Festival Memories: Top Picks

A word from Oye’s Artistic Director, Paul Duhaney:

As Artistic Director of the festival and as someone who’s worked with Africa Oye for over 20 years, it’s incredibly hard to pick my top performances. It’s hard enough to pick ones from each year!

So I’ve delegated this unenviable task to the various members of our team and Board of Trustees, and I have to say they’ve come forward with some great picks. They all get my seal of approval.

Like so many of our peers in the cultural sector, we were devastated at having to postpone this year’s festival, but reading through these highlights has reminded me how blessed we are in Liverpool to have this festival and as the cliche goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Do read on and let us know who your own picks are by getting in touch on our social networks @africaoye on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Remind yourself of who has performed at Africa Oyé over the many years in our Hall of Fame.

SONIA BASSEY – Chair of the Board

Collection of singers on Africa Oye stage

I’ve chosen my top 3 all from 2019; my first festival as Chair of the Board and a very proud moment.

  1. BCUC (South Africa, 2019) – a powerful and truly inspiring group from South Africa. It was great to link up with them again for a concert to celebrate the building of the new Nelson Mandela memorial too.
  2. Horace Andy (Jamaica, 2019)- a reggae legend and one of those artists you don’t realise how many of their songs you know. His performance at Oye was a great way to headline Windrush Day in the park.
  3. Garifuna Collective (Belize, 2019) – an amazing traditional band from Belize who sent us all home smiling last year at the festival. Brilliant to watch on stage.

ALLY GOODMAN – Marketing Manager

guitarists at Africa Oye festival on stage

  1. Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars (Sierra Leone, 2011)
    First Oye performance that made me go straight to the merch tent and buy a t-shirt! The documentary on the band is well worth seeking out too.
  2. Sarabi (Kenya, 2015)
    Just pure energy and passion channeled through supremely talented musicians. Hoping that they tour with their full line-up again in the future.
  3. Wesli (Haiti, 2016)
    An amazing set cut short by travel issues. I was so glad that he was able to join us again last year and show Liverpool what an incredible performer he is.

(Photos: Joe Speak (Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Satars) & Mark McNulty)

DAVID MCTAGUE – Head of Marketing & Partnerships

performers on stage at Africa Oye festival

With a programme as strong as Oye’s choosing a top 20 would have been difficult!  For me, working with Oye has been a journey of discovery…  here are some highlights, in no particular order.

  1. Tinariwen (Mali, 2004) – I’d not been working with Oye long, and I’d never heard anything before like these desert-blues-rockers – Turaeg nomads with a psychey, droney North African sound.
  2. Pat Thomas & Kwashibu Area Band (Ghana, 2016) – In the lineage of Ebo Taylor, this good times high-life set was just perfect for an Oye headliner!
  3. Fatoumata Diawara (Mail, 2011) – I’d never heard of Fatou when she played at Oye, back in 2011.   A truly stunning performance from the Mailan chanteuse!
  4. Jupiter & Okwess International (DR Congo, 2014) – An amazing Congolese outfit.  They’ve played Oye twice, but for me it was their debut in 2014 that’s lodged in my memory!

It was too hard to pick just a few… so a number of honourable mentions go to Sona Jobarteh, Daby Toure, Culture, Lura, Baloji, and Voodou priestess Moonlight Benjamin, as well as reggae artists Max Romeo and Freddy McGregor.  I’ve also seen some fabulous NW artists as part of the Oye Introduces programme, including NuTribe, Satin Beige, and MC Nelson. I also have to credit Oye for introducing me to UK reggae outfit Misty in Roots back in 2004, and Cote D’Ivoire’s Tiken Jah Fahkoly in ’05.  Baloji, Oshun, Akala, Odemba, the list goes on!

