Firstly, I will start by saying that being asked to put into words my experience of Afropunk is truly one of the hardest tasks I have ever had to do. This is simply something that can only be described as LIFE. I apologise now for this account because it can not do it justice but here’s my attempt. A word of advice for all those who love music of black origin: GET A TICKET FOR NEXT YEAR.
I used to live in Alexandra Palace four years ago. It was the first place I lived when I left my family home. There’s something about the air, energy and vibe there that makes it so special, so rich. When I learned that London’s first edition of Afropunk would be there, I had the perfect excuse to visit the place that birthed my independence.
Afropunk’s origin is Brooklyn, New York and has been a annual festival for just over a decade, providing black people a opportunity for interaction with cultures and ideologies that stereotypically exist outside of black culture. This year London opened its doors to this idea for its residents.
Getting off the train I was immersed in this sea of melanin. The walk from the station to Alexandra Palace was a peaceful stroll; the walk to liberation. The outfits were incredible. I didn’t go LFW but I can’t imagine it came even close to the magic I saw. People of all walks of life were allowed to express themselves in a judgement free environment, something that most people do not experience everyday; sometimes not at all.
Given that we now live in a day and age were we watch and hear on a weekly basis of black people being killed by police, anything that celebrates black people and provides them with a safe haven is truly something special. Let’s also not forget about the Orlando shooting, Brexit and the fact that Donald Trump is even a presidential candidate. It’s safe to say that there’s a lot of shit things going on in the world. Afropunk couldn’t be a more perfect movement: no sexism, no racism, no ableism, no ageism, no homophobia, no fatphobia, no transphobia, no hatefulness. This is the sign hung everywhere to remind people that we as a community do not have time for bullshit.
Usually at music festivals, I have no care for anything other than the music. Afropunk’s stalls were filled with bold and original goods from real people. The clothes, jewellery and artwork told stories of people who genuinely love what they do. Every smile was warm and authentic so parting with money felt so easy. The array of food too was pleasing. It ranged from beautiful traditional Ghanian food to your typical burger and chips. All went down well with a cool beer and amazing vibes.
The music itself of course drove the festival. Goldlink is a artist that I was particularly happy to have watched. His energy totally captured the crowd very early in the day. The irony of the song “sober thoughts” was particularly amusing. He was definitely one of the best acts of the festival.
Kwabs has this voice that is beautifully haunting, but the way it fills a room when it’s heard live is something truly spectacular. The moment he arrived on stage I felt so proud to be British and to see someone really singing from his soul. Stand out performance.
SZA if I am really honest before Afropunk I hadn’t heard much of. Firstly her physicality is something to be admired and then her alternative approach to rnb made her a showstopper. A very nice surprise for my ears. Be sure to look her up if you’re not already a fan.
Grace Jones. Do I need to really describe? Crazy, beautiful, forever on point fashion, vibes and unapologetic. The End.
What I will love to compare next year when I will venture forth to other Afropunk festivals in New York, Atlanta and Paris is the music of black origin that is inherent to each city and how that changes the vibe and the dynamic of the festival itself. Hearing Grime music whilst eating, shopping and socialising as well as British music acts such as Akala, Lady Leshurr and Laura Mvula gave London’s Afropunk that extra touch of perfection. Akala in particular was so humble. He was in the crowd after her performed, supporting other artists and engaging with all the fans who managed to spot him. The support, togetherness and love created a vitality that I could only hope and pray, can occur frequently. I’ve never felt more proud to be Black and British. I can only wonder how previous festivals have been and what the future holds for it. My only gripe with the festival is that I personally would have preferred for it to have been out in Alexandra Park. There’s something about being outside in the open that gives that funky festival feeling rather than hiding us away but it didn’t stop the utopic, seamless, effervescent spirit that took all that attended that day. Let’s see what the next one will bring. Thank you London Afropunk. You were truly dope.
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