Created by Daju and British Underground for SXSW 2021, AfroFuture Sounds is a groundbreaking showcase that was produced between London, Nigeria and South Africa, and featured outstanding musical performances from Loshh, Wavy The Creator, Darkoo, Tomi Agape, Bongeziwe Mabandla and Br3nya.
Hosted by BBC 1Xtra presenter and DJ Remi Burgz, who is one of the rare Black women DJs taking over the music industry, she opened up the showcase, with an explanation of the backstory behind afrobeats, before introducing the artists performing at AfroFuture Sounds this year.
London artist Loshh had the honour of opening the AfroFuture Sounds showcase, starting with his track “E Bere”. For his performance, Loshh was accompanied by a 5-piece band on percussion, keyboards, and guitar, and he is surrounded by his band in a disco atmosphere, with a ball spinning above the musicians.
“E Bere” starts with a long instrumental melody before Loshh starts to add vocalizing, and you are pulled directly into the spirit and the universe of the song. A song with an important message about accepting the color of ones skin and about honouring black women.
Loshh continues his performance with his second track “Feelam”, still surrounded by the strength of his live instrumentation. The track begins with a very catchy melody and Loshh does not hesitate to move on the vibes of his track.
The Nigerian singer has a powerful and vivid voice, it almost sounds like he is roaring. With his lyrics “Move your body” and “don’t be shy“, Loshh makes us want to let go and dance throughout his track.
Born in Nigeria and raised in the US, and known for her musical dexterity but also for her fashion design, photography and filmmaking talent, Wavy The Creator was the next artist to perform on the AfroFuture Sounds stage.
For the show, she is in a small minimalist room with touches of blue lights and white cushions backed by a guitarist and a MPC drum machine to perform two songs in what feels like a private concert for viewers.
Firstly, we get a rendition of her debut single, 2017’s “H.I.G.H (Her In The Greater Heights)”. The song is all about love and feelings for someone you like – themes that we can feel throughout her live show.
The second track is titled “Stella Riddim” which is again all about love, finding your own way. The rhythms are much more afro-leaning with more of a dance vibe to it. The song isn’t out yet but it will be featured on her upcoming project and we can’t wait to hear it – so this is definitely an exclusive for the music festival.
It was then the turn of British Nigerian singer and songwriter Tomi Agape, who gave a great performance. The singer from North West London transported us into her alté universe with her two tracks “Seasons” and “Better”. Tomi Agape is a rising star in the UK, who draws inspiration from her icons like Jill Scott and Erykah Badu, while adding afrobeats elements to her music
For her song “Season”, she is joined by rapper-singer 5yffe and together, they deliver a great performance, with their voices mixing perfectly and their alchemy shining through on stage – all this over an afro-R&B composition.
Tomi Agape then performs by herself surrounded by beams of light for “Better”, as she takes us into her cultural and musical universe. Her song “Better” showcases Tomi’s rich vocals, while adding a slight sensuality to the AfroFuture Sounds showcase.
If one had to define UK afrobeats with one track being showcased today, it would definitely be “Pick Up” by British Nigerian artist Darkoo. After the success of her breakout single “Gangsta”, it seemed only logical that the South London artist should be a guest at this showcase.
Her performance of “Pick Up” for AfroFuture Sounds is a wonder. Her voice and the rhythm are one and the same and blend perfectly, with a mix that reminds us of hot summer nights and makes us want to move our bodies, although the lyrics are not so cheerful.
On this song, Darkoo makes a real declaration of love to the person she loves, calling on them to come back to her. The whole thing is accompanied by rhythms and melodies worth of a great afrobeats piece, with a little jazz touch by the presence of a saxophone and bass arrangements.
Visually, the performance is very simple and effective – over a blue and white background, the singer is dressed in a t-shirt, jeans and trainers combination and performs the track while sitting on a chair.
South African artist Bongeziwe Mabandla is representing the afro-indie world in the showcase as he brings some folk music to the fore. Performing with his guitar, he performed a Xhosa track titled “Isiphelo”, which is taken from his latest album iiMini.
After looking up for the translation, the lyrics of the song speak to the beginning of a beautiful story, where feelings were expressed and led to love. The song also explains how loving somebody can change you, give you purpose, and bring out a new version of yourself that you didn’t know was possible.
As for the beat and rhythm of the song, it a different type of ‘afro’ sound but it is still heavy with African influences, so it is a perfect fit for the showcase. For this performance, the artist was accompanied by another guitarist, with both musicians performing bare feet in a very intimate environment.
The last artist of this showcase was the ever-talented Br3nya. With her single “Plenty (Too Trendy)”, the British Ghanaian rap artist turned heads with her afro-rap sound and energetic performance of the perfect track to get you tuned in for a girls’ night out.
The single has a very energizing rap vibe to it, and we can also discern musical influences from Megan Thee Stallion and Nicki Minaj, which mix perfectly with Br3nya’s own identity and the afrobeats sensibilities that completes the whole package.
The lyrics speak about strong, independent women who do not need men to succeed. The whole thing is put together by a fun and lively performance, which was a very nice way to conclude this event, especially since it took place during the month of March, a month in which women are being honoured.
This showcase, broadcast on SXSW Online, the online version of the famous music festival held in Austin Texas, aims to show the world the evolution of Afrobeat and its many sub-genres.
All in all, the musical performances of Loshh, Wavy The Creator, Darkoo, Tomi Agape, Bongeziwe Mabandla and Br3nya at AfroFuture Sounds impressed us and definitely captured the evolution of afrobeats and its many sub-genres.
Afrobeats is becoming an increasingly popular musical genre in the UK but also everywhere else, with SXSW giving a much needed voice to these emerging artists, who in turn devilered some great performances. We were able to discover many afrobeats sounds thanks to their performances, but also be introduced to the diversity that afrobeats music offers.
Words by Stella Follain, Victoire Gonzalez and Alice Briere // Edited by Ayo Adepoju