Photographer Des Richards

The Afrobeat Press Confrence

Thursday, 01 September 2011 Olakumbi Akiwumi
Bank Holiday weekend fast approached and it was time for Afrobeat to takeover and it went a little something like this...
On Saturday 28thAugust a press conference was held for singing duo P-Square, rapper Ice Prince, young sensation WizKid, comedian Basketmoth and host DJ Abrantee who would be gracing the Hammersmith Apollo stage as part of the SOLD OUT Afrobeat Festival put together by Cokobar and Phoenix Media. The capacity of 5,000 would witness the first ever Afrobeat Festival in London and it was predicted to be a night to remember.

At the start of the press conference a representative from Cokobar and Phoenix Media welcomed the press in attendance, introduced the artists and opened the floor for questioning, although two of the guests (Ice Prince and Basketmouth) weren't present the conference went ahead. There was no delegation as to how the questioning would start it was every man for themselves until the last few minutes as their time was coming to a close.

The headliners P-Square got most of the attention as the main interest was what is to be expected during the show and how their journey has been over the past 10years. In response the acclaimed International acts stressed that in order to take things further we as people must invest in our own market before branching out to mainstream. The emphasis on 'Social Networking' became very transparent as it was that avenue that got them SOLD OUT concerts in America and elsewhere. Expressing that although they had no obvious press coverage they were still able to reach the masses. Having been in the game for such a long time, their reputation for putting on a stage show was expected and they confirmed that the audience of the Afrobeat Festival would not be disappointed. In regards to collaborating with others P-Square made it clear that collaborating with other African artists and spreading their talent was more important than that of artists outside of Africa.

Following them was the sensational WizKid who seemed to have been groomed and well trained in regards to being interviewed. Having reached such a peak in his career at such a short space of time, it was considered if his time was just a "phase" to which he replied in saying that he is working on his next album, in hopes that it s received well as it would be better and different than that of his current album 'Superstar'. The album which had a constant use of auto-tune was questioned to which he glimmered and laughed off by saying Jay-Z does it to. It is safe to say that he has a certain aura which translates to his music. In such an industry and being easy on the eye the pressure of the ladies must take its toll on him but he charmingly dismissed any pressure and states that he handles it well. Both artist translates their charisma and charm which we saw and danced to in their music in person and so was simple to speak to them with ease and confidence.

At the end of the conference a short interaction with the artist was hastily allowed and pictures were taken and so forth, the attitude of some members of the organizational team was observed and this came across very abrupt and rude. As we dispersed anticipation grew for the next 24hrs ahead.

(Have a listen to the conference itself http://www.youtube.com/user/DjFactory78#p/u/0/7wcZy1k-iP0)

The anticipation had increased to a different level, after seeing the artists and speaking with them the belief that the first ever Afrobeat concerts was about to break the mould was apparent. It was real. Shortly before leaving the press conference a 'Press List' was complied by one of the staff at Phoenix Media on what looked that scrap paper. In confidence we were assured entry to the concert.

On arrival to the Hammersmith Apollo a flood of people filtered the pavements, I saw a few familiar faces and then went and stood in the queue which read 'Collections, Guest list and Sales', prior to this Press had been informed that we would be able to pick up our 'Press Passes' at the box office. After sometime and making a few calls to the organisational team, a representative then approached me and said that there weren't enough wrist bands so tickets would be printed out and given to Press. Patiently waiting 45 minutes went by and still in the queue waiting to be let through and those who purchased tickets had flooded through the main doors and taken their place as the concert was about to start. Another 1hr 30mins went by and frustration had built amongst members of the Press as well as that weather was becoming cold and grey. Eventually a representative was spotted and as they were approached for questioning they put rudely their hand in my face and said 'not now' after which I had decided to go home.

The press area was becoming agitated, other members of the team were observed to be giving wrists bands to those they knew and were acquainted with, at one point a team member said that the tickets that were being printed were at £100 each and that they couldn't possibly give it out for free especially as they had a 'Press List' of a 100 people. The shear disrespect and treatment of Press who had waited over two hours to witness this SOLD OUT Afrobeat Festival and be part of history was disregarded. There was no communication between staff and Press; there was no consideration, no manners or decorum. To be ignored when publicly speaking to the team was humiliating and after spending time to promote, interview the artists and encourage others to attend this epic event the treatment of Press was appalling. Especially as the day before they had been seen thanking and rubbing shoulders to those whom they considered as worthy Press. The final decider was after waiting over 2hrs to be told that the 'Press List' had been hammered down to 10 and those who weren't on it needed to go home, this was the most shocking and embarrassing moment.

Unfortunately this is a common factor within the Cokobar and Phoenix Media team. The lack or organization skills and interpersonal skills all go out the window when money is the main factor. A team such as Cokobar who are renowned for trying to bridge that gap and bring Afrobeat to the masses has been tainted due to their lack of organization especially ad they have put on several events before it is clear that the same mistakes are made continuously. However their marketing strategies and advertising skills are sky high, I guess when it comes to making money they know how. From an audience member it translated that the show was an epic one with a brilliant yet surprising performance from Wizkid who stole the show followed by P-Square who entertained with a full live band and stage performance. The Hammersmith Apollo was SOLD. That was a proud moment for all involved as well as those who love Afrobeat. In especially DJ Abrantee who will be known as the man who brought Afrobeat to the airwaves and soon enough to the charts. Afrobeat will soon be able to compete for that #1 spot. It was unfortunate that I did not get to see and enjoy the concert but I live through it via those who were in attendance and I commend them on bringing such great acts for our entertainment experience.
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