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'The influence of music is undeniable'

HOST: DJ Abrantee will co-host Africa on the Square with Usiffu Jalloh on October 11

IN SCHOOL, Ghanaian Capital XTRA DJ Abrantee was known to his peers as Leroy - his Caribbean alter ego.
By his own admission, being African in Britain throughout his childhood years wasn’t cool.

“When I was in school, it wasn’t cool to be African, it was much more acceptable to be Caribbean,” he laughs.

“[Back then] we were inundated with images of African children starving, Africa was portrayed as poor, and while that is a reality for some, that is not the only side to the continent.

“Now, obviously, the music is coming through and a lot more young people are going back home to experience Africa for themselves and not relying solely on what they see on TV. It is being seen as a holiday destination and I know a lot of youngsters who go to Ghana every single Christmas and party like it’s Ayia Napa.”

The emergence of African culture to the wider world has been undeniable in recent times from the upsurge of African prints in fashion, entrepreneurship, dance and more obviously in music.

UK based Afrobeats star Fuse ODG was credited with ‘single-handedly bringing [dance craze] Azonto to the world’ with his MOBO award-winning track of the same name.

And Abrantee, himself credited with championing Afrobeats music throughout his years in the spotlight and via his popular Capital XTRA show, further cemented the popularity of the genre among the masses when his mixtape, The Definitive Collection, which blends some of the biggest tracks from the ever-growing genre, shot straight to No.7 in the iTunes chart.

“The influence of music is undeniable,” Abrantee says on the growing popularity of his beloved culture.

“I think the whole Afrobeats movement becoming more commercial has helped push the culture forward to no end,” he says.

“African artists are putting out music videos like the American artists and, as you know, we’re heavily influenced by music and videos. When you see people like [Afrobeats star] P-Square teaming up with [US rapper] Rick Ross or [fellow Afrobeats star] Wizkid joining the same management company as [UK rapper] Tinie Tempah, people stand up and pay attention and are like, ‘Oh ok, this is Africa? I want to be a part of this.’ It challenges stereotypes and forces people to investigate what is blowing up around them.”

One of those people researching the continent and its ever-growing popularity among the masses is the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, whose brainchild, Africa on The Square will take place in Trafalgar Square on October 11.

The event, much like the Notting Hill Carnival is to the Caribbean contingent, will celebrate African culture in the city’s capital.

For one day, attendees will experience the best in African cuisine, live music from some of the hottest acts and have a chance to explore an African market where they can purchase authentic products spread over 30 stalls.

On what may have sparked the Mayor’s interest in celebrating African culture in the capital, Abrantee responds: “The mayor obviously heard my Afrobeats show on Capital XTRA and was like, ‘Yo, I need to be a part of this blood. Abrantee, what you saying?

“Seriously, though, I want to commend the Mayor of London for putting this event on and saying, ‘we’re going to celebrate Africa.’ Africa is one of the biggest continents there is and there is a large percentage of Afrcans in London and the UK. To do it in Trafalagar Square is a big statement, which is a really good look.”

Abrantee and performer Usifu Jalloh from Sierra Leone, also known as ‘The Cowfoot Prince’, will host the one-day event, which promises to be a day of “absolute joyful blessings”.

“You’ll have performances from Nigeria’s Dele Sosimi’s Afrobeat Experience, Zimbabwe’s Anna Mudeka Band and Somalia’s Aar Manta, so it’s talent from across the entire continent,” he says. “It’s about bringing the positive light to Africa. You’ve got fashion shows, an African market, African food, family workshops, drumming tutorials - the list is endless. It’s about bringing an African vibe to central London and that will hopefully have a knock-on effect.

“The reason why carnival is so successful is because it embraces the culture of African Caribbean people so at the end of the day people see that and think, ‘let me go to Jamaica, let me go to Barbados’ and they start investigating the foundation of the culture and that’s what is important.”

Abrantee is also keen to point out that despite the name having the potential to seem quite niche, it is an inclusive event.

“Although it’s Africa on The Square, it’s not just for Africans,” he says. “It’s for everybody to come down and experience the day.”

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