On The Scene//Africa Oye 2013

Following last year’s rained off two decade celebration of Africa Oye it was promised that this year’s festival would go on “whatever the weather” – and go on it did! The weather might not have been cracking the proverbial flags but the people were out in force as if last year’s relocation never happened at all.

When we arrived at the much trod Sefton Park the sound of music was emanating from the trees with the traditional carefree joy and we knew then we had arrived. The usual wide selection of stalls selling everything you could ever need from ethnic instruments to the usual excellent food fascinated you into walking ever wider circles round the field. There really was a big selection of festival goodies this year - and although we weren’t tempted by those particular items we were eyes agog at the ethnic food.

Whilst eating we sat on the grass people watching as the world went by. In truth the joy of sitting down with good food and music all around is the true joy of Africa Oye. We’ve been coming here many years now and it’s still as good as ever. What’s changed? Nothing - and that’s the key – the music, food and community spirit remains at its core. The free festival is something that could get an ever rarer thing as the economy and government takes little action to improve but the economy of spirit here was still intact even if the funding wasn’t.

The spirit round the stage, where the all important music was drawing many an appreciative ear, was particularly strong. The sea of tents and chairs was packed full of observers high on music, drink and whatever other substances they could avail themselves of and just passing through you could see the core of the festival there.

In terms of music, the line up was as ever well chosen. Our host was stirring up the assembled crowd with the usual expertise in between sets and whilst we didn’t catch all the bands on this occasion we did particularly enjoy the sets we caught from Black Prophet and Son Yambu that drove the crowds wild with a delight rarely seen at your usual festival.

But the real fun, as they say, is not just with the music it’s the people. And as ever, many a familiar face was sighted in the crowd as we made our way round the endless stalls and happenings. Movema were as ever getting the crowds moving and a small group of jembe players were keeping the rhythm going with many a spectator taking a look. The sheer number of people looking happy and relaxed was astounding in some ways and even when the sun decided to go undercover to let the rain fall down few were deterred from enjoying themselves. It’s hard not to love Africa Oye – and this year it was even harder not to be impressed by the will to stay in Sefton Park and have some good ol’ summery fun!

Words by Sebastian Gahan.

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