Young artists steal show at Würzburg Africa Festival

The annual Africa Festival in Würzburg, Germany, offers many musical highlights from the African continent. This year, young artists from Senegal and Cape Verde were the main attractions. The 4-day event, the largest festival of African culture in Europe, took place on 25-28 May.

Each year, the organizers of the Würzburg Africa Festival search for exciting African musicians. In almost 30 years of existence, the festival has already invited established singers from Senegal and Cape Verde, such as the Senegalese artists Youssou N’Dour and Omar Pene, or the Cape Verdean singers Lura and Nancy Vieira.

This time round, the extravaganza brings together several young African musicians who are relatively unknown in Germany but who are nevertheless characterized by their talent and commitment to the music industry.

From footballer to musician

Wally Seck did not plan on becoming a musician; he wanted to play professional football. But his soccer career in Europe was cut short by an injury without bringing the desired success.

The young Senegalese decided to go back home and follow in the musical footsteps of his father, Thione Seck. Now Wally Seck is a superstar in Senegal. His latest album titled “Xel” is the best-selling album in the country.

Now he wants to pave the way for other artists and has created his own record label, Faramarene Music. “I produce young talents who do not have the resources to promote their music,” Wally Seck told DW. He said work as an artist was difficult, “but you have to believe in it; you need a lot of strength, much maturity and much faith.”

Wally Seck in Würzburg at the Africa Festival / Photo: © DW/A. Gensbittel

Seck was particularly pleased to represent his country on the first day of the Africa Festival in Würzburg. “I am very proud to be here: as a Senegalese, as a singer and songwriter, as an African,” Wally Seck said.

The Würzburg audience was not disappointed. Wally Seck and his band with their Mbalax music – the most popular music genre in Senegal – delivered a great performance at the festival.

Keita music dynasty

For the group Takeifa, music is a family thing. The band consists of five siblings of the Keita family: four brothers and one sister. Takeifa abandoned traditional sounds and opted to develop its own style. The group mixes pop, funk and rock. “We were fortunate that our parents were music lovers,” bandleader Jac Keita told DW. “At home we listened to jazz, rock, pop, and afro-beats. We were inspired by Fela Kuti.”

Takeifa wants to represent the voice of Senegalese youth by using its lyrics to address social issues. Five years ago, the band formed the “Care Albinos” organization. “It caters for people with albinism, for example, by providing them with sun cream and sunglasses,” Maah Keita, bass player of Takeifa said. She, too, suffers from albinism.

“Above all, we want to raise awareness among people with albinism and others in their environment that they have the right to live a normal life despite their physical appearance and visual impairment. In addition, we want to send a message against the social injustices they [people with albinism] are experiencing.”

Rising Cape Verdean songstress

For her first appearance at the Africa Festival, Elida Almeida was honoured to perform alongside great names of African music such as Salif Keita from Mali and Einida Marta from Guinea-Bissau. But the young Cape Verdean singer was also delighted that her country is particularly well represented this year in Würzburg.

Born on the island of Santiago, Almeida belongs to a new generation of musicians from Cape Verde. She takes traditional sounds of the island and gives them a more personal, modern touch. She said she is inspired by the Batuku and Fufana, a musical heritage of former African slaves. The former Portuguese colony was a transit point during the slave trade from West Africa to America and the Caribbean.

The audience at the Africa Festival in Würzburg were entertained by Africa’s finest artists: Senegalese band Takeifa perform at the open tent / Photo: © DW/A. Gensbittel

Elida Almeida has just released a new album “Djunta Kudjer” which could be translated as “eating together from the same plate.” “It is a popular habit in Africa and also in Cape Verde,” the 24-year-old singer told DW. “It is a sign of closeness and friendship. When the world is facing pressure from terrorism, conflicts and other challenges, one could use such a message,” Almeida added.

In her songs, the young musician sings about life in Cape Verde and the traditions of her country. Discrimination, teenage pregnancies, right to education, and the strength of Cape Verdean women are some of the issues that she holds dear. “I always try to have a message, along with a good music,” the singer said.

This year, 80,000 visitors attended the Africa Festival in Würzburg.

© Deutsche Welle

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