Roll on the weekend, and keep your fingers crossed for some sun – it’s all about Africa Oyé!
This weekend sees the 20th anniversary of Africa Oyé. In that time it has become the UK’s largest free African music festival, attracting internationally renowned acts and thousands of people into the city for two days of revelry in the sun (fingers crossed). Beginning in 1992 with a handful of gigs around the city centre, Africa Oyé has previously called The Picket, the Irish Centre, Cream and Birkenhead Park its home, eventually ending up in Sefton Park, such was its demand.
With this year set to be one of its biggest yet, we caught up with Paul Duhaney, Africa Oyé’s Project and Event Director. Duhaney, who expects this year’s festival to attract numbers of around 20,000 each day, has been involved in the festival’s success for the past 14 years. During that time, the festival has not only seen attendances swell, but also its exposure and profile. With obvious and understandable satisfaction, he explains: “National recognition has come from the broad sheets, even some of the red tops!”
We wonder what the typical crowd is for Oyé. “The thing about it is, we try to make it fully inclusive; no matter we’re you’re coming from you can go there and enjoy yourself. Anyone who goes is just there to have a good time.” For those who have been, you will know this isn’t an idle boast. A day spent at Africa Oyé is as free (literally) and easy as you want it to be. “You can go without a penny in your pocket and have a day out for free”, he adds. The message seems to be, ‘everybody’s welcome, you come along, you’ll have a good day out.’
A large part of that day out, obviously, are the acts. In the past, the festival has attracted Peter Tosh, ‘Queen of Reggae’ Marcia Griffiths and Femi Kuti. Duhaney, who sifted through over 3000 applications planning Oyé 2012, says we should look out for Samba Mapangala and his Orchestre Virunga. In a nutshell, we should expect “really good festival music; dance-y, Congolese rhumba from old timers!” The biggest name for casual fans is probably Brinsley Forde, formerly of Aswad, who he describes as “more rootsy” than the commercial aspects of his former band. While of all the acts playing this year, Yaaba Funk’s Afro Beast “is the album I’ve listened to the most”.
Complimenting the live music are a host of free workshops running over the course of the weekend. Fans of dance, drumming and singing will be catered for by the likes of Sense of Sound, Movema and River Niger Arts, while the usual extras are all on-site, including food and fashions. It would also be remiss of us not to mention the Oyé Inn, a 500-capacity beer tent serving the ice cold stuff!
We couldn’t leave without asking Duhaney about his dream line-up. Quick as a flash, he nominates Bob Marley. “Without a shadow of a doubt, Bob Marley is my all time hero. I’ve watched the recent documentary twice, it’s the best film ever! Fela (father of Femi) Kuti as well; he’s the person that got me in to African music … he’s up there with Marley.”
Owing to the weather, Africa Oyé 2012 will now take place Saturday 23rd at The Picket on Jordan Street, 5 – 11pm with DJs from the Oyé Inn performing at The Blade Factory on Greenland Street