Last weekend the global institution that is Afropunk closed their week-long takeover of Brixton at the historic Academy, headlined by US supergroup August Greene.
Following seven days of talks, exhibitions, installations and music offerings, Afropunk brought together an evening of progressive music with artists who champion their particular genres and beyond.
Unfortunately, I made the mistake of stopping for food on my way to the venue and was stuck in a queue whilst the first act Bob Vylan played. I was at the back of the building by an entrance nearer to the stage and these Battle Of The Bands winners sounded like they really rocked.
Once inside the place filled up pretty quickly, people were taking pictures by the Afropunk backdrops and checking out the photography installation by BBZ Black Book, an online directory of queer women, trans folk and non-binary artists of black ancestry. The installation encourages people to have their photo taken as a record; of people of colour across the spectrums, to encourage thought and reflection of individual experience under the hast tag #friendsonfilm.
Indie-rocker Bakar took to the stage and delivered some great Indie, punk tracks with a twist that got the crowd’s attention. Reactions from the audience made It obvious that this guy’s steady rise will continue to flourish.
Artist, writer and historian scholar, Akala performed a politically-charged set as expected. With the full force of his artistry, a video screen backdrop depicting messages of protest, lyrics subtitling his performance and video footage (in sync) as he performed a collection of his Fire In The Booth series. No stranger to the Afropunk circuit, Akala gave us some powerful insight, as one of the UK’s new generation of activists.
DJ Illness fronted the Shabba set and brought the Academy into party-mode, hyping-up the crowd with classic hip-hop, r & b, mixed with some newer, internet viral type hits, alongside other DJ’s he played Afro beats tunes hyping the crowd into dance-offs and dance challenges.
August Greene casually entered the stage following a couple of tracks dropped by their DJ Active and wasted no time in delivering their freshly identifiable sounds to an audience who seemed well prepared for what was about to come. Fronted by Grammy and Emmy award-winning artists Robert Glasper, Common and Karriem Riggins, who have been creating together in various guises for some years. Most notably Riggins contributed to Common’s highly respected Like Water For Chocolate album and they all played a ground-breaking performance of the socially-charged Letter To The Free as part of their set at the White House, under the Obama administration, to which the single won them an Emmy award.
The three were joined at the Takeover: Brixton by fellow band members Samora Pinderhughes, who’s vocals gently laced through the songs and was someone I was hoping would be there on the night. Along with bassist Burniss Earl II and singer Muhsinah, who are all great achieving artists.
The group instantly sparked a vibe with the crowd, playing songs from their self-titled 2018 debut album, which encompasses beautifully mature, heartfelt, soul-lifting musical compositions with genuine lyrical prowess, as seen in the Afropunk performance of the song Black Kennedy highlighting black empowerment and racial identity. Throughout, Common gave a lot of physical energy, whilst maintaining his ability to deliver punchy-clear lyrics of good times, harder times and protest.
Playing material from both Common and Glasper‘s diverse catalogues, attendees got to witness works of musical genius spanning twenty plus years, with lyrics and compositions of social awareness that continue to be relevant today.
It can be hard to rank songs that form part of a musical journey like Glasper’s, but Afro Blue featuring Erykah Badu and Calls featuring Jill Scott, from his Black Radio 1 & 2 albums are strong tunes with some of the strongest female vocalists in modern music. Accompanying the group for both songs we saw Laura Mvula flawlessly float across the tracks to great applause.
Common freestyle rapped to one lucky lady who volunteered to get on stage and the band paid homage to their greatest influence the late Hip-Hop heavyweight producer Jay Dilla, whilst taking a moment to honour the recently fallen Mac Miller.
Afropunk The Takeover: Brixton certainly hit the spot with their closing show, the crowd seemed elated as they sang along to Common’s The Light, which brought the night to a warm end with fists raised high as a positive symbol of unity for the people.
nosa malcolm was at AfroPunk The Takeover in Brixton on Saturday 8th September 2018