From Chika Oleh, London  

Following two sold out shows in New York and Houston, the One Africa Music Fest, world’s biggest Afrobeats fiesta, held its 2017 edition in the United Kingdom at London’s SSE Wembley Arena on Saturday, May 13.

Organised by Paul Okoye, CEO, Upfront and Personal Global Management Consultants (UPGMC), the festival was aimed at showcasing the very best of African music. It kicked off with a VIP fashion exhibition at Four Seasons Hotel, Mayfair, London and brought the best of African designers and designers influenced by Africa together under one roof. They included Mai Atafo, April By Kunbi, Innocente Messy, DECO, and Luxury By Feyi. The event was attended by top music acts like Tiwa Savage, Awilo Longomba from Congo, Olamide, Falz, Alikiba, Victoria Kimani, DJ Spinall and DJ Abrantee. The VIP guests were treated to performances from Skales, Praiz, and Emma Nyra.

In fact, it was a night to remember for music lovers across Europe. The sold out event saw 12,500 fans from various parts of the UK and the world gather to the historic London Wembley Arena to enjoy Afrobeats from the finest artistes. Streamed live on (the online platform owned by US rapper Jay Z), the highly anticipated event was anchored by newlywed Banky W. The musician cum actor came back for the second time to host this year’s event, and although the show started an hour and half late, Banky was the perfect host and his energy got the audience excited in anticipation for what was to be a memorable night.

With 21 artistes on the bill and a late start, there was no time to waste. The show kicked off with performances from Eugy, Emma Nyra, Sonoman, Victoria Kimani, and Praiz who, with his rendition of Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, reinforced that R&B lives strong in Africa. Atumpan rocked the crowd with his hit ‘Da Ting’ and the concert went on with performances by Alikiba.

MI Abaga performed hits such as Action Film, Overkilling and Number One. Never the one to shun the limelight, the rapper brought on stage Yung L and Koker to perform their singles, Kolewerk and SOS. MI went on to introduce Banky W and the R&B singer pleased his fans by honouring his wife, Adesua Etomi, with a remix of ‘Yes/No’ to ‘Yes/Yes’.

While Ghana’s Sarkodie and South Africa’s Cassper Nyovest were able to produce flawless performances with hits like ‘Pon Di Ting’, ‘No Kissing’ and ‘Mama I Made It’, it was Awilo who pulled the house down with classics like ‘Bundelele’ and ‘Coupe Bibamba’. He also brought onto the stage singer Mohombi and comedian Eddie Kadie who rocked to ‘Korolina’.

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With short intervals to adjust sets, the breaks were filled with tunes from DJ Spinall, DJ OBI and Capital Xtra’s Abrantee. However, technical difficulties and the delay in starting saw 9ice only sing ‘two and a half’ songs. The veteran singer performed ‘Street Credibility’, ‘Living Things’, and ‘Gongo Aso’ with Greek-German Afrobeat act, Niki Tall.

Falz The Bahd Guy and King Shody gave one of the best performances of the night. Their energy was unmatched but both came to an abrupt stop midway because the organisers were running out of time. The “running out of time” theme continued as the first lady of Mavin Records, Tiwa Savage, took the stage and held it down for the female African artistes. The ROC Nation star, with a crew of sexy dancers, cut her performance short and rushed through her set, giving her fans only a glimpse of what makes her the nation’s number one. The same thing applied to Olamide, Phyno and Tekno who could not get through his track ‘Pana’ in order to make time available for other performers. Shortly after, the night’s energy hit the roof of Wembley, as Davido turned up the crowd with ‘Dami Duro’ ‘Skelewu’ and ‘If’. He managed to perform five tracks in record time before host Banky W rushed him off the stage.

With only three more acts to go and 20 minutes grace allowed by the management of Wembley to wrap up the show, Flavour came on stage and performed for about six minutes, while PSquare almost did not perform. Nigerian-American artist, Jidenna on the other hand was not as fortunate. Time was no longer on the promoter’s side, as the venue managers cut the power, signaling the end of the concert that started an hour and a half late.

Not only were the fans disappointed, a sombre Jidenna took to the social media. Trying not to blame anyone in particular for his failure to perform, he apologised to his fans for not performing, saying: “I was supposed to perform 2night but the show was cut off as I waited backstage. I’m disappointed that London wasn’t able to see me 2night. Regardless of who to blame, to make this our time we must be on time.”

This was such a shame and anti-climax to a concert that was filled with so many expectations. But what went wrong? How can the organisers have artistes of such calibre and not give them time to shine? With 21 of the biggest African artistes on the bill, timing is everything. If the show start time was 7pm but had started at 8.20pm, it will inevitably end with some artistes not using a live band, but lip-syncing to tracks and rushing their sets… or even not performing at all.

Although, the concert did not end well, as the rushed acts impacted negatively on the audience, the One Africa Music Festival was still a historic event that brought new life to Afrobeats’ fans in Europe, by showcasing what is to come on the African music scene.