HUMAN BEING IN FRONT OF ME.
And like a true star, he started with “Tetema” and the whole crowd was wildin.
As an East African (albeit Ethiopian) I just had to be as hype as I could for this one.
I thought that Diamond would’ve been my peak for the evening. Then, with another bomb-ass intro from BankyW, the one and only Teni, Teniola Apata, took the stage. There were only two female artists in the lineup; Teni and Tiwa Savage. So, I had to be even more hype for this one. I described some of the reasons I love Teni so much in the tweets below.
Okay, now here’s what I meant by audience plants. This happened:
(You can hear me scream in the background when she asked “you love me?” lol)
As the intro for “Case”, Teni brought up a random white dude from the audience. Except, I was pretty convinced he wasn’t random because he sang some lyrics perfectly and his voice wasn’t terrible — what are the odds of all this? Also, in a random turn of events I met him in the crowd afterwards, told him it was unfair he got to get close to my idol Teni and asked if he could introduce me. We’re now mutuals on Instagram (sips tea).
Rotimi came on as Teni exited, with another one-liner from BankyW (did he practice these??)
I didn’t manage to get good video of his performance, but in the middle of it he took his shirt off and we knew it was about to be that kind of night…
I was in line for drinks when Afro B came on for “Joanna”, so I literally turned to the girl next to me and started dancing right then.
Act IV: Wyclef Jean, Intermission, Eddie Kenzo, Tekno
I’m glad Wyclef Jean was in the lineup — I think it was a nice tie-in to the diaspora performers that are everywhere, since Wyclef is Haitian. In a way, it felt like a genuine nod to pan-africanism.
At this point, ya girl performed some morally questionable activity in the name of Music Guide (ok, also in the name of me wanting to get closer).
My group had originally purchased seated tickets, so we were quite a distance from the stage. But some of us found out they weren’t really keeping close track of who was entering and exiting the front pit. So…we just kind of snuck over there…
…during Eddie Kenzo’s performance…
I appreciated that he actually said a few pretty meaningful words.
I was very happy we’d moved to the front when Tekno arrived, with his classics. This man knows how to make hits. Hopefully, I’ll be attending and covering one of his stand-alone concerts in the near future — look out for that!
Act V: Burna Boy
Yup. Burna Boy is his own act.
Do I really need to say anything? Okay, two words. African.Giant. *mic drop*
(and, by the way, he actually did a mic drop at the end. Lol, I felt bad for the sound guy)
(this is actually my personal fave Burna song by the way)
There was no Tiwa Savage or Harmonize, so two big name artists didn’t end up coming. I was especially disappointed that there was no Tiwa — that made Teni the only female artist in the whole lineup. They could have even brought Simi, or Yemi Alade…hopefully next time.
One Africa Music Fest was definitely worth it. Like I said, it was so much more than just a concert. In Diamond Platnumz encouraging the crowd to be proud of being African, in Eddie Kenzo using a controversial political slogan (make Africa great again) but also encouraging diaspora to move back and give back, in all of the performances, the whole night was just full of Afro vibes, and Pan-Africanism, and just all this love and happiness, with African people reveling unapologetically, being themselves without restraint.
It is in these moments that I am reminded that African music is not just music. It represents us, it is a force of good and healing, it connects us across the Atlantic and across 400 years of separation.
African music is so much more than just music, and One Africa Music Fest was so much more than just a concert.
I would definitely go again!