Our round up of the best diasporic sounds from The Great Escape festival for new music

The Great Escape is about discovering new sounds. The festival’s ear for innovation and fresh talent has made it not only a must for those in the music industry (it’s considered the UK’s answer to SXSW) but also one of the most fun and exciting happenings on the ever-growing UK calendar. Founded in 2006, the three-dayer now brings over 450 up and coming artists from all over the world – not to mention thousands of fish&chips-fuelled revellers - to the seaside city of Brighton each year.

One of the first bands to kick off the weekend was Native Sun. The London-based duo consisting of Mozambique-born rapper Mohammed Yahya and singer-songwriter Sarina Leah put diversity and positivity centre stage. Spreading their message of social justice and environmental change, they blasted their way through Creole tinged tracks as well as soulful anthems such as Summer Rain.

K.O.G & The Zongo Brigade, a nine-piece from Ghana via Sheffield, brought what they call their “heady brew of afrobeat, soul, funk and reggae” to the BBC-supported Jubilee stage. Fronted by vocalist K.O.G and MC Franz Von, their lively set proved that culture clashes can have serious rhythm. On the same stage was Paris-based Tshegue - led by the dynamic Congolese front woman Faty Sy Savanet – who belted out their take on garage rock, and the “swampy” sounds of Delgres (named after Commander Louis Delgres who fought the return of slavery in the West Indies) who delivered an assaulting mix of Guadeloupean zouk and fiery Louisiana blues.

Over jazz loops and glitchy bass, Denzel Himself rapped to you like you were the only one in the room. Apart from a guest slot from KEYAH/BLU (who features on his recent single ‘Melty’), he stayed true to his solo name - a nod to his polymath approach to music. With a finale that fell somewhere between a Nástio Mosquito performance art piece and a late night pub brawl, he left one of the most lasting impressions of the festival.

UK singer-songwriter Mahalia’s slot on the seafront provided a much needed blissed out vibe to proceedings. The Leicester-born musician’s ability to hold a crowd in the palm of her hand only strengthens each time you see her live (we caught her last at Afropunk London 2017). Expertly covering Solange’s ‘Cranes In The Sky’ mixed with NAO’s ‘Girlfriend’, alongside her own killer tracks, she asserted her position as a sophisticated performer.

Mahalia also lent her vocals to Kojey Radical’s high-energy set via his new single ‘Water’. The gig affirmed the festival’s eye for rising stars - having hosted a raw but immense performance by the British rapper in 2016, he’s gone on to greatness. With lyrics spanning the Flint water crisis to the legacy of Ghana’s iconic president Kwame Nkrumah, Kojey Radical’s show was an ode to diasporic lives.

Showcasing another killer year for new and globally facing music, under a scorching Brighton sun, The Great Escape proved itself to be a festival to be reckoned with.

Read our interview with TGE performer Aadae here.

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Published on 07/06/2018