“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.
Recommended if you’re going on Sunday.
Then the whole field is brought to its feet and to smiles and tears by a group of children.
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.
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.
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!
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.
In fact a word about the signers.
Working incredibly hard but loving every moment of it they dance and sign, encourage each other and are a joy to watch in themselves.
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.
And as the rain falls heavily a thunderstorm breaks out on the stage.
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.
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.”
It also turns out to be the end of my Africa Oyé for this year. The ‘driving rain’ has now turned to ‘bucketing down.
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