The 2016 theme for the international festival, which also plays in London, New York and Lagos, pays homage to one of the pioneers and legends of the Afrobeats music genre and a human rights activist, Fela Kuti. The festival will feature some of Sydney's top Afrobeats DJs including DJ Faswa, Ronnie OMuga, Dante Rivera, K2THAC and the infamous Soul of Sydney DJs, with special performances by Gervais Koffi and The African Diaspora.
The festival showcases the culture of the African continent through dance, live performances and many other aspects that create a culturally rich, enjoyable atmosphere. The event organisers: Junior Aboagye, Davis Evbuomwan, Emmanuel Adeyemi and Nick Mbogua share their thoughts about the rising popularity of Afrobeats and the ins and outs of organising the festival.
The festival is back for a third time. How have you seen it grow in such a short period of time in Sydney?
We are ever so proud to be able to provide the community with yet another Afrobeats Festival, which has being driven primarily by the level of demand from our patrons. Afrobeats is definitely on the rise in the Australian music scene and it brings us great joy to see the multicultural diversity at all our events. Our cultural sound is definitely growing on people, which is extremely pleasing to see.
The Afrobeats genre is one that is growing in popularity, why do you think that is?
It's a refreshing sound with rhythms that you can't help but dance to. In addition to this, popular Afrobeats artists such as Wizkid, Sarkodie and P-Square have successfully transitioned into the commercial market, creating songs with some of the biggest acts worldwide, which has helped spread the sound even further.
Fela Kuti is the theme this time around; other than him being a pioneer of the Afrobeats genre what do you think were the main force behind choosing him as a theme?
Fela Kuti was pivotal in spreading the sound of Afrobeats to the wider masses, but it was his work outside of music, campaigning peace among Africans and for human rights was what certified him an icon. So it’s only befitting that we make him the theme for this year's festival.
There is a multitude of cultural aspects involved with this festival, including the music, dance and even hair braiding. What have you found to be the most popular with festival goers?
Diversity among the arts has really struck a cord with the SOA family, which is great to see. We make our best efforts to deliver something fresh to all festival goers, so they can all feel welcome and to also experience all facets of our culture. The music, however, is definitely a drawcard.
Along with showcasing some of the best Afrobeats music and the culture that comes with it, what is the main message the festivals looks to communicate?
In short, it’s about unity and celebration of our diversity. Come and be a part of our community and share the experience of this wonderful movement. We all have so much to offer from our different cultures and music is an awesome reflection of that. We want to bring people together and have fun while doing it. Our cultural differences are a strength and it’s something that should be shared; that’s why movements like SOA are so important.
By having such a culturally diverse festival in Sydney, do you believe that it highlights the importance of acceptance of other cultures through the use of music?
It definitely highlights the important aspects of cultural diversity in Australia, but we would not say that it highlights the need for 'acceptance' though. We are not trying to promote tolerance because that still implies division, we are trying to bring everyone together as one and celebrate our diversity as a positive strength that Australia possesses. Music is something that unites people, so what better way to bring everyone together as one than by sharing the beauty of the diversity among our different cultures.
We want everyone to be a part of this movement, it’s not just for African Australians. It’s an open invitation to all Australians and lovers of music to come and be an important part of us growing together. It’s up to our generation and the upcoming ones to push for unity and I feel like in our own small way, us as the founders of SOA are trying to do this through sharing our cultures through music and inviting everyone to be a part of that with us.
What is the most challenging aspect of organising this festival?
Sourcing live acts. There are not enough live performers under the Afrobeats genre within Australia. We hope that this festival, however, will be created as a platform for performers of the genre to have a stage to work on.
For those who haven’t been to the festival, what would you say to them to encourage them to try it out?
I would say come and try it out for the simple fact that it’s much more than a music festival, it’s a communal experience. We’re striving to get people together and connect through culture and music. We want people to feel a part of something and continue to grow with us.
And finally what are your future hopes for the festival?
To expand the festival nationwide and embed the genre of Afrobeats within the Australian music scene.
The Sounds Of Afrobeats Festival takes place at The Greenwood Hotel (Sydney) 15 October (which is Fela Kuti's birth date).