GAD KUJU – Trustee and Former Chair of the Board

collection of photos singers on stage at Africa Oye

The Africa Oye music programme over the years has had many dynamic musical genres weaving in and out of the diaspora with exciting rhythms and compositions that takes you on an adventure culturally and spiritually. (Thanks to the founder, Kenny Murray,  current and Artistic Director, Paul Duhaney). Loads of many great memories over the years. I really struggled to get these out.

  1. Mookomba (Zimbabwe, 2017) – A very exciting band. I loved the fact Oye was part of the European launch with the bonus of being on the legendary Jools Holland show touring the Album. The blend of musical styles made them an audience favourite.
  2. Jah 9 (Jamaica, 2019) – I knew very little of Jah 9’s live shows. With Liverpool being a Music City, it was great to see the how the Oye audience championed her passion of politics in her lyrics and the heavy dub roots reggae show was winner on all levels.
  3. Tinariwen (Mali, 2004) – The blend of the nomadic Tuareg, and the traditional African Troubadour cross over was something that didn’t fit into a box. Was a welcome surprise and a programming coup by Oye. The live show was electric. I was awestruck with the stage presence and the interplay between old and new. An amazing performance. Which was loved by all the Oye ultras and newbies and went on the Jools Holland as a testament.
  4. Moonlight Benjamin (Haiti, 2019) – Magical (VooDoo) in every way is my first thought as I remember sitting  down in the Photographers Pit. I hadn’t heard of Moonlight before and did not know what to expect. I was most impressed (blown away) by the set and the vocals range with Jazz influenced Blues you cant go wrong. Loved it.
  5. Femi Kuti (Nigeria, 1997)  (Birkenhead Park /Balloon Festival) – Long before I joined the board, I enjoyed Oye’s excursion to the Wirral’s Birkenhead Park / Balloon Festival. This was the first time I had seen Femi Kuti live. As a long-time fan of his father’s (Fela KutI) music I wasn’t disappointed with him keeping in vain with the Afro beat formula and a heavy brass section. It was a joy to see him walking around Birkenhead park in his agbagda (Traditional Clothes) meeting and greeting the fans. Great gig and very fond memories of the day.
  6. La fete de musique (2001) – One of my loves is, and always will be, hip hop so I was delighted that Oye could be so versatile as to deliver such an event (in conjunction with No Fakin). It was a very exciting time, with technology taking a front seat in music production. It was great to see Sain Super Crew from France and Killa K was amazing with his beat box.

GED DOYLE – Graphic Design, Visuals and Official Photographer

Collection of performers on stage at Africa Oye singing and performing

Over the last 25 years working with Africa Oyé has been an absolute pleasure and I have experienced some of the best live performances from around the world. Selecting just 3 of the many wonderful artists has not been easy considering the the talent from Mother Africa and beyond including; Odemba OK Allstars, Jupiter & Okwess International, Wesli, Akala, Fatoumata Diawara, Tinariwen, Mokoomba, Ba Cissoko, and Sarabi, it’s been an honour and a privilege to see them all … I have chosen …

  1. Baaba Maal (Senegal, 1997) What a night at the courtyard in Cream!!! To see Baaba Maal and hear his voice close up and loud was truly amazing.
  2. Marcia Griffiths (Jamaica, 2011) A special moment for me to see Marcia live and when she sang Bob Marley’s ‘Could you be Loved’ the Oyé audience like a choir joined in, the tears of happiness rolled down my face as i filmed it!
  3. Baloji (DR Congo, 2016) I still smile whenever I think about Baloji, what a great performance! while they were on stage no-one cared how hard the rain was falling in the Park.
  4. BCUC (South Africa, 2019) WOW!!! This band blew me away! BCUC encapsulated everything I have ever seen at Oyé! Their soulful, powerful, thunderous energy still resonates with me everyday!

RICHIE VEGAS – Trenchtown and Volunteers Manager

musician on stage at Africa Oye festival

Having played host to some of the Reggae world’s finest, it’s hard to pick an Oye favourite. But the memory of the first strains of Chase The Devil drifting across Sefton Park in 2017, courtesy of a top-form Max Romeo (Jamiaca), lingers the most.

