Africa comes to Glastonbury

Festival in west of England hosts musical talents, including two African pop sensations.

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    Nearly 200,000 people have descended on Glastonbury, a small village in the west of England, for one of the world's biggest outdoor music festivals.

    They are there to see not only some of biggest names in western music, but to encounter new music and cultures.

    Al Jazeera talks to one of Africa's biggest stars, Femi Kuti, and up-and-coming Nigerian singer Nneka, both of whom are bringing their unique brand of pop to the countryside.

    Femi Kuti is the son of Afropop legend Fela Kuti and is an old Glastonbury hand. He first came to the festival with his father's band. But when he was invited to come with his own musicians, he took it as an important career milestone.

    "When I started my band and we were invited, we were all excited. Everyone has to play at Glastonbury," he said. "It's one of those festivals that, if you don't play in your career, you really haven’t been anywhere. It's probably not as famous in Africa but it is famous."

    "Everyone in the business knows about Glastonbury. There are a lot of Nigerians in England so they tell the folks at home. The average man in Lagos would know."

    Singer Nneka is from the Niger Delta and says that's not the case in rural Nigeria.

    "To be honest with you, I didn't know about it until yesterday. I travel a lot and I see different places - but I didn’t know about it," she said.

    "Maybe one or two people know about it in the Niger Delta. No more than that. I think so. But I went to do my research and found out it is the biggest festival in the world. Nearly 200,000 people here!"

    Both musicians agree Glastonbury is a fantastic place to showcase their music.

    "It's a great opportunity. This is an opportunity to get my music out to a different type of audience," Nneka said.

    "If you're not known this is a good place to showcase your music. There's so many things in one, you could easily get lost," Femi said.

    "You don't know who's watching, you don't know who the promoters are, or which radio is around.

    "You don't know who the journalists are, you don't know who is going to give you a break; you don't know what's going to happen. You must be at your best at all times."

    But it's not all work. Femi sees Glastonbury as a place to get inspiration and to meet other musicians too.

    "It's a place to collaborate – you get ideas just by sitting backstage listening to other bands playing," he said.

    "You can be easily inspired. I've met so many that have watched me somewhere and are happy to meet me again. It's so many things in one. It's incredible."

    "I was walking around and what I noticed is that everything is done in detail – there is so much of love that is put into building a sculpture or building a flower," Nneka said.

    "People invest a lot of time and energy into making small things look beautiful. And time is love so it is kind of magical. Nowadays you hardly see people work with passion."

    Watching Nneka and Femi perform, it's obvious that both musicians put huge amounts of passion into their music - and into the audiences and festivals that host them.

    "They take so much care ... You can't practically have anything to complain about," Femi said.

    "What can I say – it's great. It's amazing when you come from Nigeria and see such organisation.

    "Parking, tents, everything - all in one and everyone in peace! Happy birthday Glastonbury and I wish you another 100 years."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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