The Sabolai Radio Music Festival at Efua Sutherland Park on Dec 20 – 21st, 2014, was all about transit.
In 2014, ACCRA [dot] ALT solidified some new things. We were able to expand our operations, building on an abundant response of love and excitement from Accra folks at the CHALE WOTE Street Art Festival; the launch of a web portal for ACCRA [dot] ALT Radio; and a new name and location for an alternative music festival that has been alive and kicking since 2010.
We transitioned from IND!E FUSE to Sabolai Radio for a few reasons. Sabolai means onion in Ga. We use sabolai to reference the die-hard determination and perseverance of the young men who travel from northern Ghana to Accra battling sun, street and traffic each day selling onions to make a living. Sabolai is an essential ingredient in West African cuisine providing the kick needed to a variety of dishes. This is the concept behind Sabolai Radio. Like an onion, the festival jams through layers of diverse West African music.
For the last four years, the festival has taken place at Alliance Française. In its fifth year, it was important to expand the show. We’re always pushing ourselves to encounter new challenges and experiences since this is the best way to grow. So we thought, what better place to outdoor Sabolai Radio for free than Efua Sutherland Park, a nostalgic green haven in the middle of the city? In a sense, the festival was a gift to the city and the many people who have supported our programming over the years. Sabolai Radio was also a fun music party in the park, capping off a tremendous 2014.
On both days, we set up Efua Sutherland Park with more than 20 food, fashion, music and tech vendors. Colorful murals painted by artists from Nima Muhinmanchi Art (Nima) and coordinated by Nii Ayi Hyde created a beautiful entrance to the festival. An art installation by Serge Attukwei Clottey of yellow jerry cans hung across a structure near the front. Trees were covered with funky fabric print and paper lanterns. Bike performances by Martin Abrokwah and the Flat Land Boys crew took shape on the lawn. Lounge areas were sprawled throughout using park benches, fabric covered tomato crates, and raffia mats across the lawn. Drinks were flowing from vodka to virgin and spiked ice tea, beer, coconut water on the rocks, wine, smoothies, bissap and more. Delicious food options included waakye, grilled chicken and goat, tilapia and banku, jollof rice, homemade donuts and apple tarts. Hundreds of festivalgoers chilled, vibed out to the show and sat talking, drinking and eating.
What makes Sabolai Radio so unique is how people feel free to relax and kick back. It’s a straight up #noflexzone. That spot where you run into friends, lovers and acquaintances, hang out, boogie and hear some great live music. The vibe was strong and consistent throughout the two days.
With more than 20 performers, the festival showcases a diverse range of music from Northern funk, AfroBeat, hip hop and jazz to highlife, R+B, pop, electronic, spoken word, house and more.
On Saturday, Delasi, Worlasi and Ewvdzi each gave spirited hip hop performances that had the crowd bumping heads. Akwaaba Sound System (featuring BBrave, Steloo, Beat Menace, Kyekyeku and more players) had the whole place jumping to their DJ/live band mashup. Kyeykeku followed with his band in a high-energy, live performance that had people feeling loose, free and chanting out curse words (a sight to see in a usually conservative Accra). King Ayisoba, as usual, shut it down – bringing acoustic kologo music and electronic voice together in a full steam performance.
Fatau Keita and band came with a serious northern Ghana funk flow that had more than a few ladies up and dancing. DJ Keyzzz shows why she’s the baddest on the 1s and 2s, with sets that kept the crowd pumped and charging the front of the stage. Steloo took it to another level this time with an unforgettable 9-minute performance. The fashion DJ was flanked by masked twins aka The Dub Monsters and unleashed a series of firecrackers all while DJing at the same time! Art Melody (featuring Stevo) closed the show down with a soul-stirring set and sharing some of that political hip hop fire all the way from Burkina Faso (dude was definitely on the revolution music tip and we can dig it).
On Sunday, the party continued with Gyedu-Blay Ambolley hyping up the crowd with his simigwa sound so much so that a conga line broke out near the stage. Dex Kwasi and Pappy Kojo brought crazy energy during their bass-heavy, hip hop sets leading loads of fans in a serious rhyme along.
Reggae sensation Knii Lante brought some Afro-Caribbean flavor to the show that was more than irie. Siaka Diarra, the polyrhythmic funk troupe from Burkina Faso had Francophone music lovers in a tizzy.
Wanlov the Kubolor performed a special acoustic set championing Kwaw Kese with a petition to “make marijuana free in Ghana.” He added to the political fire that Art Melody showcased on Saturday with a powerful song that calls out the monied elite and vents the frustrations of everyday Ghanaians who deal with unstable electricity and water, rising fuel costs and inflation, accelerating unemployment and an evolving housing crisis.
Sister Deborah, outfitted in chucks and a pink tutu, had the crowd singing aloud to hits “Borla” and “Uncle Obama.” Yaw P gave a stunning, electro rap performance surrounded in smoke and lights and ending with a classic mic drop to the floor. The Skillions Records set was that joint with Jayso going through all the crowd favorites from “Pizza and Burger” to “My Daddy is a Champ” and more. Accompanying band, The Sound Factory, brought blue magic to Sandra Huson’s jazzed up set. KIDI, the 16-year old crooner who stole hearts at last year’s festival, was no exception this time around. Dude had the ladies swooning and saying “Owwwwww!” KIDI brought the house down again with just one song. This caused a near riot with a number of women fans bumrushing the stage and demanding more. Next year, ladies!
MCs for the evening (and regular hosts of the festival since 2012), Mutombo and Simpol Tinz, kept the crowd glued throughout the show with their usual funnyman antics, fly Angelina style and Sankwas Bois flavor. Villy and the Xtreme Volumes closed down the show with high-gear Lagos funk, AfroBeat mojo and tons of funky rhythms.
Shout out to our partners in making Sabolai Radio 2014 a success – REDD Kat Pictures, the French Embassy au Ghana, LIVE FM, Absolut, Dark Suburb, Skillions Records, Pidgen Music, yoyo tinz and Beat Phreaks. The festival was an amazing experience and we look forward to a bigger and better Sabolai Radio this year.
Save the date, chale – the 6th Annual SABOLAI RADIO Music Festival returns December 19 – 20th, 2015.