Chris Heasman on who to catch at this year's festival in Sefton Park (16-17 June)
For 26 years now, Africa Oyé has been bringing a little piece of Africa to the heart of Liverpool. If you're not familiar, it's essentially a weekend-long celebration of African (and, lately, Caribbean and South American) culture featuring food, drink, arts and crafts, a whole host of workshops and of course live music. Oh, and entry is free of charge. Not bad, right?
This year’s line-up at Sefton Park on the 16-17 June includes some of the most exciting upcoming and long-established acts in world music. From reggae to salsa to funk and more, you’re as likely to find something you know and enjoy as you are to find something new to love. Oyé!
Ghanaian singer/songwriter and humanitarian activist Rocky Dawuni is one of world music's most prolific stars, having been named on CNN's list of Africa's top ten global stars and shared the stage with legends such as Stevie Wonder, Peter Gabriel, Bono and Janelle Monae.
His music is a cocktail of reggae, afrobeat, high-life and soul music, and has been on the receiving end of some considerable critical acclaim; his sixth album, Branches of the Same Tree, was nominated for a Grammy in 2015.
Born in Portugal to parents of Cape Verdean descent, Lura’s sound is one that blends the folk songs of her heritage, traditional African rhythms and contemporary western music. She first found popularity in Europe with the release of Di Korpu Ku Alma in 2005, which was nominated at the BBC World Music Awards. Since then she's released three more LPs, making six in total, and has gone on to collaborate with a range of legendary artists across the world.
Sona Jobarteh is a multi-instrumentalist musician, lecturer and social activist. Hailing from London, her music posits the values of love, respect, gender and culture through musical styles that draw on her West African heritage. You're as likely to find her opening schools or speaking at trade conferences as you are to see her on a stage, but the latter seems to be where she really belongs: her first gig took place at the Jazz Café in London when she was only four years old.
Inner Circle - known to some as ‘The Bad Boys of Reggae’ - have been around almost as long as the genre itself. Formed in 1968, they've endured break-ups, member drop-outs and even the 1970s on the long road to success. All in all, the group (in whatever form) have released a staggering 29 albums, including re-issues and compilation albums, since their formation. Frankly, you’re never going to hear better reggae from anyone whose surname isn’t ‘Marley’.
Named for a region in Congo, this London-based five-piece are among the best world music bands in the UK. Their sound derives from that of the central African countryside, with a dash of the contemporary thrown in to spice things up. The result is a lively mishmash of musical traditions that’s guaranteed to get the room moving.
If there’s what thing Cuba does better than anyone else, it’s music. Oh, and rum - and dancing. Mostly music, though. Son Yambu, a traditional Cuban septet, encapsulate that Cuban spirit perfectly, whilst embellishing it with a twist of the African. Their vibe is tropical, their rhythm infectious - and their live show unmissable.
For 50 years, the Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou has been recording and touring their unique strain of music, which draws influences from all over the African continent. We're talking a bit of funk & soul, some Afro-Cuban dance, Ghanaian high-life, rumba and many more. They've released dozens of albums in their time, as well as hundreds of EPs, and are likely to be one of the most remarkable acts to play at this year's festival.
Known as the Mama Africa of the modern era, Mim Suleiman mixes the more contemporary genres of dub, jazz, soul and funk with the traditional sounds of her East African heritage. All this is underscored by a beautiful lyrical ability that covers topics such as oppression, love, unity and lineage. Most Western listeners, however, might know her track Mingi, which was the first African song to ever appear in a Grand Theft Auto game.
Nifeco Costa is a pianist and guitarist who descends both from Guinea-Bissau and Portugal. During the eighties, he formed a band called Mini Cobi who became something of a hit on the Bissauan music scene. Since then, Costa - as a solo performer - has released two albums and appeared at a number of festivals worldwide.
This Senegalese singer-songwriter is making her UK debut at this year’s Africa Oyé. Her unique variant of acoustic Afro-pop combines an array of complex, sprawling instrumental melodies with her own incredible voice. Her first single Businesswoman was a hit in her native Dakar and found success over in Europe - particularly in France, where she was chosen as the Radio France Internationale's discovery of 2014.
Main photo credit: Ean Flanders (Facebook)