Finding Afrobeats In a White City
One writer's quest to find a space that felt like home after moving to Seattle.
I moved to Seattle, Washington right in the middle of the pandemic in December of 2020. The following summer Governor Jay Inslee announced the opening of restaurants and clubs. It was perfect timing for Seattle summer, but the challenge was finding a party or space where I felt at home, with people who looked like me. I wanted to find a place where vibes and community intersected while listening to afrobeats, somewhere I could go to every weekend. After asking around, I was told numerous times to check out The Afrobeats Party.
According to the 2021 US census report, Seattle's population is roughly 733,919 people, and only 7.1% of those people are Black or African American. With these statistics, when you think of Seattle, the first thing that comes to mind is not afrobeats. However, there's been a big movement brewing over the past years in the city, with Ghanaian-born, Seattle-based DJ Nayiram’s party catapulting afrobeats further into its musical consciousness.
The first time I attended The Afrobeats Party I went with some of my girls who had frequently been, but they did not prepare me for what I was about to experience. I didn't expect to stand in a line that wrapped around the block alongside, what seemed like, a sizable portion of the 7.1% of black people that live in Seattle. Once we eventually made our way inside Red Lounge, we were met with over 300 people singing Fireboy DML's “Peru” at the top of their lungs, as a sea of bodies were being taken on a musical journey. I was pleasantly surprised by how much energy there was in the room and the power afrobeats had on everyone moving to every beat.
Earlier during the pandemic, Nayiram saw how afrobeats was taking a hold through DJ sets on Twitch and Instagram Live. After restriction were lifter, he saw an opportunity for Africans and Black people in Seattle to experience what they were hearing online in person on a consistent basis.
Nayiram is an advocate of the phrase “put your friends onto afrobeats.” Using himself as an example he says, "If I have a Tanzanian friend, they will put me onto Tanzanian music, and If I have a friend from Kenya, they will put me onto Kenyan music.”
Let’s be clear, Seattle has other parties where people can listen to afrobeats. Some of these happened before the lockdown, but nothing as consistent as what Nayiram does at Red Lounge every Friday night.
The word about The Afrobeats Party has spread throughout the city, drawing the attention of people who want to experience what many Africans have onto for years. The sense of oneness and community I feel when everyone at the party sings along to Asake’s “Organise” or Mr Eazi’s “Patek" in unison is incomparable.
Nayiram once told me of the story of when Chance the Rapper happened to be in Seattle and wanted to listen to afrobeats. He was directed to Red Lounge but Nayiram was running late for soundcheck that night. The owners then called and told him to get to the venue quickly as there was a special guest in the building. He was confused, because the doors were not yet open to the public, but made his way to kickstart the party, and gave Chance The Rapper a taste of what Seattle had to offer in the afrobeats space.
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