Africa Oyé – a love letter to one of our favourite festivals

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Africa Oyé

Africa Oyé went the way of just about every spring or summer festival this year, the Getintothis team share some memories and favourite images.

This weekend June 20th and 21st would have seen Sefton Park once again rejoicing  to the sounds, sights and smells of African  and global music and culture as Africa Oyé takes centre stage in what would have been it’s 28th year.

For the many who have experienced this festival, it’s like an addictive drug and one, this year, due to COVID19, we will all now have to do some cold turkey as we pine for the lack of our annual fix.

It is without exception the best Liverpool weekend of the year and this photographer (sometimes writer) would say it’s the one weekend of the year that’s down in the diary as a must attend festival as soon as the dates are announced.

It’s not just the diverse music that makes Oyé so special, it’s the friendly atmosphere, the food, the drink and, perhaps, most of all, the fact that is a free festival for everyone, no matter who you, are to enjoy.

There’s always something new to discover at Oyé – often the names on the bill, save for a few exceptions will mean little to most punters. But the booking policy is always spot on. We would struggle to name an Oyé band with whom we were less than impressed.

And most years, there is a blinder or two pulled out of the hat. Nobody who was there in 2019 will forget the set from Moonlight Benjamin – hands down, one of the best things we’ve ever seen in Sefton Park.

Hats off, then, to Paul Duhaney and his team for giving us such a great, free, festival everyone can enjoy. And we will be sure to be there next year to get our fix of Africa Oyé 2021.

As a homage to Oyé we have collated some words and pictures from a few Getintothis contributors and Africa Oyé fans who will be joining us this weekend musing on what might have been.

There’s also an Africa Oyé playlist at the bottom of the page to keep you in the mood. Warren Millar

Africa Oye

I’ve had the pleasure of being part of the Africa Oyé team since 2009 and it’s been a privilege to see the festival reach the dizzying heights to where it now sits.

It’s gone from being Liverpool’s best kept secret to the UK’s largest celebration of African and Caribbean music and culture, and it’s a credit to our city.

When you speak to the people of Liverpool, they’ll pretty much always fall into one of two categories; those who love the Oyé weekend and everything it stands for.

And those who haven’t been to one yet. Ally Goodman

Dobet Gnahore

Dobet Gnahore is a singer from the Ivory Coast and one of the standout acts for me over recent years at Oyé.

Her high energy dancing and singing during her set as well as her striking looks has always stuck in my head and this is one of my favourite pictures over the years during Oyé.

There is always a great light show on and it just added to the vibrant colour of the artist. In my photography calendar Oyé is always first to be pencilled in and the highlight of the year, it will be missed in 2020. Here’s to 2021. John Middleton

BCUC

It was very difficult to choose one image from Africa Oyé, I’ve had so many great weekends in June over the years at Oyé.

The image I have picked though, is of BCUC at last year’s festival. BCUC, Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness are a South African band from the Soweto township.

Their music is described as “Afro-psychedelic future pop”. I was completely blown away by these guys and their sound.

Together with their energy and stage performance it’s one set over the years that really stands out. Other worthy mentions would be Yaaba Funk back in 2015, Black Prophet  2015 and 2017 and  Inner Circle (the Bad Boys of Reggae) in 2017. I shall miss all the Africa Oyé family this year but already looking forward to meeting up again in 2021.

Please support this great festival by buying some merch at their website. And lets keep this fantastic treasure we have here in Liverpool free. Warren Millar

Shades

The best Africa Oyé festival weekends are like the best holidays.

What you remember is the sunshine, finding some great food, unexpectedly bumping into people you know and discovering some excellent music. That’s what we will all miss this year.  Keith Ainsworth

Movema

When asked to submit a shot to represent Africa Oyé from it’s wonderful history, I find the
biggest problem is where to begin.

From the multitude of talented main and side stage performers, the hard workers back stage,
to the enthusiastic dance and musical classes being held.

Then there’s the vibrant market and food stalls, not to mention the diversity and beautiful
atmosphere in the audience enjoying picnics and barbeques, dancing and juggling.

So many happy memories at Sefton ParkGraham Peers

The Endless Journey

Africa Oyé is one of the best things Liverpool does.

Fixed in my calendar for the past 10 years or so, it’s a massive hole to have to have to give it a miss this year.

It’s not the only missing 2020 festival, of course, but it does seem to have touched a nerve with many people gathering together at the usual social media places to share memories and photos.

There have been hot ones, cold ones and even the one that had to be shifted to District in the Baltic Triangle because the weather was so bad. But that was great, too.

It’s that year, 2012, from which I have chosen this shot, Sefton Park was waterlogged and the organisers eventually had to admit defeat and accept there was no way they could get the stage erected. The ground was simply too soft.

It was a stripped down bill that appeared at District that year, but it was a great signal there is a lot of love for Oyé and the alternative venue was found within the space of a few hours.

We have had friends from London and Edinburgh come to stay for this weekend, just because it’s so brilliant. There, that’s the word. Brilliant.

We miss you OyéPeter Goodbody

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Oyé

It seems rather strange to have an Africa Oyé shaped hole in my summer.  I’ve been working with the festival since 2003, so it’s fair to say I’ve grown up with Oyé and it’s become an integral part of my life.
 It’s been an educational journey through the music of Africa and the diaspora, learning more about my adopted hometown and its history, and forging many friendships along the way.
 The solstice weekend is synonymous with Oyé for me, splitting the calendar year in half with my favourite gathering.  For me, the festival shows off Liverpool and it’s people at their very best, a truly diverse and inclusive celebration of music, people and culture. And, it’s completely free!  Let’s all help keep it that way.
 To the Oyé family – I’ll miss seeing you all in the park. One Love!  x  Dave McTague

Oyé Crowd

For a photographer, the festival crowd delivers delights at Oyé every year.
This group of people were watching others limbo under a piece of rope and the expressions on their faces are joyous.
Oyé is very much a family affair and the atmosphere is always friendly and celebratory.
We are lucky to have Africa Oyé take place in our city – it’s a cultural highlight of the year and never fails to entertain and inspire.  Terry Hindle

Oye Crowd

When I first returned to Liverpool about 6 or 7 years ago, I was unaware of Oyé, but it was the one festival that everyone, and I mean everyone told me “do not miss it.

Oyé epitomises multi-culturalism, all colours, creeds and ages. The atmosphere is second to none and the music is mind-blowing in its diversity.

I generally don’t do any homework before Oyé and therefore know next to nothing about most of the acts that play and just enjoy the surprises.

The performances from start to finish are world class, hell even the signing team are worth watching.

In the times we find ourselves in Oyé is essential and I think my picture sums up the joy and diversity that Oyé brings. Graham Smillie

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