Africa Oyé for me always marks the start of the summer. It brings with it that early sense of hedonism that stirs inside the more hardened festival goes… within a family environment for everyone. But what started with glorious sunshine, ended with a monsoon.
Liverpool-based XamVolo brought my Saturday to a start. He and his band breezed through the jazz fusion set, creating a warm buzz amongst the early crowd. The afternoon saw Akala’s mesmerising and righteous hip-hop (including a toff financier alter ego who hates those “thieving Scousers”) cut over samples with a superbly crisp drummer.
With the sun setting on day one, the charismatic Pat Thomas and the Kwashibu Area Band ended with a smooth silky feel to the brass and keys, a driving insistent percussion and chiming guitar, the vocal harmonies were soulful.
In complete contrast to the day before, Sunday’s downpour didn’t dampen the crowds enthusiasm, despite the reduced numbers. Bilan’s acoustic Africana fell flat as the downpour began and crowds dispersed. Bilan, and follow up artist, Sona Jobarteh did not really get the attention they deserved as those remaining sorted out shelter, ponchos and umbrellas. The music was good, but drowned out by the rain.
Where there were once crowds of barbequeing, dancing festival goers there are now flocks of seagulls circling and diving for the morsels of yesterday’s feast. The die-hards braving the weather were rewarded by a bravura performance from Baloji. Hailing from DR Congo, he arrives like Little Richard, teasing the crowd with his stop-start antics and fronting a top band who blend blues, jazz and funk into the Afrobeat mix.
By the time Mbongwana Star came on to round things off it was so wet I couldn’t see past the hundreds of mini waterfalls gushing from my eyelids, but the atmosphere at Oyé has never been anything but welcoming and uplifting. Everything a festival designed to bring cultures together – wherever & whoever – they are should do. The city should be proud of its multiculturalism, after all the extremism recently, it’s refreshing to see how easy it is to integrate and have a good time. Oye is always one of the best weekends of the year, and 2016 was no different.