On April 14th, Tidal announced that on the next day, Ms. Lauryn Hill’s sold-out Brooklyn concert would also be the debut of Diaspora Calling! Music Festival.
Ms. Hill would be the headliner and also feature performances from four Ghanaian artists – namely Jojo Abot, Mr. Eazi, Stonebwoy and EL – as well as musicians Wondaboy (Nigeria), Machel Montano (Trinidad) and Stephen ‘Ragga’ Marley (Jamaica).
We couldn’t help wonder if the inclusion of 4 Ghanaian artists was sparked with Ms. Hill’s trips to Ghana, most recently for a concert in late 2014 and also to visit Rita Marley who lives in the country part time. The concert is part of a three-day series by Ms. Hill called Diaspora Calling! featuring art and music by African and African diasporic practitioners. She shares with Tidal, “Diaspora Calling! is a collection of works intended to celebrate the rich tapestry of artists from the African Diaspora while also illumining persistent and irrepressible themes… Even if we work independently, we are a resounding collective voice, both reconciling and embracing our relationship to history, our origins, our future and to ourselves.”
Now back to the show. We stayed up till dawn to watch the whole thing. First of all, it was great seeing all the Ghanaian artists on that stage, especially for representation. It matters. Especially since the initial poster mislabeled Jojo as being Nigerian. We claim Mr. Eazi (who’s Nigerian) but has been based in Ghana for years.
Ms. Abot killed her 4-song set. Left the stage for dead. The music had such an immersive haunting vibe. The whole auditorium screaming #Toli was pure magic.
It’s amazing to witness her evolution as an artist – to see the growth, the deep inner work – she had to do to get to this point. She exhibits a kind of giddy freedom on stage that sparkles magic leaving those who are witnesses a bit dumbfounded. That smooth ragga-raw Ayigbe tone and funky Afro-Samurai gear.
Also representing Accra-town on the show were EL, Mr. Eazi and Stonebwoy. Mr. Eazi introduced his music as “Banku Spiritual” – an amazing plug for the culture by him shouting out #Ghana was a good look. But the band played like they didn’t rehearse his songs. The lead guitarist was exceptionally horrible at keeping the right rhythm. We were thinking Mr. Eazi’s “Skintight” would have been a naturally funky collabo with DJ Juls also playing at the event over some live synths, adlib track, kick ass bass and drums. But that didn’t exactly go down.
EL’s set was good and the decision to open with “Agbadza” was a great idea. The bor bor bor rolling drums gave a nice touch. However, where was “American Passport” and “Mi Naa Bo Po”, EL? “American Passport” tells a vivid story of a young Ghanaian’s fantasy of escaping chaos by migrating to a place they assume to be better – this is a direct connection with the NYC audience. “Mi Naa Bo Po” as a closer because it’s pidgin pop goodness and would stay in people’s heads. Ghana gospel music does not translate the same way in New York especially for a show of this nature. But either way, he represented.
And Stonebwoy, one question: What was it like to perform patois on the same stage with Jamaican and Trinidadian artists? We have to really dig deep into how we represent ourselves to the world. There’s a very real, multi-layered complex of inferiority that makes us think it’s better to sound like other people and any thing but Ghanaian.
A mega shout-out to Juls Nicco-Annan who wrecked it with his DJ set. Massive love to all the GH artists onstage. You flew the flag for us all.
Peep the entire show here and tell us what you think. Below check out our team’s favorite videos by Jojo Abot, EL, Mr. Eazi and Stonebwoy.