The 1st edition of the Afropunk festival in Paris : NO HATE, NO DEBATE !
Steffi Njoh Monny

Crazy outfits, guest stars incognito, concerts – each seemingly better than the last – and above all, a willingness for a transatlantic universalism: the B(s)ttf team was out there for the first installment of the Afropunk Festival in Paris.

The past 23 and 24 May weekend, Paris hosted for the first time the Afropunk festival, which, in 2014, has brought together more than 90,000 people from Brooklyn to Atlanta. Program: Lianne La Havas, Lolawolf, Keziah Jones, Patrice, The Bots or Lion Babe… Musicians who, each in his own way, were able to represent the movement in all its meanings. Suffice to say that the Parisians were to go for this event that inspired several others in the US for nearly a decade. But were they prepared to that wave which swept the Trianon that weekend?

More than music, more than a genre: a movement

Festivities started Saturday late afternoon with the British group Youth Man, distilling their disruptive punk sex straight from Birmingham. It was about18:30, the hall was barely filling. (More or less) young people where exchanging few words over a pint at the bar, when Sandra Nkaké appeared in a halo of light, accompanied by flautist Ji Dru, fists outstretched to heaven, well determined to restore to the punk all its nobility.

Because before being a music genre, punk is primarily a lifestyle, a way of thinking. Chanting “Black Lives Matter” from the opening bars of the set, prompting each member of the public to “cultivate his difference” to  free his mind off company-imposed shackles” , the Sandra Nkaké – Jî Dru duo offered the Trianon few home-made cover versions including an absolutely shattering one of Nina Simone’s Four Women, punk icon if any, as briefly mentioned in the documentary by James Spooner, initiator of the Afropunk in companion of Matthew Morgan in 2003.


AFROPUNK – The Documentary

Directed in 2003 by James Spooner, this 66 minutes documentary explores the issue of racial identity within the punk scene. Originally titled Afro-Punk: The Rock n ‘Roll Nigger Experience, it tells the story of four individuals who dedicated their lives to punk lifestyle, and all the confrontational implications that this stance could have in their lives as black person  operating within a predominantly white community.


It is this desire to redefine the terms of the Afropunk that gave body to programming this very first edition, with performances sometimes rock, sometimes pop, sometimes electro, sometimes soul … buttressed with this punk impulse that brought together each and every one of the artists who treaded the stage at the Trianon this weekend. For example :

  • The explosive energy of the MC of Congolese origin Young Paris, conqueror, his face decorated with tribal paintings, tattooing himself “I AM AFROPUNK” on the chest in the middle of the set as a symbol;
  • The retro elegance but not less powerful of  the young Leon Bridges, proving several times that it is still possible to sing the blues in 2015 with nothing to envy its predecessors;
  • The obstinacy of Willow & Jaden Smith, finally recalling, rightly, that if you’re good enough, you’re old enough.

All soulful benefits demonstrating the fervor of an event touching up the public itself, what is rare in a festival of such a magnitude..

The ALL differences festival

Valuing the counter-culture in its splendor, the Afropunk Festival is the playground dreamed for by originals of all stripes and they have not missed the call, judging overcrowded photo galleries that abounded the Web, following the event, similarly to Coachella. But here, it’s not a matter of who will take the most beautiful picture or who would best enhance an outfit seen at the Fashion Week parades: participants, many from Europe and North America, gave free rein to their inspiration, giving rise to silhouettes resolutely out of the ordinary. A string of afros of all sizes, all types and all colors have laid the decor, plunging the Trianon in a rare melting pot in which everyone found their place, the time of a weekend.

Saturday evening, around 23h, an improvised concert was played near the steps of the Trianon, on the central reservation of the boulevard, bringing together, residents and participants around their love of music when Sunday, between two plate changes, young women would engage in a waacking battle on kuduro music.

The past 23 and 24 May, a wind of freedom blew over Paris, undoubtedly owned to the Afropunk Festival that called to remember the following message: #NOHATE, hashtag displayed everywhere and hammered by hosts and hostesses throughout the weekend. Counterculture was at home in the Afropunk Festval and it is with no hesitation nor further debate that we emphasize that it’s not ready to be forgotten anytime soon. Next edition? On 4 June, in Chicago. Not to be missed!

Cover photo :

Antonia Opiah. From the article, Afropunk Fest Comes to Paris, on Huffigton Post, 2015.


Steffi Njoh Monny
Steffi, comme Steffi Graf. Même prénom, même date de naissance à vingt ans près, le parallèle s’arrête (à peu près) ici ! Bouillon de culture urbaine, maelström féministe, musique & mode en intraveineuse. A ses heures (résolument) perdues, elle rédige, alimente et édite le blog Africanism, sur la culture noire dans son ensemble. Une preuve supplémentaire, s'il en fallait une, de son adéquation avec le projet B(s)ttF.
All the team

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