See, I will be blunt: I have never seen anything like the Afro Nation concert in my nearly 40 years of existence. Never. Gosh! Yes I said it, and I will say it again and again.
I will find time to piece my thoughts on the Year of Return later. But undoubtedly one of the events that brought it to life and succeeded in bringing the world to Ghana was the 4-day Afro Nation concert. With an estimated 11, 000 on what was supposed to be the least attendance at the festival to an estimated 22, 000 people showing up on the biggest night of the festival.
I missed the first day of the concert because I could not miss seeing Rozay on an outdoor stage in 28 degrees Accra. I had also never attended Mr. Eazi’s Detty Rave concert and I felt this year was not one I was going to miss it. Mr. Eazi and his team brought home a beautiful concept, an enchanting and brave venue and gave an experience that was absolutely worth it.
My decision to skip the first day of Afro Nation meant that I had to miss arguably Africa’s finest artist of the moment, Burna Boy. The Grammy nominated Nigerian Afrobeat superstar headlined the start of what turned out to be an exhilarating and completely immersing 4 days of pure entertainment well crafted and put together by a group of Africans led in Ghana by the bald-headed and partly grey bearded Ruddy Kwakye.
People, whatever you heard about Afro Nation is true. Ignore the few naysayers and some who wanted sofas in the Laboma Beach sands and butlers on call to bring them drinks whenever they wanted. This was a true festival that was worth every cedi of the rate charged and every minute of the time spent.
Let me break it down!
Massive Artist Line-Up
There were 10 artistes lined up each day for the 4 days. Yes, that makes it 40 artists over the 4 day period. Big acts such as Burna Boy, Shatta Wale, Davido, Wizkid, Stonebwoy, Teni, Alkaline, Kofi Kinaata, Kidi, etc. It appears all showed up, including Dbanj though it appears he faced some challenges and so could not perform.
They simply didn’t show up, but they took their sets seriously and with an exciting audience of anything between 10K and 20K, any artist will be motivated to give off their very best. Organizers took cognizance of the stature of each artists and billed them accordingly with Burna Boy, Shatta Wale, Wizkid and Davido headlining each day.
Stage and Settings
People, I have never seen a stage so imposing. Each detail of the stage was deliberately put together with two inflatable monstrous cheetahs guarding it at both ends. Then there were barricades that ensured that fans were close enough to the stage and the artistes but far enough to prevent recalcitrant ones from jumping on (a few did though).
Organizers ensured that VIP ticket holders enjoyed more from their arm and a leg Investments whiles regular ticket holders were not too disadvantaged either. The super rich who wanted sofas to sit in a few meters above ground level while still seeing the stage got their wishes at a befitting cost.
The beach is long and it was all used effectively to house vendors and provide a long stretch for those that simply wanted to enjoy the beach while listening and watching good music on the imposing stage not far off.
Security and Environmental Awareness
Laboma Beach is not a small beach. In fact, it is a very long stretch of beach. Very clean. I have been there a few times prior to Afro Nation and I know this. One of the things that had intrigued me was how the organizers were going to secure the beach from riffraff who may not want to pay for the experience, or others that simply may have dreamt of causing trouble.
Well, the beach was secured and access to the concert grounds may have been the most consciously planned one I had ever seen. If you didn’t have a ticket and the right one, you were bound to end up at that barricade facing the gas station across the street. There were different ticket holders. Day regular, day VIP, those with tickets for all four days, etc.
They enlisted the support of the Ghana Police and Military who were very visible indeed to discourage any potential trouble makers. Organizers had their own team working with the local organizing teams and the state security and that simply allowed revelers to focus on having all the fun they can have.
It is worth mentioning also that the team paid for the distilling of the lagoon just around the beach. The cleaning team did a good job in ensuring that the litter from the previous day was all cleared before the new day, and that is worth commending.
If you didn’t think Ghana could ever host an international party with musical acts at the top of their game and with revelers ready to turn up, well it happened.
If you didn’t think Ghanaian expertise could be assembled to produce a show that rival any in any part of the world, well you saw it happen.
One other take out, which wasn’t exactly suprising, was the realization (yet again) that, our performers need to do a little bit more to promote their craft globally. Yes, they had the love from Ghanaians because they are out people and we know them. But pause a second and try answering this question: will any GH act be able to attract so much love and sing-alongs at Afro Nation Puerto Rico in March 2020?
Kudos Afro Nation Ghana
Literally everyone I know who was at Afro Nation loved the experience. Well, except for one or two friends who expected to have sofas put in the beach sand whiles they sit, leg-crossed with whiskey on ice in one hand and cigar in the other to watch a concert after buying regular tickets.
Afro Nation Ghana Country Director and Executive Producer, Ruddy Kwakye and the team he put together alongside the owners of the Afro Nation concept put in a lot of work to get us a mouthwatering and memorable festival. Good news is, I understand we will have Afro Nation in Ghana until 2024 at least.
Kudos to the team and to those of us who showed up to make it grande.
By Kwame Gyan