Popular
Photo: Idd Nashid.

This Is What Nairobi's 'Africa Nouveau' Festival Looked Like

The Africa Nouveau Festival could not have come at a better time to ease tensions amid Kenya's political climate.

"The things that politics can't do, music can do."

Those were the words of Kenyan artist Muthoni Drummer Queen at a press conference prior to the commencement of the long-awaited Africa Nouveau Festival. The powerful statement came amid the irresolute political climate in the country after opposition leader Raila Odinga declared himself in President in a makeshift swearing in ceremony.


At times like this when the country could easily be divided, music is one of the few things that are effective in bringing people together. With that said, the Africa Nouveau festival could not have come at a better time.

This time the vibrant festival was a two day/two night affair and featured varied African acts from Kenya, Uganda, Senegal, South Africa, DRC and Sao Tome E Principe.

The theme of the festival this year was "AfroBubbleGum," a term coined to describe the fun, fierce and fantastical music, fashion or art created for the love of it. "AfroBubbleGum" calls out to the African creative who has long been constricted within the bounds of agenda art.

Photo: Idd Nashid.

The festival also served as a base for different fashion installations and pop-up stores and also featured a live look book leading up to a digitally distributed fashion magazine showcasing both creatives and attendees. Also included were film screenings of remarkable films and artistic works from African filmmakers or digital artists.

With all the sights, sounds and experiences this festival offered, you could say that a dynamic community of creators, curators and fans was formed over a two day period as everyone congregated to celebrate and enjoy progressive forms of music and art coming out of the continent.

It kicked off on February 2 with a number of rising stars from the region jump-starting the festival and setting the pace for the rest of the weekend. Nairobi's finest afro-house DJ Suraj delivered a lengthy but magical set of melodic and bass-lead tunes. Tunji, Shukid and Steph Kapela murdered the stage with their popular afro-trap renditions. With such a fine line-up to boot, the festival was off to a solid start.

Makadem. Photo: Idd Nashid.


On Saturday, we basked in the greatness of some of our favorite alternative acts such as Blinky Bill and festival founder Muthoni Drummer Queen who put on awe-inspiring shows to say the least.

Make no mistake, all the cool and trendy kids of Nairobi showed up for the extravaganza on Sunday as the festival climaxed. Makadem and the Electrique Bengaloo gave a tasteful performance of folk and benga sounds from Kenya all the way to Zanzibar. And our very own DJ Cortega delivered a dance-ready afrobeat set that got everyone on their feet.

The build up to Kwesta's headline performance was intense.When the rapper finally emerged adorned in traditional Maasai attire the crowd completely lost it. His lively renditions of "Ngud" and "Spirit" coupled with his captivating stage presence got everyone singing along as much as they could.

These photos capture some of the highlights on the stage as well as on the festival grounds. All photos by Idd Nashid.

Photo: Idd Nashid.

Photo: Idd Nashid.

Photo: Idd Nashid.

Photo: Idd Nashid.

DJ Cortega. Photo: Idd Nashid.

Photo: Idd Nashid.

Kwesta. Photo: Idd Nashid.

Kwesta. Photo: Idd Nashid.

Kwesta. Photo: Idd Nashid.


Music
Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

popular.