Monday, 4th December 2023

After Germany tour, Bantu set to deepen Afropolitan music in Europe

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
30 August 2023   |   5:33 am
Adegoke Odukoya, better known as Ade Bantu, is a Nigerian-German musician, producer and social activist, who is the front man of the 13-piece band, BANTU. He is also the founder of the Afro-German musical collective, Brothers Keepers.

A scene from the concert Photo: Klaus Langer

Adegoke Odukoya, better known as Ade Bantu, is a Nigerian-German musician, producer and social activist, who is the front man of the 13-piece band, BANTU. He is also the founder of the Afro-German musical collective, Brothers Keepers. His band, BANTU received the Kora Award (the Pan-African equivalent of the Grammy) for their album Fuji Satisfaction in 2005.

The NiGerman, who has been pushing Afropolitan vibes across the world as a music, which lifts human consciousness, says the genre, which he and Abby Ogunsanya created in 2013, has now become a strong platform to showcase alternative music.

Recently, the band was in Cologne, Germany, for its maiden Afropolitan Festival in Europe years after the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on human activities, the happy, smiling artiste says the concert was a success.

His words: “Afropolitan Vibes started here in Nigeria and it was important to take Afropolitan vibes to Europe, Germany, most especially, where we did the maiden Afropolitan Festival and it was a total success. We also had a panel of discussion: the role of women in Afrobeat, and in particular, the marginalisation of female voices and gender stereotypes and other conversations about the transformation of Nigerian pop, and how it has grown into a phenomenon called Afrobeat.

“We are going to have a second edition next year (2024) for sure. Afropolitan is important because it engaged you intellectually. Most importantly, it is also trying to identify the pointers when it comes to the urban African experience itself. That is what we tried to represent with Afropolitan. I see myself as a bridge between the continents, because I am privileged to be able to live in Nigeria long enough to call myself Nigerian and the same with Germany as well. What we did in Germany was a stand-alone festival.

“What is important is to make culture accessible, and engage people beyond their popular culture, and music. BANTU has its own audience, and we have always found a niche. And there are people that identify strongly with what we stand for. We are risk-takers and it’s not about maximum profit. It has been very difficult for musicians since COVID-19. We haven’t really recovered, but we can’t just stick our heads in the sand. We just have to keep pushing.”

So, what is the idea behind Afropolitan music?
He confesses: “To help spike the life of live music and we were able to achieve that. We had close to 200 artists that performed, involving all the top-tier artists apart from Davido. Legends and even the then upcoming, who are now celebrated artists such as Adekunle Gold were all there.”

Not only does it involve a live music concert, there’s a yearly music festival in Lagos, Nigeria. Every edition features three or four contemporary singer/songwriters, vocalists or musicians, who perform mostly original works that are firmly rooted in African musical origins of afrobeat, afrofunk, afro-hiphop, afro-pop, and highlife.

All acts perform with the 13 piece BANTU collective. No miming is allowed at the shows. He says some of the artistes who have performed at Afropolitan Vibes, at least once, include, Burna Boy, Victor Olaiya, Yemi Alade, M.I, Shina Peters, Nneka, Falz, Seun Kuti, Beautiful Nubia, Praiz, Waje, Sound Sultan, Brymo, Daddy Showkey, among others.

The maiden edition of Afropolitan Vibes Festival held December 16 and 17, 2016, in Lagos.
From 2013 to 2017, Afropolitan Vibes had a monthly residency at Freedom Park, a former British Colonial Prison on Lagos Island. However, in May 2017, the producers of the show announced a change of venue to Muri Okunola Park in Lagos and that the concert series would now hold every third Friday of each quarter.

The Afropolitan Vibe franchise also hosts smaller acoustic gigs called Urban Sessions. The show happens on an ad hoc basis and has also featured Afro-German singer/songwriter Patrice, Nigerian female vocal ensemble Adunni & Nefertiti, all performing intimate unplugged or acoustic set.

The last time when the group had a major tour of Africa, BANTU went to Mali and Burkina Faso. Now, these areas are no-go areas, and this doesn’t make him feel good about situation of things in West Africa and the Sahel region.

“I was surprised that Nigerians didn’t react to the first set of coups that happened on the West Coast. When I heard about Guinea Conakry, the attempted coup in Guinea Bissau, nobody reacted, and obviously in Burkina Faso and Mali. We have a song in our album that is called ‘10 times backward’ and the song reflects on what these people are doing right now, because we see them as undertakers. They are reversing the clock,” he says.

While agreeing that there has always been a form of resistance from artists such as Fela Kuti, Sonny Okosun, and other legends, he says, “the problem is that power dynamics come to play now when you look at what hyper-capitalism has done to Nigeria, what it means is that if you are a political artist in a sane environment, the public broadcaster would give you the room and the freedom to express yourself and play your music, but now when you look at Lagos for example with over 30 private radio stations, no one wants to rock the boat, because they are afraid that they would lose sponsorship and better still, when you have a situation where your government is stifling freedom of speech and when broadcasters are been fined, they start self-editing and self-censorship, which is a problem.”

He says: “So, it is not the art, it is the hostile environment in which we are, where people are limited in terms of expressing their fundamental rights and their freedom of speech. Art has not failed, if you would look around there are enough artists commenting even young ones in their 20s talking about their current situation, and the oppressive nature of the system they are trying to survive. Now, how do you amplify this? You need platforms and these platforms do not exist. They are relegated to social media. And how many Nigerians can boast of unlimited data, they only watch entertainment to escape from their problems.”