Africa Oyé is back and in fine form as the UK weather dictates the pace in Sefton Park, Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody was there to see one of the highlights of the year.
TL; DR Moonlight Benjamin lit up Sefton Park with an absolutely storming set that was one of the best things we have ever seen at Africa Oyé.
But, let’s wind back to Saturday. The sunshine brought out the people and the Park was busy early on.
This could be the biggest Oyé yet, but it’s always the weather that dictates the numbers. And on the hottest day of the year so far, Saturday kicked off the festival with a scorcher.
Malawi’s Gasper Nari was the first act we saw. And one of the strangest. His home made, one string bass guitar, which he plays with a stick and a beer bottle, along with a cow skin kick drum are just the thing Oyé relishes. Glorious stuff.
Oshun’s hip hop was a real hit with the younger than usual crowd. Handing out sunflowers at the front to the “Crew” saw the band in the pit without having worked out how to get back on the stage. In the end they realised they would have to run around the back. No worries. Nobody was bothered.
Haiti’s Wesli was back for a return visit and is one of the highlights of the Saturday line up. His percussion driven style is perfect for summer days like this.
Taking a walk around the site in search of a beer there were a few things that came to mind.
The profits from the bars all go back into the Oyé pot. So that’s a good thing and, obviously, we approve of drinking beer for a good cause. But, single use plastic glasses should really be a thing of the past by now.
Thicker plastic and a deposit scheme so that people keep hold of their beer containers has been implemented in many festivals for ages now. And a gig with the credentials that Oyé professes to have really ought to be doing much better on that front. The same goes for the thousands of plastic water bottles and polystyrene food trays.
There really is no need, nor excuse for this anymore. Water can be sold in recyclable cans and food can be dispensed in compostable cardboard. It’s an increasingly urgent issue.
And while we hate to find any fault with Oyé, because our love affair with this most brilliant of festivals is well documented, this is an aspect that really needs to be looked at for future years.
We guess the organisers can never foretell the weather, but the heat was surely a factor in the queues at the bars, too. A bigger bar area, or more of them would have eased the pressure.
That said, the bar staff were on the ball and had pre-poured pints where they could. After all, it’s in their interest to sell as much beer as they can.
The heavy lifting on the stage was provided by Soweto’s BCUC and reggae legend Horace Andy who closed out Saturday.
BCUC (Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness) have so much energy. Horace Andy has the chill and he headlined the day in the most amazing fashion.
The Freetown and Trenchtown DJ sets were drawing big crowds too and by the time we left the site on Saturday evening they were both really buzzing. They are more than an afterthought. For lots of people these small stages are a big draw.
Sunday sees a more familiar UK summer weather forecast.
And the park is nowhere near as busy as it was yesterday. That’s to be expected and Oyés past have often seen fewer people in the park on the Sunday, regardless of the likely weather.
We’re met by a guy handing out Bollocks to Brexit stickers. He begins to lecture us as to why Brexit is a bad idea.
“We don’t need to be persuaded, mate”, we say. We doubt there are many people here in this most inclusive of festivals who need the lecture, either. We take some stickers anyway and put one on our t-shirt. Let’s see if anyone comments.
Senegal’s Carlou D is on stage. He’s been here before in 2010. He’s very welcome back with his laid back, almost lazy style. An artist who could have been much further up the bill.
Jah9 and the Dub Treatment had some rain to contend with, but there were ponchos being handed out and her enthusiasm kept everyone keen until the rain decided it was on a losing battle with the music.
But then came Moonlight Benjamin.
And a better act we have yet to see at Oyé. The Haitian voodoo princess burst onto the stage with her blues / punk thing. And was amazing with her band’s Gang of Four style grasp of rhythm and scratchy guitars.
This was a masterclass and a definite highlight of the weekend. Dressed all in black, with a black veil over her head, she was the real deal, spitting out her lyrics with a force that quite frankly left us numb. It was that good. It couldn’t get any better.
Sofiane Saidi and Garifuna Collective tried, but they were never going to get close. The evening rain wasn’t helping, but even so, Moonlight Benjamin has the crown.
Oh, yeah. And the Bollocks to Brexit sticker. Well, we’ve rarely been asked for a photo for our good looks, so, we’d guess the sticker went down well.
Images by Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody, Warren Millar and Conor Baxter