A Review of After Hours | An Event Presented by No Signal Radio

A Review of After Hours | An Event Presented by No Signal Radio

The event, After Hours, was presented by No Signal Radio to celebrate Black British culture and recount the last 50 years of African, specifically Ghanian, music.

The event, which was hosted by the Serpentine Gallery in collaboration with current exhibiting photographer James Barnor, included live music from Yaaba Funk and DJ sets from DJ DNA, DJ Scyther, Tone, Juls.

After Hours: The Serpentine Pavillion

The Serpentine Pavilion is an architecturally pleasing and inviting space, capable of transporting visitors to a different realm. A heightened circular roof falls down into layers of ovals and rectangles, each layer rests effortlessly onto one another allowing the space to flow like water; bending and curving naturally until one becomes engulfed in its structural perfection.

Walking in, we were submerged into a rainbow of blues, pinks, greens, and yellows all refracting and bouncing off one another. These lights, which were projected onto the pavilion, bubbled up a sense of the outer worldly, a calming beauty and stillness – as if they were waiting for the first hit of the drum or string of a guitar before they sprung to life.

The pavilion was designed by the South African architectural group Counterspace and commissioned by the Serpentine. It was built with the intention of collaboration, migration, and embodiment and is therefore culturally unique from Kensington’s Hyde Park.

Yet the collaborative nature of the two together creates an ambient haven, contrasting dramatically with the busy London which surrounds it. 

The bar and seating area was entirely outdoors – quite the risk for late august, but it thankfully paid off.

Passing through this area, which bears a striking resemblance to areas throughout the African continent, we noticed the wide range of people that we were surrounded by: The young, the old, the trendy, the strange, the reserved and the expressive – everyone was different. Yet, all conversed together, creating memories and bathing in the sounds of a late summer that shone from the ensemble before us.

Yaba Funk and The Serpentine were able to bring a community together through structure and music. 

After Hours: Yaaba Funk

Yaaba Funk formed in 2009 and consists of keyboards, a full drum set, bongo drums, bass, saxophone, trumpet, and two vocalists who use shakers and tambourines.

They played together with ease, the years of friendship and collaboration was clear through their musical telepathy. The drums fed into the keys to the sax, to the guitars and vocals in a rhythmic alliance which spread infectiously into the crowd. 

We could feel the influence of pioneers like Fela Kuti and Sun Ra within the cadences of Yaaba funks sound. They were able to draw out potent elements of exertion from traditional sounds and create a transferable kinetic force.

Through mixes of jazz, funk, experimental, electrical, and traditional Yoruba they created a mobility to the music. Across the venue this seemed to stir a subconscious reaction within the audience and managed to jerk their bodies out of stagnation. 

They used elements of highlife (the guitar led Ghanian dance) paired with the British two-tone style movement. In mixing African and English led genres, they create a musical style unique to Yaaba Funk – a sound that is meant to be heard by a live audience. 

The energy exerted from lead vocalists Richmond Kessie and Helen McDonald, was inspiring. They managed to harmonize and intertwinenot only with each other,but with the crowd too.

After Hours: The Other Artists

As Yaaba Funk came to the end of their set, they brought up Ghanaian photographer James Barnor (who is currently exhibiting at the Serpentine until 24th October). The audience were silenced and honoured by his words as he spoke on Ghanian history and music, thanking Yaaba Funk for their contribution to the night and telling us of the influence music, particularly Ghanian has held over his work – it was a sentimental moment for all. 

The late evening DJs had a similar power to Yaaba Funk. However, the mature audience was replaced by a younger crowd. Despite being a Ghanian event there was a diversity of people in attendance, which brought with it a relaxed and inclusive energy. 

The music by DJ DNA, DJ Scyther, Tone & Juls was a mix of afrobeat, electronic and dancehall along with some pop culture classics, making the evening well rounded and enjoyable for everyone.

There was a positivity radiating across this evening which seemed to capture everyone attending. After the last two years of isolation, fear and panic over the pandemic going to such a freeing and open event, felt refreshing for us all. It was a moment to detach from current politics and remember the freedom of connecting, listening, and moving with one another. 

Written & Illustrated by Chantelle Weir

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