Sounds of Africa: shining a light on the arts, music, and culture

Events like SOA are here to make it easy for everyone to discover each other’s ways of life…[and] can help us live better together, in our diversity.”

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Despite being the world’s second-largest continent and being home to over a thousand languages across 50 different countries, a lot of Australians don’t seem to know a whole lot about Africa.  Aiming to celebrate the vibrant diversity of African culture, Sounds of Africa is a family festival in Brunswick East showcasing a selection of traditional and contemporary arts, culture, food, dancing and most importantly, music.
Founded by Cameroonian migrants Peres Zapfack and Edmond Kolle, Sounds of Africa was initially formed as a club night to listen to African music in the heart of the city.  “Arriving in Australia in 2011, we were surprised by the limited representation of African culture here,” Event Manager Peres Zapfack says. “We started regular nights called SOA NIGHTS, with the vision to make Afrobeat widely known in Australia. After lots of research, we came to realise that people in Melbourne are genuinely eager to learn more about other cultures, which led to the launch of the first Sounds of Africa festival in November 2016.”
Proudly boasting the tagline of ‘Showcasing a Brighter Africa,’ Sounds of Africa is all about celebrating various cultural backgrounds and social differences by creating a vibrant, borderless representation of Africa, which Zapfack hopes will help to educate Australians about the diversity of the vast continent. “An average Australian attending the event essentially gets to learn, taste and feel a bit of everything. Through workshops, you can learn how to play the Djembe, or how to dance Kizomba, or even head wrap African style. You can taste food from South Africa, Mauritius, Kenya or Nigeria. You can also see sculptures from Zimbabwe, Zambia, and even try some African clothes.”
Sounds of Africa’s mission to celebrate diversity is also extremely important towards dispelling harmful stereotypes created through the negative portrayal of African migrants living in Melbourne through mainstream news networks. “The recent media coverage in Melbourne is a perfect example of what we usually see about Africa and it’s unfortunately often not that bright,” says Zapfack. “Events like SOA are here to make it easy for everyone to discover each other’s ways of life, and promote an efficient transfer of culture that can help us live better together, in our diversity. Understanding and recognising each other’s way of life is key to this process.”
Of course, one of the biggest components of Sounds of Africa is its focus on incredible African music. This year, the festival will be showcasing some of the best music from the continent across two different stages, ranging from the sounds of Soukous and Highlife to traditional Mbria and Bikutsi performances, as well as DJs playing the best contemporary South African house and Afropop. You can even participate in drumming workshops, with SOA hosting afternoon classes teaching keen festival goers how to play the Djembe, one of the most famous instruments from West Africa.
“The drumming workshop will give some background about the Djembe, teach how to make different sounds with Djembe, make basic sound patterns and collaborate in small teams to make collective music with the Djembe,” says Zapfack, highlighting the prowess of the workshop’s hosts, the African Star Dance and Drumming Company. “These guys are experienced drummers and traditional dancers and you can’t find better than them in Australia.”
While music and dance are some of the better-known exports of African culture, Sounds of Africa also aims to shine a light on one of the most underappreciated elements of the continent – the food. “We think Africa has a lot to offer to the world,” Zapfack says. “The festival will feature a selection of stalls serving authentic and delicious African meals, including jollof rice, a popular West African dish; mafe and yassa, two delicious Senegalese stews; African BBQ, South African sausage rolls, and Cameroonian doughnuts with beans.”
Zapfack hopes to see people from all walks of life experiencing the vibrant diversity of Sounds of Africa. “Tickets are affordable for everyone, with kids under 12 free. We also offer family and group bundles.”

Sounds of Africa will come to Ceres Park, Brunswick East on Saturday December 16.