Despite being one of West Africa’s greatest bands, Benin’s finest export – the sprawling, legendary Orchestre Poly-Rythmo – dispanded in the 1970s, before gaining the recognition they deserved via reissued albums and consequentially reforming in 2008 to great acclaim. To see them new tear up the 2018 Main Stage in spectacular fashion, in my own back yard, is a pleasure I will always remember.

I’ve worked in some capacity with Africa Oye since 2003, but in 2017 it felt even more familiar thanks to that year’s Oye Introducing acts. I met Dave Owen nearly 20 years ago in our 1st year at John Moores University, and to see him command the main stage alongside Anwar Ali, in complete sunshine, only slightly topped the sublime NuTribe & Butcha B immediately afterwards.

REBECCA DUGGAN – Project Manager / Artist Liaison

Singers on stage at Africa Oye with microphones

For my top 3 performances I’ve decided to focus on the festivals that have happened since I’ve been a part of the team – it’s different getting to be involved from the programming stage to seeing them on the stage so I’m focusing on 2018 and 2019 for my top 3:

  1. Moonlight Benjamin (Haiti, 2019). I’ve been obsessed with Moonlight Benjamin since I first heard her music, and it’s one of the sets that I ran from backstage to watch the full thing, she’s amazing and I feel so lucky to have seen her live and that the Oyé audience loved her as much as we do.
  2. Jah 9 (Jamaica, 2019)- an absolute powerhouse and advocate for reggae and female artists. Although it was raining, Jah 9 delivered such an amazing performance and delivered a massive performance which got everyone dancing.
  3. Lura (Cape Verde, 2019) – you knew I was going to go for all females, let’s not joke around. Lura’s set was full of life colour and joy. She’s got the best smile and we were all transported to Cape Verde for this set – thanks for that!!

That introduction aside, you better believe I have a couple extras to throw in…

Daby Toure and Mokooma from 2017 were AMAZING and seeing Akala was a real life high for me. Read his books!!!


performers on stage singing and dancing at Africa Oye

  1. Oshun (US, 2019) – New age hip-hop full of positive vibrations.
  2. Mbongwana Star  (DR Congo, 2016) – A performance full of excitement and energy, taking Congolese music to new places.
  3. Fatoumata Diawara (Mali, 2011) – With a smile on your face…”I was there”.

I feel very lucky to have grown up with the sounds of Africa, Jamaica & beyond and I always wanted to work for Africa Oyé since attending the festival from an early age back when it was over in Birkenhead Park.

Being part of a small team who all share the same love for Oyé is a wonderful thing, and every year it’s amazing to see everyone’s hard work come together for that one special weekend in Sefton Park.

ANNA MALONEY – Trustee, and former Artist Liaison

Collection of musician's performing at Africa Oye festival on stage

  1. Akala (2016, UK) – Spoken work and poetry, with such heartfelt sense of humanity in the world was inspiring and wonderful to hear first hand. Amazing talent and 100% beautiful human being.
  2. Dobet Ghanore (Cote D’Ivoire, 2017 )- such a stunning performance
  3. Finlay Quaye (2014, UK)- the first time programming wise we moved towards experimenting with widening the genre to integrate contemporary artists influenced by African music and culture, and as I think ‘Maverick A Strike’ was the soundtrack to my 2nd year at university in Leeds in 1997, so it has to make my highlights list! Your love gets sweeter every day…
  4. & 5. And, also Sona Jobarteh (2016 & 2018) and Lura (Cape Verde, 2018) were two powerful performances!

And for my honourable mention, it was my honour to welcome Paul’s mum to the festival on the years she could join us, and to see their whole family enjoy it all together, and for my mum also to be part of it each year too! The infamous Mama Maloney.

This just shows that Oye’s values run right throughout the event and organisation, its audiences, performers but also right through to back stage.  It is about family, friends and communities coming together – celebrating unity in diversity.