Wizkid and Swiss Beatz at last year's One Africa Festival in New York City. Photo: Johnette Robinson

One Africa Music Fest Felt Like the Beginning of a New Era

As she held the door for her friend, a young woman said under her breath “that was the best concert I’ve ever been to.”

The crowds leaving the Barclays Center Friday night looked stunned after the One Africa Music Fest. On Flatbush Avenue, groups of friends seemed to float-by dressed in their best Lagos/New York/Accra/London street style style. And while the scene was rather subdued compared to the typical Brooklyn arena crowd it’s because everyone was quietly beaming.

The pride comes from the feeling of having watched history being made. Of watching Afrobeats finally arrive in America fully formed with American celebrity co-signs, a number one hit on the charts and a big-budget arena show.

But the best part about #oneafricamusicfest was the crowd. #style

A photo posted by Okayafrica (@okayafrica) on

While Nigerian pop-music has been commanding huge crowds almost everywhere it touches down, it has never broken the sonic-wall of the American relevancy, until now. Friday night at the Barclays Center—Beyoncé’s Brooklyn Cathedral, the home of the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Islanders—more than a dozen of the scene’s biggest stars not just showed up but really made a case for why African pop-culture is the next big thing.

Tidal members can re-watch the livestream here.

Tiwa Savage

The only woman in a lineup of 15 men probably was the best performance overall: dancing, singing, charisma. The videos don’t do justice to the feeling inside that arena when she hit the stage.

Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.

Flavour

A long-time star touted for his sex-appeal and gyrating hips, well, gyrated his hips while running through his hits.

Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.

Flavour and his crew.

A video posted by Okayafrica (@okayafrica) on

Diamond Platnumz

Repping Tanzania well with his fresh moves (and threads), he held his own and brought some much needed East African swag to the fest.

Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.

Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz brought the moves last night. #oneafricamusicfest

A video posted by Okayafrica (@okayafrica) on

Praiz

The (very much underrated) R&B singer opened the show with his croons and piano chops. His full voice filled the arena as concert goers began to take their seats for a night they’ll never forget.

@officialpraiz performing at the #OneAfricaMusicFest, Barclays Center, New York

A photo posted by The Beat 99.9 Fm (@thebeat999fm) on

#awomansneed #oneafricamusicfest #SpotifyXMusicMovesAfrica #praiz

A photo posted by PRAIZ (@officialpraiz) on

Seun Kuti

Adorned by Laolu Senbanjo’s Sacred Art of the Ori, Fela’s spirit was alive and well with Seun’s solid set of his father’s classics.

Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.

Davido

The crowd chimed in and sang along to Dami Duro, Gobe and more of his dance-addicting tracks.

Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.

Stonebwoy

The dancehall star and songstress Efya repped the Black Star as they wooed the audience with their collab song Hele Mi.

Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.

Timaya and Machel Montano

The pioneers of the resurgent, cross-cultural exchange between the continent and the Caribbean, shook the arena with their irie vibes while keeping the party going.

Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.

Jidenna

The dapper chief kept it solo and clean during his set with a masquerade dance and tales from his father.

Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.

Ayo Jay

Although his time on stage was brief, we couldn’t end the night with his Billboard charting hit, Your Number.

Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.

Banky W.

The host of the show kept the audience rolling in laughter while gracing us on stage as one of the early heavy hitters of pop music coming out of Nigeria.

Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.

Wizkid

Despite a little snafu towards the end of his set, the arena was electric once Wizzy Baby came correct with hits. He even dropped Drake’s One Dance like it was his own and surprised us all with a special appearance by afrobeats enthusiast Swizz Beatz.

Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.
Photo by Johnette Reed.

Many thanks to Johnette Reed for providing us with photos from the big night.

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