Afrobeats Parties Around the U.S. Guide – Billboard
Written by GRB on 07/07/2023
“An event whose culture and influence reaches far and wide across the globe” – Jonathan Bekele, founder of WORLD AFRIKA
Year started: 2022
Partners: EthioBoyzEnt (partner), NuWave Collective (partner), SuperSmashBroz (DJ/partner), King Collins (DJ)
Primary city: Boston
Main venue(s): Garage, Spirit of Boston, Shojo
What inspired you to come up with this party?
Before the pandemic, I created Anbessa. It was supposed to be a company that [had] different branches like events, clothing, miscellaneous things. It’s obviously based on our culture, the lion is embedded in Ethiopian culture. In the clothing brand, on the back of the T-shirts, you’ll see WORLD AFRIKA. The reason why I spell it WORLD AFRIKA with a “K” is because, initially, the name of Africa was with a “k” from the native countries, before colonization. Ethiopians never got colonized, so I was like, “I would love to keep that same identity with this.”
Back in March of last year, there was a need for a real curated event of experience in the city that focused around Afrobeats in Boston. My one-year anniversary with the clothing brand with the WORLD AFRIKA slogan on it was coming up in April. So I was like, “Let me just throw my first WORLD AFRIKA party.” I had SuperSmashBroz DJing, and it was received well. It gave a different feeling, like they felt like they were back home. And that’s what I want to bring: I want to make people walk out of the party and be like, “OK, I’m buying my ticket for December.”
How did you come up with its name?
When I was creating the T-shirts, one T-shirt [has] two women that graduated from the airline academy in Ethiopia and they have a lion right in front of them, which is the ambessa. And WORLD AFRIKA was [about] traveling around the world because it was based on the aviation thing. Ethiopian Airlines was the first airline in Africa that was really able to travel across. And the second T-shirt was a lion literally walking past an Ethiopian Airlines plane. So that’s where it stemmed from. WORLD AFRIKA is a connection of all the different countries and just grouping them together.
Who typically attends?
Obviously, my Habeshas support. There’s a huge West African population here — a lot of my friends are Nigerian — and Cape Verdeans. Anybody who’s from Cape Verde, all of their people for some reason immigrated to Massachusetts or Rhode Island. The second [WORLD AFRIKA party] was on a yacht in the middle of Boston Harbor that held like 650 people. It was like three levels, different DJs. And the bottom floor was Cape Verdean DJs. But then you’ll also see groups of Asian people that just want to show up and party, dance. You’ll see a bunch of white people slide up. But I would say for the most part, it’s West Africans, East Africans, Cape Verdeans. We did an amapiano party one time, and hella South Africans popped up.
Where does this typically take place or where has it taken place before?
The first venue I did was Garage. The second one was called Spirit of Boston. The funny thing is Garage is closed, Spirit of Boston actually caught on fire two months ago — so they are no longer operational. I went to Addis, and I did two WORLD AFRIKAs over there at Midtown Ultra Lounge right on Bole. One of my good friends, his name is Nate Enzo, owns it. He was like, “What do you think about doing it over here?” And I was like, “Yeah, why not? This will pay for my trip, basically.” So I did it over there, sold out both times. And I didn’t really realize the impact of what I had until that happened in Addis. Because when it happened it in Addis, and when I did the yacht event, I was like, “D–n, this is not just a Boston thing. It’s becoming more than that.”
At the top of 2023, I’ve been at this venue called Shojo. And they’ve been my most consistent venue. So I did one right before I went to Ethiopia, and I’ve done one every single month, so February, March, April, I’ve been there. I also did one in D.C. first week of March. That was nice. I have a lot of connects in D.C. One of my friends, he owns a lounge, and he was just like, “Why don’t you try doing it over here?” And I was like, “Yeah, why not?” And it did really well. I was like, “D–n, if I start out in these small spaces or mid-sized spaces, whether it be New York, Atlanta, L.A., the world will come organically.”
Why does your party stand out?
I’m able to connect with people, I’m very personable. And I’m very good with business. Dami came to me back in March, and Dami was like, “Hey, Spinall wants to come to Boston.” I know they couldn’t find a venue. Essentially, they came to me, and I had a venue already locked for WORLD AFRIKA that I was going to do on my own. Personally, I could have just done the event and probably took all that money to the head. But I thought bigger — because I was like, “OK, if I have Spinall and I work with Afrolituation and Dami and all of them, this would be great for the brand going forward.”
I think [it’s because of] those collabs and those teams I put together. I really work hard day by day making sure everything is exquisite from the beginning to the end. And I’m always asking people throughout the event, like, “You need anything? You having a good time?” People feel at home there. People leave the event wanting more, and wanting to buy that ticket back home, whether it’s West Africa, North Africa, South Africa, East Africa, Central. That’s my mission to drive that idea home.
Recall your favorite memory at one of your parties.
My favorite memory was we were in Addis, and K-Meta put on a song called “WATAWI” [by CKay feat. Davido, Focalistic and Abidoza]. I’m standing on a couch in the middle of the party. A lot of people don’t know this song. But he didn’t realize at that moment that that was my favorite song of the year. And as the song is playing, I’m screaming the lyrics. At the same time, I’m taking a video and I’m turning, turning, turning and the whole place was filled up. All my friends from the Bay, all my friends from D.C., all my friends from Dallas, New York, Boston, all over the place [were] just mingling and having a great time.
In my mind, I was like, “OK, this is lit. I’m here. And I’m here to stay.” This is something that can be for real for real going forward. I had a serious in-my-head moment of like, “I could do this every week here.” And the funny thing was I did it back-to-back weeks, and they were both sold out. Typically, I take a month off to do it. But because I was in Addis and my time there was limited, I did it back-to-back weeks, and both weeks were sold out. And I was like, “No way! This is for real!”