Story by BILLIE MCTERNAN | Photography by SELORM JAY
On the second day, i.e. the SABOLAI RADIO Street Party, hordes of music lovers gathered at The Republic Bar & Grill in Osu to witness what some have called the “outdooring” of the new guard. Between the soulful folk bangers of Drunk Beggar Thief, the heavy drum and horn tunes from Fatau Keita and the HighLife-Flamenco fusion mashup of Kyekyeku – the Republic became a dance portal with bodies spiraling everywhere.
Kwame Write’s spoken word recital rode with Keziah Niambi’s jazzy delivery. That tag team set the stage for Kumasi rap king, Ko-Jo Cue, to drop his tunes to a screaming crowd. Halfway through his set, Kojo brought on a heavyweight by the name of Cabum. For those of you unfamiliar with these two, the MCs are the most exciting to come out of Kumasi in a while. Hip hop artists Lyrical Wanzam and Looney the TKR had a really fun and interactive set. Of course, they plugged right in and rode the rest of the show into a supa high-energy jam session. Day Two ended with Steloo and DJ Kev taking turns on the tables and as usual it was fantastic.
Siaka Diarra must be the most intriguing band in Ouagadougou right now or at least so they made us think. Three minutes into their set, the high capacity crowd was up and roaring. It was a bit like being transported to Burkina Faso and watching this eight piece ensemble with two Scottish artists on tenor sax and tambourine drum put on the show of their lives. The smoke machine created a white dust storm swirl around of the drum heavy Ouaga music which made it the more beautiful to watch.
Then came Washington, DC-based soul-sticking songstress Meche Korrect. For those who had never seen her perform but had heard about her, the hype certainly matched the performance. As one fan put it, Meche’s music is made for the big-hearted. Afro Harmony, the resident band, launched into their solo jams right after Meche. This was followed by African Relaxation Techniques [A.R.T.] led by Sewor Okudzeto who pleasantly surprised the crowd with their jazzy electro mashup. Anchoring his set with a slew of crowd pleasers, Lagos-based Afro-fusion artist, Villy, completely changed the vibe of the festival with his material.
His band, The Xtreme Volumes, faithfully delivered on an ear-shattering, heart-pumping set, with Villy breaking in with his signature chant, “Everybody say YEEEAAH YEEEAH!’’ and the crowd would chant right back. By now, hordes of people had gathered in front of the stage in what looked like a set up for a moshpit. The entire crowd was up on their feet, turning it up throughout Villy’s full set. Villy then returned to the stage for a one-song encore, after the MCs, The Sankwas Bois, got the okay from the happy crowd. We definitely want Villy back in 2014.
If anything, the festival proved to be a testament to the city’s devotion to Ghanaian-West African indie- fusion music. When the lights changed again it was Skillions Records‘ headman, Jayso’s turn to roc the mic. His latest joint, “Pizza & Burger” swung hard, revealing a peacock flow and gritty snares. Up to that point, everyone had been nodding in delirious unison. But the minute the “Pizza & Burger” riff broke out, a pack of girls in front of me began dancing hard. Jayso left a small squad of artists to continue the show from where he left off and they did. Shout out to Kwame Nsiah and his gang, their thing dragged out a bit but they represented. Efya always turns it out and this night was no exception. She blew the crowd’s mind with hit after hit, popping a lovely jig across stage and connecting with the audience in her seductive way. It was magical.
By now the sweat drenched crowd were on their last energy surge and what better way to expend it then on legendary Afro Jazz rap pioneer, Gyedu-Blay Ambolley. Strutting onto the stage amidst screams and flashing lights, Ambolley delivered a rare performance with his funked up band that had the festival grounds up and charged for another 30 minutes. FOKN BOIS came on like a chemical agent, slow and devastatingly sweet, with up-tempo numbers flashing through the middle. “Help America”, “Bee- Cheese”, “Sextrial Terrestrial Sex” and “Famous In China” were favorites with everyone. Song after song, FOKN BOIS took us out to space then around the world and back again.
It’s events like these that give Accra its edge. Not only are the artists going against the grain of mainstream radio but the parties are also kicking with DJs playing tracks from over the world: American hip hop and UK Dubstep, European electro and West African Afrobeat.
With an army of eclectic music-lovers behind it, IND!E FUSE is taking the West African independent music scene onto the global stage. In 2014, IND!E FUSE will return as SABOLAI RADIO Music Festival. Meanwhile, Accra awaits.