Why is Inspiro Planning GAKFEST?

 Vanessa Obioha

Ayoola Sadare — or Inspiro as he is fondly called by close friends — is known in the jazz scene for his famous Lagos International Jazz Festival. There have been other iterations of the festival to reflect the growth of the genre in Nigeria. However, nowadays, there is only one word on Sadare’s lips: Global Afrobeats Kulture Festival (GAKFEST).

We were at a restaurant in Ikeja recently for a mutual friend’s birthday celebration and more than once GAKFEST came up in our conversation. His enthusiasm about this new project is not entirely surprising. It is how he is. Sadare always throws everything in the ring when he is determined about a project. At first, it may seem impossible, but at the last moment, Sadare always comes through, organising innovative events that brands hardly say no to. 

Right now, he is banking on GAKFEST being the turning point in the Afrobeats wave that has engulfed the world for a while now. But Sadare is not just interested in the genre, rather, he is focused on the culture behind that movement, and how it is impacting tourism.

Initially, he planned to have a Lagos International Jazz, Afrobeats and Fuji Festival (LIJAFEST). That was in 2019. But the pandemic struck in 2020 and the plan was shelved. Notwithstanding, the Lagos International Jazz Festival still held virtually.

While the pandemic sort of halted many entertainment events, it saw the rise of Afrobeats beyond the continent, particularly Burna Boy’s Grammy win with the album ‘Twice As Tall’. 

Sadare paid attention to all these changes.

“That got us thinking that 2021 was Afrobeats year,” he said. “It wasn’t as if things had not been happening in the Afrobeats scene but the attention became more.”

Moreover, the Grammy win also brought up the controversy between Afrobeat and Afrobeats with many arguing that Nigerian music is too flavorful to be boxed into one label. For Sadare, it was more of seeing the opportunities than stirring controversies.

It was while analysing the happenings on the Afrobeats that he got the brain wave to establish GAKFEST. The idea was simply to celebrate the different sounds of Nigerian music in a festival style instead of lumping them all together.  But more importantly, it was about the culture of Afrobeats.

“Just like there is a culture to the popular Fela Afrobeat, Jazz, RnB, Rock, and so on, there is also a culture to Afrobeats.”

Besides the culture, Sadare is also making GAKFEST a touring festival. Isn’t that too ambitious, you may ask? Certainly not to Sadare. The Inspiro helmsman’s vision is to celebrate Lagos as the home of Afrobeats. 

“One thing we want to establish is that Lagos — and I’m not denigrating other cities — is Afrobeats capital. It is not Kano, Abuja, or Ibadan. It is Lagos. Over 90 per cent of the proponents, even if they come from somewhere else, make it in Lagos. The studios, the musicians, and the structures are all in Lagos. The music is churned out from here.

“Reekado Banks sings about Ozumba Mbadiwe, Banky W already told us that ain’t no party like the Lagos Party, Wizkid talks about Ojuelegba. So as Jazz is to New Orleans, Reggae is to Kingston, Jamaica, Country music is to Nashville, Tennessee so is Afrobeats to Lagos, Nigeria. It is perhaps not universally known or maybe not conceptualised yet but it is what it is,” he explained.

From Lagos, Sadare plans to take GAKFEST to other cities around the world. He already has secured an Atlanta date for next year. The Lagos edition is scheduled for December 28 and 29. He is targeting 10 destinations across the world.

“GAKFEST carries the essence of the music to these parts of the world. So you see the genre, the fashion behind it. We want a scenario where the Afrobeats musicians can give masterclasses just like Jazz musicians do.”

As the debut edition of the multi-city touring music festival draws near, Sadare has partnered with SloweGanzi USA, GQ Acoustics and Zome International. He is very optimistic that the festival will record impressive success such that it will become the buzzword on the entertainment scene. Knowing Sadare, this vision of his is definitely not wishful thinking. It is the new reality.

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