Gidi Culture Festival is shaping
a global future for African music,
one rave at a time

 
 

What are the best things in life? Many would say music, art, fashion, food and sport. These also happen to be the five pillars of Gidi Culture Festival (GCF). Now in its second year, it’s already established itself as the biggest annual beach party in Lagos.

The 2015 edition saw over 4,000 people head to Eko Atlantic, the under construction stretch of city next to Victoria Island, for daytime activities including an art installation, celebrity volleyball and football tournaments, pool bars, a market and a kitchen serving cuisine from all over Nigeria. Then after dark the main stage exploded with a wonderfully diverse line-up of artists from all over Africa. Deep afro house came courtesy of South African DJ/producer Gino Brown. Temi Dollface’s drama soul set was high on style thanks to her feathered epaulettes and peak cap. Rwanda’s Urban Boyz raised smiles with their stick-wielding afro pop dance routines. Burna Boy filled the air with smoke and reggae. Tanzania’s sultry Vanessa Mdee waved the flag for bongo flava. M.I. treated  hometown fans to his greatest naijapop hits. And Congolese legend Awilo invited audience members on stage for an impromptu dance competition. Needless to say, the biggest nyash won.

“It was amazing. Everyone made an extra effort to express their art forms through their performances,” says Chin Okeke, co-founder Eclipse Live, the events and production company behind GCF. “What we’re doing has never been done here before. We’re passionate about creating affordable, accessible live entertainment for the African youth.” Together with partners Teme Banigo and Bimbo Shittu, they launched GCF last year at Elegushi Beach with an all-Nigerian line-up, and furthered their ambitions with this year’s pan-African, cross-cultural approach. Despite the uncertain challenges of hosting the event at the end of a tense presidential election month for Nigeria, they stood their ground and GCF inadvertently became something of a post-election celebration. “It was a risk but one worth taking,” Okeke adds.

“It’s important to be part of GCF,” says Ghanaian neo soul star Efya, who delivered a powerful late night set. “It’s a way to make the African music scene bigger, gain exposure and connect with other artists.” As a direct result, she’s since collaborated with Vanessa Mdee and Seyi Shay (who performed at GCF2014) on a single. Mdee agrees. “We’re shaping what the industry will be in 10 years time. We can make it great by embracing what we have here in Africa and refining the music of our forefathers.”


 

“We’re shaping what the industry will be in ten years time. We can make it great by embracing what we have here in Africa and refining the music of our forefathers”

 

British-Congolese comedian and afrobeats ambassador Eddie Kadi, who jumped on stage all night to hype the crowd, also sees the big picture. “This local scene is now global. At this year’s SXSW history was made with the first African performances going on and I was privileged to host a panel with Nigerian acts Ice Prince and Davido,” he says. “So it’s beautiful to come to the source and see these internationally celebrated artists in their own environment. I’m feeling the inspiration and the roots. GCF isn’t coming from a big corporation, it’s from the people who love the music and understand the raving scene. And that’s why you’re seeing such genuine live performances.”

But there’s still a lot of work to be done, according to Okeke, who emphasises the lack of business infrastructure behind the African music industry. His mission is to induct homegrown sounds into the international market not only through live events, talent management and A&R but also through Eclispe’s Dreams Project. The non-profit programme creates opportunities for young people in the entertainment industries via workshops, internships and employment. This year they’ve offered a mentorship with NYC-based producer Synematik. “We’re creating opportunities for talented creatives to determine their own futures and become industry leaders.” It doesn’t stop there. By 2018 he hopes to take GCF to Kenya, Ghana and the USA with the first stop being South Africa. “The world is starting to listen and we’re bridging that gap.” 


Photography Anuel Modebe
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