We enjoyed the Palmwine Music Festival, making its North American debut in New York City at our partners, Capital One City Parks Foundation SummerStage in Central Park on August 27th. The Festival was founded by Nigerian rap combo Show Dem Camp. Show Dem Casmp festival founders describe palm wine music as “an infusion of hip-hop, highlife & alté,” a far cry from the original palm wine music of West Africa, which developed in the early 20th-century in seaside bars, with fingerstyle acoustic guitars, high male harmonies and sweetly swinging songs. Is this appropriation? A twist on history? Or an act of honoring forebears? We’ll let you decide. But in Central Park, some 5,000 fans—99% Black, mostly Africans, mostly young Nigerians—enjoyed the show immensely, singing along with their stars and showing off their moves. It was a fun night. Super friendly people. Mention any Nigerian artist you love and folks lit up.
The show opened with a selection of artists singing to backing tracks. Tobi, Nesta, Somadina and BOJ may not be the most high-profile names in today's African pop, but this crowd knew the songs and sang along with gusto. Next, from Toronto, Dipo brought his excellent live band to the stage, featuring a charismatic trumpeter and talking drum in the rhythm section. Dipo’s set ranged from roadhouse blues to highlife and dancehall reggae, decidedly alté!
For the main show Show Dem Camp took control, featured two interlocking guitarists—at moments you could hear hints of the original palm wine music in their sound. The band’s rhythm section was happening with excellent drums, bass and backing vocals. The lineup of guest artists hailed from Lagos and Toronto. Some sang to backing tracks, others fronted Show Dem Camp.
Tobi the rapper was a standout.
Ladipoe with knee-length dreadlocks got the crowd moving to reggae fused with Afrobeats.
Also in the mix were Falana...
Viva the Palmwine Music Festival! And thanks to the SummerStage team for bringing today’s African music to New York City. Here are photos from Banning Eyre and Sean Barlow.