Park throbs to the sound of Africa as festival opens; Organisers want to extend event across the country.
SEFTON Park was host to Europe's biggest freeAfrican music festival at the weekend.
This summer's AfricaOye festival began on Saturday and will run until June 21.
The event includes concerts on the main stage near the Palm House in Sefton Park,and at the Magnet night club,in Hardman Street.
It will also hold an event as part of the Mersey River Festival at the weekend.
The five bands who delighted the crowd at Sefton Park yesterday were N'Der,Setsima, Farafina,Boukmae Eksperyars and TInariwen.
Paul Duhaney,Africa Oye project co-ordinator, said:``The festival got off to a great start at the weekend. The exquisite backdrop of the Palm House combined with inspirational music combined to produce a truly uplifting concert of quality music.
``We have been running the festival for over 10 years now and this year we wanted to make it fully inclusive by taking it out of the city centre across the whole of Merseyside.`` Events will also take place later in the month at Parklands,Speke, and at Liverpool Hope University College's Evertoncampus.
Other artists performing will include New York-based Puerto Rican band Radio Mundial and Misty In Roots, a group from Southall in West London that is influenced by Jamaican music.
This year's programme has been expanded to include Dublin and Manchester.
Cllr Warren Bradley,executive member for Leisure and Culture, said: ``It is no surprise the festival was a great success at the weekend and it continues to go from strength to strength.As we move towards 2008 and the city embraces a number of festivals it's great to seeAfrica Oye at the top of the agenda. It was a fantastic turnout with hundreds of people enjoying themselves.'' By the city's reign as European Capital of Culture,festival organisers are aiming to span the whole country with linked festivals in London,Bristol and Glasgow.
As well as the main event in June, a spring project will centre on the native music of each geographical region of Africa.
In October, 2008, a six-day Children's African/Caribbean Festival will involve cultural exchanges between school children as well as visiting young artists.
Finally,a three-day gospel project will showcase music from Africa, theCaribbean and the US in December.
Africa Oye is also organising the Liverpool element of this summer's EuropeanFete de la Musique.
The event involves a mixture of amateur and professional musicians performing in the streets,bars,parks and public squares of cities across thecontinent, such as Paris and Venice.
Liverpool will be the only city to represent the UK in the day-long festival on June 21, with a concert at the Carling Academy.
Some of the fans who flocked to the festival yesterday; Tinariwan from the Sarah a region performing yesterday Pictures: EDDIE BARFORD