Africa Oyé 2016

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“Just a perfect day
Drink Sangria in the park
And then later
When it gets dark, we go home”

Day One of this year’s 24th Africa Oyé is truly one of those. Joyous music, good friends and Liverpool at our very best. So thank you all the musicians, sound engineers and organisers of Africa Oyé, Liverpool’s greatest gift to itself. And thank you Jennifer, Jayne, Jim, Clare, Simon, Ellie, Theo, Finn and everyone who stops to say hello.

Here’s how it looks.

Someone has to be on first. Rimka wakes up the still sleeping field.

Someone has to be on first. Rimka wakes up the still sleeping field.

A Nigerian lunch before the queues build up from Flavors of Africa.

A Nigerian lunch before the queues build up from Flavors of Africa.

Recommended if you’re going on Sunday.

Xam Volo. Easy like Sunday morning, on Saturday.

Xam Volo. Easy like Sunday morning, on Saturday.

Then the whole field is brought to its feet and to smiles and tears by a group of children.

Dancing, singing, rapping and twirling.

Dancing, singing, rapping and twirling.

The future of Liverpool.

The future of Liverpool.

Time for a sit down and a drink as the field fils up.

Time for a sit down and a drink as the field fils up.

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From Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania.

Next up…

Playing instruments they've made themselves.

Saida Kanda & Mavulu Kandonda.

Ifa Band.

Brilliant.

The field is dancing now.

The field is dancing now.

A classic Africa Oyé Saturday afternoon. After which the camera mostly stays in my bag as I do what I’ve always come here for. Which is talk happily to everyone I know. This is always my big formal celebration of every year. My Midsummer Dreaming, my Christmas, my Liverpool, my Home.

Long ago in my past I was part of the setting up of something called the Merseyside Music Industry Association. A combination, as ever, of all of us who wanted to make good things happen here. And amongst us was a Scottish guy called Kenny Murray who would always bang on about ‘the free festival of African music’ he was going to put on here. Well bless you and thank you Kenny for pulling the team together and doing exactly what you’d dreamed of. In 24 years I’ve never missed one.

And while I live and breathe I never will.

And while I live and breathe I never will.

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Nor, I suspect, will the cool dudes who come after me?

Nor, I suspect, will the cool dudes who come after me?

Dance on Finn and Ellie and Theo.

Dance on Finn and Ellie and Theo.

Dance on Jennifer and Jayne.

Dance on Jennifer and Jayne.

At the end of a tough week, such a perfect day. Another one on the Sunday?

Well not quite. This day I’m on my own though, so take a lot more photos. First of two reggae acts. I absolutely love reggae music and so does Africa Oyé. So these two bring bounce and light to what’s looking like an ominously dark day.

First, Sherri Ven Dyer.

First, Sherri Ven Dyer.

What a singer.

What a singer.

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Gets everyone going in a too brief appearance.

Gets everyone going in a too brief appearance.

As ever at Africa Oyé, Stephen Nze introduces the next act.

As ever at Africa Oyé, Stephen Nze waits to introduce the next the next act.

Feels like he’s been doing this forever, but his enthusiasm and knowledge shine through so powerfully. It just wouldn’t be Africa Oyé without him. Well done that man!

We'll come back to the signers in a bit.

We’ll come back to the signers in a bit.

"But now put your hands together for Randy Valentine!"

“But now put your hands together for Randy Valentine!”

The band starts up and after a couple of minutes one of the very best reggae singers and writers I will ever see walks onto the stage.

He’s young and only just getting his career going but for the next hour I know I’m beaming with happiness as I listen very carefully to the music and message of this gentle, peaceful, playful and completely engaging young man. If he wants to be whatever a star is then he certainly will be.

Even the signers are dancing to him.

Even the signers are dancing to him.

In fact a word about the signers.

These are from Project Riandu providing British Sign Language on stage with every artist.

These are from Project Riandu providing British Sign Language on stage with every artist.

Working incredibly hard but loving every moment of it they dance and sign, encourage each other and are a joy to watch in themselves.

Randy joins in the fun too.

Randy joins in the fun too.

Singing his fastest and most complex lyrics.

Singing his fastest and most complex lyrics.

And getting them sign-danced right back at him.

And getting them sign-danced right back at him.

To his delight.

To his delight.

It's now raining lightly.

It’s now raining lightly.

But we are dancing to the reggae music so everything is fine.

But we are dancing to the reggae music so everything is fine.

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Change of sign dancer half way through the set.

Change of sign dancer half way through the set.

Song after brilliant song done as duets in music and symbolism.

Song after brilliant song done as duets in music and symbolism.

Thank you so much.

Thank you so much.

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A slowie to end.

A slowie to end.

And that's it. Thank you and your band so much too.

And that’s it. Thank you and your band so much too.

In a harsh week you more than helped to heal my soul with your love and peace. Randy Valentine, coming soon to a record player near me.

Next Stephen announces 'somethink local'

Next Stephen announces ‘something local’

And as the rain falls heavily a thunderstorm breaks out on the stage.

Afro-Brazilian drums and dance.

Afro-Brazilian drums and dance.

And no words would be good enough for what happens over the next 20 minutes.

And no words would be good enough for what happens over the next 20 minutes.

So I’ll shut up while you watch and imagine the sound they’re all making.DSC03843 DSC03844 DSC03845 DSC03846 DSC03847 DSC03848 DSC03849 DSC03850 DSC03851 DSC03852 DSC03853 DSC03854 DSC03856 DSC03857 DSC03858 DSC03859 DSC03861 DSC03862 DSC03863 DSC03864 DSC03868 DSC03869 DSC03871 DSC03872 DSC03873 DSC03874

The truly incredible Katumba.

The truly incredible Katumba.

An incredible first couple of hours here on Day Two then. And though the rain could now best be described as ‘driving’ I’m still happy to stay and walk over to the Bold Street Coffee stall for a drink. As an ingenious way of marking whose drink is who’s, my coffee arrives with ‘Ronnie’ written on the cup holder. So as I walk back over to the music I’m delighted to be greeted by name by half the people I pass. Feeling more at home than ever thanks to one clever idea.

Now it's Sona Jobarteh.

Now it’s Sona Jobarteh.

The first female Kora virtuoso to come from a West African Griot family. Described in the programme for Oyé as:

“Breaking away from tradition, she is a modern day pioneer in an ancient, male-dominated hereditary tradition that has been exclusively handed down from father to son for seven centuries. Sona has modernised Kora music, bringing a rhythmic edge to her compositions that fits her remarkable voice.”

Mesmerisingly beautiful music it is too.

Mesmerisingly beautiful music it is too.

So thank you.

So thank you.

It also turns out to be the end of my Africa Oyé for this year. The ‘driving rain’ has now turned to ‘bucketing down.

So, sadly, I walk home and leave the magical village of Oyé behind me.

So, sadly, I walk home and leave the magical village of Oyé behind me.

Telling myself I’ll walk back over when the rain stops. Two hours later it still hasn’t.

Big love and thanks to the whole Africa Oyé team for this and your 24 years of sustained brilliance. Liverpool at its absolute best xx

 

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