Afropolitan Vibes debuts festival to great results

In three years, Afropolitan Vibes has perfected its brand. The music is usually a combination of older artists performing alongside inventive newer ones. It’s also an utopian scene where everyone gets in on the same tickets, without designated VIP offerings, all guests dancing in front of the main stage even during a downpour

Keziah Jones performing during the acoustic sessions
Keziah Jones performing during the acoustic sessions

With its identity defined, the show set out to experiment even more by going the way of a music festival, which held on 16 and 17 December.

The festival was anchored around two urban sessions and two main shows on both days of its run. Around these were dance sessions led by Segun Adefila of Crown Troupe of Africa among other events at Freedom Park, Lagos. The urban sessions, which were live acoustic performances in the cozy Kongi's Harvest hall of the park, were outside of the standard Afropolitan Vibes tradtion, yet they had some incredible moments.

The sessions, hosted by Ade Bantu, opened with Adunni Nefretiti, the singing quintet performing an array of folk songs. Thereafter, Ayo Awosika and Mary Akpa performed together in a beautiful set that ended with a duet covering Solange’s 'Cranes in the Sky'. Aduke and Falana also performed and the sessions closed out with gospel-inclined Jazz artist, Nosa.

The second urban session featured a more varied set of performances, opening with the young Jinmi Abdul to an assured performance from Kaline, who in the middle of the set interacted with the audience about some Yoruba words, making a near-perfect prelude to Shina Ayinde Bakare who, at 71, performs with an infectious verve that pulled the listeners up from their seats to dance to highlife. Tomi Thomas followed his performance. Keziah Jones, electric as ever with his Blufunk rhythms and stories about his college days, meeting Fela and returning to Nigeria, closed out the urban sessions for the festival.

The two live shows, held in the usual Afropolitan Vibes tradition, were headlined by two fuji stars, Kollington Ayinla and Saheed Osupa. Kollington's music was a perfect fit for an Afropolitan crowd with a reputation for dancing with abandon once the sound is right. It's this established culture of openess to the music that makes the audience readily climb onstage to join the artists as they perform, that makes even the brightest of stars join in the dance as popular movie director Kunle Afolayan did conspicuously as Kollington performed. In true party tradition, naira notes came out to spray the juju legend, which is the ultimate sign of appreciation of a fuji artist by an audience.

Afropolitan festival highlights the commitment of its founders—Ade Bantu and Abby Ogunsanya—to live music. But even beyond the live nature of the music, it's a commitment to good music in whatever form it appears. The line up of the festival, from the young Terry Apala to the elderly Kollington to the middle-aged Saheed Osupa, for instance, represents different epochs of fuji. And the urban sessions had Keziah Jones and Tomi Thomas sharing the same stage, at the same level, with the unifying strain being the beauty of their sound.

As long as Afropolitan Vibes remains committed to this ideal of sound, no matter what format it experiments with and no matter how big it scales in the future, it's bound to draw an audience loyal to its vision.

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