There are increasing avenues for artists to connect with their fans in recent times. One new addition to the growing list is ”JulyFest”; an assemblage of some notable and alternative music acts making waves within the music scene in Ghana at present.
After weeks of promoting the event, which was staged to commemorate Ghana’s Republic Day, “JulyFest” lived to the billing as hundreds of people trooped to Crystal Park, East Legon to witness the unfolding event.
I arrived at the grounds when the energy god, AYAT was on stage. Performing songs from his well recieved “Zamani EP”, a bare chested, face painted with Adinkra symbols AYAT exuded the kind of energy that has become a trademark. After a set of performances, he brought out Raph Enzee and KiddBlack and together performed their collaborative tune ‘Pioto’ and “Barisujey” respectively. AYAT capped his performance with ‘IDKY’ to the approval of gathered crowd. It was revealing to see AYAT perform to a live band; a move which I reckon is the new direction he’s going.
The eclectic Wanlov and his sister, Deborah took the stage to render their anti- plastic campaign song in which they entreat all to ‘refuse, reuse and recycle’ plastics in Ghana. The two have been prominent advocates for a ban on plastic. With only a guitar, Wanlov also performed his sexually expressive tune ‘Toto’ which elicited an unsurprising response from fans.
By the time the MC for the night, Official Kwame introduced Akan to the stage, the hype was reaching a crescendo. Beginning with ‘Me Sika Aduro’, and ‘Akoma No Abuagumu’, Akan oozing with the confidence of a kung-fu master, was a delight to watch. He brought out Worlasi and together performed ‘Helebaba’ before veering into his ‘Konnichiwa Freestyle’. He capped his set with the palmwine highlife tune ‘3huru A 3b3dwo’.
The DJs of the evening, Eff The DJ, DJ Mitchy and Moorsounds took turns to shift the needle of excitement upwards; turning the grounds from a concert session to a club scene with songs from every top acts in the country.
The cheers was loud when M.anifest took over the stage and began dishing out verses of songs from his ‘Nowhere Cool’ album. With his DJ and producer, R^dical shifting through his extensive catalogue, he performed his King Promise assisted ‘Me Ne Woa’ to loud applauds. M.anifest hasn’t been an ebullient figure on stage. His performances have always been calm and it showed on the stage. On the night, many will remember him mounting the stage but not selling an experience which an artist of his calibre was expected, in my estimation, to deliver in abundance.
Looking all spruce up and bubbling with energy from the start, Amaarae was ready to thrill. And that, she did. With songs from her ‘Passionfruit Summers’ EP filling her set, she converted a couple of people who didn’t know her into fans. At a turn in her set, she invited a young boy on stage to sing. (The boy left the stage teary eyed from emotions or was it stage fright?).
Backed by a three male back up singers and live band, she switched the tempo up, traded call and response with the crowd and requested a volunteer on stage to do the asorkpor dance with her. As a first timer witnessing her performance, I guess the columns of my expectations were boldly ticked. She was vibrant, engaging, sometimes wild and full of positive energy that you couldn’t afford not to tag along.
B4bonah and Medikal were the last acts of the night; continuing with the good energy Amaarae had left prior. Performing all his hit singles like ‘Devil Is A Liar’ with M.anifest and ‘My Girl’, the MimLife Records act, despite winning the crowd over with the songs, pulled an average score for performance. His act wasn’t coordinated – he had too many people on stage, crowding him out at point.
Like Medikal who followed next, they each fed off the energy of the crowd. Medikal at one point had the crowd rapping line by line to his verses on ‘Grind Day Remix’ and ‘Otedola Remix’ respectively. (I was there for those specific performances). As the performances progressed, tiredness did set in. Both B4bonah and Medikal were gasping for breath, considering they were on stage for less than an hour.
Platforms like “JulyFest” should be the ‘rehearsal’ stage for artists to experiment with stagecraft as well as test their breathing, confidence and energy levels as they look forward to the big gigs.
The organizers of “JulyFest” did well with security. The use of both live band music and DJs ensured we got a right mix of sound and entertainment. The crowd at the event were also responsive, according each performer great reception. There are a lot of positives and negatives to be picked and hopefully next year’s event would be much grander and exciting. On the whole, the event lived to its expectations.