Africa Oyé celebrated it’s 25th anniversary in blistering sunshine in Sefton Park and Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody remembered to take his sun cream for a full-on weekend.
Africa Oyé is brilliant. We all know that and not only was this year was no exception, it felt like the best one yet.
Celebrating it’s 25th anniversary, it is, perhaps a testament to the quality of the festival that all of this year’s main acts, with the notable exception of Sunday’s headliner, Max Romeo, have played Oyé before. It seems they can’t stay away.
And neither can the people. Record numbers turned up at the weekend to dance and groove in the sunshine, or just chill out with a can of Red Stripe in hand and sausages on the barbecue. When Getintothis arrived on site on Saturday, the Review Field was already packed to the edges and, although it seemed Sunday wasn’t quite as busy (Fathers’ Day effect, perhaps?) the atmosphere was just a joy. A hat tip to the crowd, for without them there would be no Oyé.
The major draw is, of course, the main stage and it delivered in style and quality. Mokoomba‘s infectious rhythms and Black Prophet’s opening salvo of gnarly guitars were highlights on Saturday. So too was Daby Touré’s bouncy pop and Dobet Gnahoré’s gorgeous voice.
Sunday gave us Diabel Cissokho’s kora playing blues and headliner, reggae legend, Max Romeo. Jupiter & Okwess International were, perhaps, the highlight of the day with their Kinshasa dance vibe. Real treats all of them. From where Getintothis was standing there wasn’t a band out of place.
But maybe some of the best bits were to be found elsewhere on site. Oyé is always good for people watching and as we took a stroll around the park it was apparent this is a festival that brings people together. There’s precious little need for much of a police presence because the Oyé crowd pretty much looks after itself. Nobody behaves like a dick.
Andy Kershaw’s DJ set at Trenchtown was high-jacked by a football playing dog and nobody seemed to mind, quite the opposite, in fact. Photographer Bandele Iyapo had set out a mini-stall with his Brompton bike and 100 year old glass plate camera to display his photos and invited people to take one and pay what they liked. And so they did.
Face-painting and drum workshops saw queues of people waiting to take part, yet, happily from Getintothis’ point of view, the queues at the bar were manageable and we felt it our duty to oblige as the bar profits go to support future Africa Oyés. Drinking for Oyé seemed like a plan.
The food is quite something too with all manner of traditional cuisine – Getintothis opted for the SeneGambian mixed curry which includes chicken, peanut curry, a variety of veg, black beans and potatoes – it was phenomenal and left us satiated beyond belief.
As we left the site on Sunday we reflected on how lucky we are in Liverpool to have a free festival that time after time raises the bar for future events, not just future Africa Oyés, but free and paid for festivals in general. This is how to do it, Liverpool. Take a bow.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody and Warren Millar