Plans to introduce African Musicians during future Liverpool Music festivals. LIMF Curator Yaw Owusu
Some 150.000 excited music fans attended the free Sefton park venue and 21000 others bought tickets for the paid venues of the Liverpool International music festival (LIMF) that ended last Sunday August 25 2013.
The LIMF organized by the City Council officially replaces the 20 year old Mathew Street Festival that the council had been organizing and badly needed a change of format.
The event had more family friendly programming, new music but above all, attempts were made to bring in a anew line of International musicians. The world renowned Liverpool Philarmonic Orchestra, Little Mix and JLS were among some of the acts that played but the three Marley brothers (Julian, Stephen and Damien) were the most notable international acts that took part.
Liverpool born Ghanian/Jamaican music promoter Yaw Owusu is the new festival curator and says he has plans to bring in exciting musicians from Africa n future editions of the festival
He has been speaking to Francis Ngwa
Q Hello Yaw, congratulations on being appointed the new curator of the LIMF. Why do you think you were selected to be the festival’s curator?
Before getting this position, I have worked in the music industry for about eight years now. After graduating from University, I wanted to do something that I liked doing and which I enjoyed. I started managing my cousin who is a singer, songwriter and he did very well which kind of let me to work with bigger artists and bigger organizations. I have run labels, have worked with people like Terry Walker, done music promotions for Daman Marley, Stephen Marley, Shaggy and different artists. Really, I am trying to develop myself and to get a global focus. Liverpool is my home and when the opportunity to become curator of the Liverpool international music festival came knocking, I jumped at it.
Q So music has definitely been putting food on your table since university?
Yes. Ican say that music has really been my bread winner. I went through the traditional routes, went to school and to university, got my degree and I found out that even with that, there still is a cultural bias but still managed to get a job in the industry. I probably have a talent in the industry, I didn’t really choose but music has been what fed me and my family for the last eight years.
Q What was your immediate reaction after you were chosen to head what must now be your most ambitious project in the music industry?
I thought that was really good because they were a lot of other safe bets the council could have chosen, people who have organized festivals before. I was somewhere in the middle because most of my background was in black music and the city has been criticized for not supporting black music before. Before I pitched for the job, I had a youth organization in Liverpool so understand the engagement of youths , I have ran loads of commercial projects, have done well with loads of other artists and also ran international projects. I guess they thought a mix of all these things will help bring a fresh look to the festival. I therefore have to bring all these experiences to the festival and it has to show in the brand, the line-up of artists, the acts, the media partners etc. I think it was a good choice. You can see the thousands of fans who have turned up for the festival today.(August 25 2013) I think the council made a good choice in selecting me.
Q You were born in the Uk but have very strong African roots. Can you talk about your connections to the African continent?
I am an owusu so I am Ghanaian through and through. I am a dark skinned British black man. My dad is a paramount chief in Bekwai in Ghana. I am very proud about my African roots. My mum is Jamaican so that is the other side of who I am. I have this mad mix of West Indian and west African and I think this has made me who I am, I understand my roots, I understand who I am and why have a name like Owusu. I hope I can make my African side proud and my Jamaican side proud also .
Q Because you have some strong African roots, some Africans in the UK thought you will probably have invited big African African musicians like Iyanya, Kofi Olomide, P Square to take part in this festival which is supposed to be International. That was not the case though.
You need to realize this is year one and what have done is to try to programme so that music lovers get a taste of a good number of different musical genres. One of my core concepts about the festival is to discover the new. This year is more like a little taster. Maybe next year we will have a full African day, a West Indian day. For now what I have done is to make sure that people get a taste of what is to come. I am aware there is a taste for new musical genres. There were some excited new musicians who have played this year and the people went nuts. I know there is a big interest in African music today. Africa Oye is a great festival that takes place in Liverpool but this is a mainstream music festival and it will be good to introduce some big African musicians here.
Q Talking about artists you lined up this year, you managed to get not just one Marley brother but three. How that you pull that off?
Me and my business partner Ray Paul have had a good working relationship with The Marleys. We do a lot of their music promotions in the UK. Ray looks after most of their management and support whenever they are in the UK. I think the Marleys recognize what we are doing and have bought into our vision. I feel blessed that they accepted to come and play here. As I said, my mum is Jamaican and to have the Marleys come and play in my home city is really good. The city has embraced them. I Knew they were big but did not realize how much the city will have an appetite to come and see them. You can see the audience today is a very mixed crowd, it’s not all black or all white. I am really excited they accepted to come.
Q How will you describe the atmosphere at the various venues that the festival has been taking place in?
Yes, I have been moving from venue to venue as you know because you have been trying to get to me. I think it has been lovely; there has been a lot of peace love and good vibes. I remember when I made my proposal, I said if we programme great acts, people will come and behave themselves
Q From a typical African point of view, what will you be preparing for next year?
What I will like for next year is collaboration. I will like to take a Uk artists to go and create some music with an African artist that has never been heard in the world before. That will be absolutely amazing for me. This will probably involve taking some music that has relevance to music from the diaspora like folk or blues and collaborating with an African musician to produce some real innovative music. That will show that Liverpool s really Internatonal.
Q Do you have names of some Afrcan artists you will really like to work with from Africa?
There are just too many. I will like to work with WanL ove from Ghana. He worked with one of my artists a couple of years ago during the African nations cup and they did a record together. I will like to work with some of those Nigerian artists who could play to an international crowd and have a good support base around the world. To me there are no restrictions. If any artists in Africa is reading this, they could get in touch with me through my email and lets have a chat.