Established in 1992, AFRICA OYÉ is the largest celebration of African culture, including music, in the United Kingdom!
Numerous are the historical and contemporary negative representations, such as corruption, disease, poverty and violence, of Africa. This festival, according to its website, “seeks to redress the balance and highlight the fantastic range of cultures, foods, music and artists that make this great continent one of the most vibrant and inspiring in the world.”
Initially, it was a series of cultural events that was held in the City Centre of Liverpool. However, its impact and significance has led to an explosion of growth, gaining visitors from around the world. To accommodate this dramatic increase of participants, Sefton Park has hosted AFRICA OYÉ since 2002. Its recent numbers credit an estimated 80,000 persons in attendance.
International in spirit and intent, it honors diversity while promoting unity. Artists and guests hail from Africa but also from the Americas, Caribbean and United Kingdom. Music includes African gospel, Afrobeat, Afro-pop, calypso, jazz, reggae, samba, soca, soukous and salsa.
AFRICA OYÉ, a non-profit organization and charity, has been able to present the festival essentially free since its inception. Funding for it has been sourced from the Liverpool City Council and the Arts Council England as well as from advertising, corporate sponsorship, donations, philanthropy and vending.
The festival, which occurs during the latter weekend of June, also includes Freetown, Trenchtown, The Health, Learning and Participation Zone and OYÉ Village. The Zone contains The Decade of Health and Well Being. Created in 2010, this initiative features activities such as deejay sets as well as workshops on African and Caribbean dance by Movema, the leading, international dance company of Liverpool. Also included in the Zone are climbing walls; holistic therapies and massages; sessions on drumming and percussion; and Capoeira demonstrations and performances. Additionally, there are discussions and booths that provide helpful information and services on various aspects of health.
Prominent at AFRICA OYÉ is the OYÉ Village. In the Village, there are more than one-hundred stalls that the festival declares, “selling the best food, drink, arts and crafts and fashion from Africa and beyond … along with long-time supporter ‘News From Nowhere’, one of the UK’s premier stockists of African music, with all the performing artists and much more on sale, it’s a great opportunity to not only take in some of the best roots music around, but take some home with you too.” Some of these musical artists include Bonga, Marcia Griffiths, Femi Kuti, Baaba Maal, Rebecca Malope, The Morgan Family Heritage, Osibisa, Tinariwen and Andre Tosh.
Present in the Village are arts, crafts, dance and music activities for children. These activities range from face-painting and storytelling to musical performances and entertainment engagement at Johns Collins Fun Fairs.
In 2009, AFRICA OYÉ collaborated with other national organizations, including Joyful Noise and Punch Records, extending their outreach. As part of the Black Routes network, the non-profit organization has since produced national tours and stand-alone performances. Funded by Arts Council England, OYÉ also was actively involved in The Legacy Roots and Music, an educational and performance program.
For more than two decades, AFRICA OYÉ has received numerous accolades including as one of “Top UK Summer Festivals” by Songlines magazine, “Top 50 UK Festivals” of The Times and “100 Best Festivals in Britain” by The Telegraph. Sonia Bassey, MBE, the longtime chair of AFRICA OYÉ, was nominated for a 2020 “Lifetime Achiever Award” of the National Diversity Awards.
The increasing interest and wild popularity in AFRICA OYÉ appear that it will continue to rise with the passing of time. The organization vows to press forward in diverse ways, especially in trying times, because “it is good to make people happy, even for a moment, or a day, or, at best, a lifetime.”
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