The music of Africa infuses much of the music of the modern world — rhythm and blues, reggae and Latin, to name just a few genres. Many talented African musicians have gone elsewhere to make a name for themselves, and now they are coming back to play in music festivals, and, their host countries hope, change Africa’s image.
From the deserts of Mali to the modern stages of South Africa to the beaches of the Gambia, music festivals are growing across Africa. Some of the key festivals showcasing the continent’s rich musical culture are Le Festival au Désert, in Mali, Sauti ya Busara music festival in Zanzibar, The Cape Town Jazz Festival in South Africa and the Festival Gnaoua in Morocco.
This week saw the first ever Back to Africa festival, aimed at bringing members of the African diaspora back to the continent. It was held in Batokunku, a small coastal village in The Gambia, and featured artists like Macka B, Greg George, Mafia, Fluxy, Tony Williams, McPullish, Frankie Paul, Kim Pin, Yvonee Akeba, Papa Levi, DJ Danny, and Sugar Dread.
It was organized by Neil Fraser, also known as the reggae artist and producer Mad Professor. Fraser was born in Guyana, but now lives in London, where he owns ARIWA Records. Fraser organized the Back to Africa festival in part to celebrate ARIWA’s 30th anniversary, but most of the artists were not signed to ARIWA. Fraser told the Gambian paper The Daily Observer that he hoped the festival would present a positive story about Africa.
The paper in an editorial wrote that it hoped the festival will become an annual event, and will “serve as inspiration for many more other Africans in the Diaspora to come back to the motherland to explore the African identity.” It hopes that through great music people will change their view of Africa from war-torn and poverty stricken.
Check out this clip from the Le Festival au Désert in Mali: