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AFRO PUNK 2016-London Debut

Poster for Afro Punk 2016 London debut - Underground England blog

Sometime in the middle of summer 16 – Ace Hotel, Shoreditch – hosted Afropunk’s coming-to-London party. In honour of Afropunk’s plans to come to London for the first time in its 11 year life, Shoreditch high street was filled with natural hair styles, glitter and fro’s. The festival originated in NY in 2005 and had since been to Atlanta, Paris.

Flip forward a few months to last week and the Afropunk festival finally landed in London.

North London’s Alexandra Palace housed the celebration that saw thousands of people walk through its doors. Ally Pally isn’t the first place you would think of when talking festivals but the September weather called for nothing other than one of our grandest indoor venues.

Afropunk LDN consisted of three huge halls and an outdoor (smoking) area. The primary room was reserved for only a colossal stage and bar that separated it from another section hosting food stalls and an expensive looking vintage car, complete with sharpies and permission for visitors to get creative. Colourful vendors lined the walls of the smaller but, dare I say, more exciting hall – offering artwork, jewellery, drinks, clothing and more. The secondary ‘Soulection’ stage was located there too. The third and most popular room, as far as Instagram is concerned, was full of grand trees and plants that covered a jungle/flower bed of sorts.

Photo of Afro Punk - 2016 London debut - Underground England blog

It was clear London had been waiting for Afropunk to hit its streets for the longest as the creative community came out in full force to celebrate cultures and share in their beauty. Afropunk brought with it the most in-your-face of Afro-Caribbean fashions – every type of braid, fro’s by the boat load, dreads, shells, beads, glitter, headpieces and that’s before I even mention clothing!

Organisers can be forgiven a few things since it was technically their first birthday. Being that its Afropunk people were hoping to have a choice of far more food originating from the Caribbean or Africa. The only Caribbean stall however was inaccessible for a line of 20+ people at any given time, not to mention the fact it was a bit of a mission to find.

Sounds in such a big venue are also not the easiest thing to control, there may have been a bit of vibration but overall when you’ve got such huge stages so close to each other you can’t avoid a little interference.

The fact that the festival was inside was different too, it changed the way people interacted, there was a lot less drunken behaviour. There was also this strange indoor market hall type vibe going on that left us with mixed emotions and a little confused as to how to feel.

Afro Punk - 2016 London debut - Underground England blog

The highlights of the event were the performers. The crowds were full of energy for every act and in return every act delivered. Newcomer and Mobo nominee Jorja Smith wowed all present with her sensual voice and effortless beauty. Soundcloud born Goldlink didn’t dare disappoint and had the crowd literally bumpin’ (into each other). South London’s Lyle Carner won the hearts of every man woman and child at the Soulection stage with his heartfelt rhymes and raw honesty. And that’s just to name a few of our favourites, of course we loved SZA, our Soundwave partners the Nova Twins (!!!!!!) and Grace Jones. There’s not much to say but – Grace Jones. Anyone lucky enough to see this icon in the flesh, let alone see her perform, should keep the moment sacred.

Every good thing needs time to grow and Afropunk in the UK is no different, the best part about this is that the festival itself is only 11. Next year, fingers crossed it comes back, we are expecting the event to be every bit as fabulous.

The love was radiating, the spirits were high, and it was really special to witness young people showing off their roots, connecting and embracing one another.

Underground Soundwave presents an ongoing series of reports on emerging and established bands with close-up Q&As, new release reviews and gig reports with a special emphasis on supporting diversity in music, women in music, independent labels and venues and the local music scene.

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