Back To Our Roots Africa Oye, 2015

Back To Our Roots

Paul Duhaney, Artistic Director of Africa Oye
Paul Duhaney, Artistic Director of Africa Oye

This weekend, Africa Oye returns to Sefton Park. One man who knows African Music is Africa Oye’s Artistic Director, Paul Duhaney, it’s kind of his job, but he’s also a huge fan. It’s Liverpool caught up with Paul to find out who we should be listening to and what’s big in African music today.

First up, what’s the best way to get into African music?

There’s great access to this type of music now. Big music outlets like iTunes, Spotify they have sections covering world music where you’re more likely to find new things. Find a compilation and introduce yourself. Of course there are magazines. One of our media partners in Songlines – the definitive world music magazine – who do really good features on African music and different styles.

The thing to remember is, with African music, it’s a massive continent. You’d never hear pop music artists from Liverpool and say they define European music. It’s not all the same. The best thing to do is start with different styles. Push towards the Congo for one style, then move next door to Mali and you’ll find another style. Each country has its own music and you never stop learning.

Mbongwana Star
Mbongwana Star

What trends are you currently hearing?

There are a lot of different fusion bands around at the moment. Take Mbongwana Star (Sunday headliners at Oye), they’re guitar based. They take elements of rock music but mix it with traditional sequence music. It’s an amazing blend of cultures and influences.

Back in the day it was more about English artists being influenced by African artists. Now there’s a wave of African artists using a western influence and incorporating that into what they do.

What does that influence sound like?

Take sampling. In South Africa in particular, artists are sampling a lot of classic house tracks. Electronica is big in South Africa right now. I was in East Uganda last year. There are a lot of DJ collectives playing house music with African twists. The beats are really unique. It wasn’t just DJs but with live drums and the elements making a DJ show. DJ Edu (who plays Saturday) blends soulful house cuts.

In Angola, Uganda, Kenya and southern Africa they’re very much into dance music. It’s easy for street kids to make. They can get the technology, have bedroom DJ equipment and be able to produce and make their own music. In North Africa it’s more grime that’s really popular.

Sounds good? What else?

Well, there’s still quite a lot of traditional elements in African music. Take IFA Band (playing the Saturday). They’re a great street band from Tanzania. It’s been difficult to get them work permits as they have no home address, they live underneath a flyover in a nondescript shanty shack and hey make their own instruments. This is their first trip to the UK.

We’ve also got Afrobeats which is really popular in the UK right now, with youngsters from all nationalities. It’s competing with R&B and hip hop in clubs. DJ Edu, who has a show on BBC Radio 1Xtra on Sunday evenings, has been getting people in touch with new African music. He’ll definitely be someone to check out.

If you had to sum it up, what’s the future for African music?

It’s more popular now than it’s ever been before. When I first got into the business there wasn’t one radio or TV programme. There were two things featuring African music and that was Seven Seconds featuring Neneh Cherry and Youssou N’dour and Paul Simon’s Gracelands, obviously. What’s happened is that people hear it and see the music being performed live and they want to see it again. Thanks to the internet, people are more eclectic.

The upshot is you don’t have to educate people as much as you used to. We’ book bands that people may not have heard of, but we book real, genuine, quality musician and we handpick them for Liverpool and Africa Oyé. The future of African music is really good, it’s more accessible, it’s getting more airplay and people are really responding to it. It’s the kind of music that really makes you feel something.

Head to Africa Oyé this weekend and get into new (and diverse) African music.

Visit and follow @africaoye


Published: 15/06/2016