Focus Organization Presents: Africa Unplugged Sep05

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Focus Organization Presents: Africa Unplugged

As soon as I glimpsed the line-up, my excitement sky rocketed. Not only did it spread across the African continent as deliciously as

butter on toast, but there was also a clear message that Africa Unplugged (AU) wanted to be more than just a concert. With a mammoth line-up – and donations of £2.50 per ticket going to partner charities War Childand Save The Congo – AU’s aim was to shed a big bright Wembley Arena light on the musical and cultural talents of the artists from the African continent, ‘bringing them together under one roof for an explosive demonstration of its culture and contributions to the world wide music industry’.

Hailed as Europe’s largest concert, the line-up promised performances from 2Face (Nigeria), Mista Silva (UK), Zahara (South Africa), Cabo Snoop (Angola), R2bees (Ghana), Sarkodie (Ghana), Flavour (Nigeria), DJ Arafat (Ivory Coast), Iyanya (Nigeria), Zakes Bantwini (South Africa), Femi Kuti (Nigeria), Chameleone (Uganda),Mad Traxx (Kenya), Winky D (Zimbabwe) and  Mc Inity (Zimbabwe). In reality, however, the picture was a little different to that of the multi-coloured poster advertising what we could expect live on stage.

 

Of the performances I witnessed, Femi Kuti, Tuface and Zahara’s clearly received the biggest responses from the crowd, undoubtedly due to them all being well established artists and seasoned performers. But everyone also reacted energetically, and with arms up in the air, to Zakes Bantwini with his ice cool South African House songs like Wasting My Time and Bum Bum, Cabo Snoop’s Kuduro beats (and dance moves) on Windeck andPrakatatumba, Mad Traxx’s Ita Waiter, Mista Silva’s Boom Boom Tah, Iyana’sKukere and Sarkodie’s sleek performance of U go Kill Me. Eddie Kadi was also a fantastically amusing host, with the right energy to lift the crowd’s spirit at any given moment.

From my position in the arena (the first front rows), the stage was visually striking throughout the acts and as each artist’s country of origin beamed fluorescently from the three mega screens behind them, I felt very excited to be a part of the very first AU. This aside – and I understand that efforts were made to find other female artists – I still feel it was a shame that there weren’t more ladies representing Africa at AU, not that Zahara didn’t blow the arena away with her live choir, vocal abilities and stellar stage presence.

What was a little upsetting for ticket-holders, it seemed, was that the poor time management backstage had a clear impact on the smooth running of the live performances. From memory, R2bees, Dj Arafat, MC Inity, Flavour and Chameleone didn’t feature at all – to my utter disappointment as I was all ready to get my Coupé-Décalé on especially for Arafat. Fally Ipupa was also due to perform initially, but after Wembley Arena received angry messages from a select few from among the Congolese community, the organisers cancelled his appearance.

Nonetheless, for me, it was long overdue that a venue like Wembley Arena hosted such a selection of African artists, organised by African promoters. Riding high on the wave of new African music hitting the UK scene, AU set their sights on a goal and managed to pull off a great concert – it just might not have done exactly what it said on the tin. Who knows if Dbanj and P-Square, who also performed in London over the bank holiday weekend as well, could have combined their musical powers together with AU, the results might have shown a greater unity among African artists and the message could have been monumental.

Let’s give credit where credit’s due. I did thoroughly enjoy the 12 individually entertaining performances I saw and I think Africa Unplugged has definitely helped mark the start of a new appreciation of African musical talent among younger audiences in the UK. It’s just a shame that they might not have fully capitalised on the potential impact of such an event. Overall, my experience was sonically positive and I hope that this is the first of many large scale concerts that push African music and talent into mainstream headlines.

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Focus Organisation