The U.S.’s most hyped, and most profitable music festival, Coachella, has released its lineup for their annual two-weekend event in April, and African artists are finally making a splash on the event’s stage.
The Weeknd, Canadian born to Ethiopian parents, will headline the first of the two weekends at the Empire Polo Field in Indio, California, this April. The soul singer has poignantly reflected on his African roots and its symbolism in his music, sharing the following with Pitchfork in a 2015 interview:
“My mother, my grandmother, my uncles would play Ethiopian artists like Aster Aweke and Mulatu Astatke all the time in the house. They would drink coffee, eat popcorn, and listen to the music. It’s such beautiful music, but I didn’t realize how beautiful it was until I left that headspace. That’s why I feel like my singing is not conventional. I mean, if you look at technique, I’m not a technical singer; I know I get bashed by R&B heads 24/7. I’m not here to do Luther Vandross runs. I can’t do what Jennifer Hudson does. But the feeling in my music and in my voice is very Ethiopian and very African and much more powerful than anything, technically. There are songs like “Gone” where I don’t even know what I’m saying—I let my voice do all the talking. I’ll probably do an album like that one day where it’s not lyrics at all, just melodies and great production. Maybe the next one, I don’t know. That’s the Ethiopian side of me. I didn’t know what [the musicians] were saying when I was younger: Just because you speak it doesn’t mean you really understand what they’re saying. Ethiopian poetry is a different language. I can speak and understand [Amharic], but I can’t understand their poetry. When my mother would translate—it’s the most beautiful thing ever. I’ve never been back home to Ethiopia, but when I do go I’m going to make it very special”.
Jidenna, the sharp-dressed singer and rapper of the alias Classic Man, will also make a debut. With his first album, The Chief, released to critical acclaim, the singer continues to advocate and be an ambassador for Africa. It is exciting to see him bring his Nigerian highlife inspired sound to the Coachella stage.
Rapper French Montana, born Karim Kharbouch, in Morocco will also make his debut this year. Although this will not be his first time performing on the Coachella stage since DJ Khaled brought him out as a special guest last year, this will be French’s first solo act – and it is timely as his 2017 hit, Unforgettable, shot to electrifying visuals of kids dancing in the outskirts of Uganda now has over 500 million views.
Moreover, legendary South African DJ, Black Coffee, will make his debut on the Coachella stage. Born Nkosinathi Innocent Maphumulo in Durban, South Africa, the soulist DJ has received both local and international acclaim for his ability to remix and reimagine traditionalist and contemporary African beats in future fashion.
Singer Kelela is also among the Africans performing at this year’s festival. The second generation Ethiopian released her debut album, Take Me Apart, just last year. It has received national acclaim, including being cited by critics as one of the best albums of 2017.
Finally, Nigerian afrobeat star Wizkid will also debut at Coachella this year. This will allow the 27-year-old to tap into a larger and probably untapped American audience. Whereas afrobeat has largely been relegated to Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora; and only recently crossing over to the hip-hop mainstream, an opportunity to showcase at usually heavy rock and punk heavy festivals like Coachella is a major win for afrobeat genre as a whole.
And Twitter agrees:
when i see that chloe x halle, Beyoncé and Wizkid are all performing on the same day at Coachella pic.twitter.com/k8RaaRBMZt
— oluwafunmilayo. (@__funmiogun) January 3, 2018
Wizkid at Coachella! I’m attending this one Coachella pic.twitter.com/5wLeN22LqJ
— Troy Mesh. (@olaoluwatroy) January 3, 2018
Wizkid is really performing at coachella. It might as well be his show with special guests performances?
— A (@yewadereni) January 3, 2018
WIZKID performing at Coachella
Y’all don’t understand how huge this is
Y’all don’t understand ?
— VoN (@WebDesignerVoN) January 3, 2018
Coachella brings in over 126,000 music fans to the California valley each day of its festival. Other notable performers this year are Beyonce, who headlines the show, and 2017 breakout star, Cardi B.