An image of people standing in the sea in Lagos, Nigeria, during Homecoming festival 2018. Most people are seen from the back or side; two people in the foreground frame the image, and in the centre a person wears a football shirt with 'Homecoming 18' printed on the back, red sunglasses and gold hoop earrings.

Image courtesy of Homecoming

Homecoming is an annual festival of music, sport, fashion and design held in Lagos, Nigeria. Homecoming comes to Manchester on 17 July for Homecoming Live at MIF21.

Please note the recent changes to the line-up. Performing in Manchester are NSG, Midas The Jagaban, Lojay, DJ Obi, Anz and special guests. Rema is unable to perform due to illness.

Here, writer Christine Ochefu explores the history and culture of Homecoming.

African youth culture is exploding worldwide. Homecoming co-founder Grace Ladoja reckons she knows why. ‘You have to realise close to 70% of the population in Nigeria alone is aged under 30,’ she says, ‘That’s 140 million people.’ With modern digital culture enabling tastes to travel across borders, West Africa’s burgeoning creative scene is making waves around the world. 'Nigerian creativity has always been there, but the means to communicate globally via social media has really made that impact global,’ Ladoja says. ‘Having that connectivity has allowed culture to transcend.'

Enter Homecoming. First established in 2017, the annual festival in Lagos, Nigeria, is the collaborative brainchild of grime artist Skepta, creative mogul Grace Ladoja MBE and collaborator Greatness Dex. Held over the Easter weekend, the festival blends multiple facets of the creative landscape, programming music alongside sport, fashion, art and design. For Homecoming’s ethos, the clue is in the name. As people of Nigerian origin, the founders want to put a unique spotlight on the African cultural scene and want to encourage global audiences to put their eyes – and ears – back on the motherland.

‘For a long time we’ve been sold this version of [Africa] that’s not true,' Skepta says in a 2018 Beats 1 documentary about Homecoming, noting the effect this distortion had on the diaspora, and how perspectives have changed. 'Everyone who didn’t want to say where they were from, everyone who didn’t want to acknowledge, everyone who wanted to laugh at African accents wants to listen to Afrobeats now – listen to Wizkid, listen to Davido, Tekno, everything.'

Styles pioneered by African artists, such as afrobeats and afroswing, have exploded across airwaves internationally in the past few years. Spearheaded by local musicians like Wizkid and Burna Boy as well as those from the diaspora, they’re genres indebted to established Black music styles like dancehall, hip hop and grime, adding in traditional African rhythms and dialects like Nigerian Pidgin English. 'Nigeria and West Africa have such rich cultural roots and references,' Ladoja says. 'People are just un-tapping that now and bringing it into a modern context, which makes for new narratives across all of the arts.'

In Lagos, Homecoming performances often come from local talent; artists like Santi and Odunsi The Engine, whose hits – like the party-ready Rapid Fire and star signs, respectively – blend electronic synths and smooth vocals. Other pioneering artists who’ve graced the festival stage include Wavy the Creator to the steady-rising Teni the Entertainer, hitmakers from the country’s Alté scene, yet another newly-formed genre blending alternative rap and singing with copious autotune and equally trippy imagery.

But it’s not just music the festival taps into. They’ve featured pop-up shops to host emerging designers and fashion mavericks like Mowalola, whose creations have been worn by Naomi Campbell and Kanye West. And there’s a football tournament headed by Nigerian organisations, the grassroots football group Ball Off and culture magazine Native. It’s an ode to the love the nation has for each respective field, Ball Off says: 'Homecoming combines several aspects of culture over the course of a weekend with each guest getting a dose of their specific interests. Football is one of these aspects of culture that Homecoming has done a great job in showcasing.'

Homecoming canvas without Rema

Homecoming Live artists Midas the Jagaban, Anz, Julie Adenuga

Now, Homecoming is headed to Manchester as Homecoming Live, part of the MIF21 line-up, a one-night-only event that precedes a full festival takeover at MIF’s future home, The Factory, in 2023. Their first live event since going digital in 2020, due to the pandemic, Homecoming Live signals a new era for the festival. 'We're excited to bring that untapped energy of Africa to Manchester, celebrating the exchange and collision of creativity coming from Africa and in the diaspora,' Ladoja says. 'We want to amplify those voices from the continent on a global stage.'

Headlining in Manchester on 17 July is Nigeria’s-own Rema(* Please note that due to illness, Rema is unable to perform at the show as planned. See note below.), an artist blowing up internationally with his slick blend of traditional rhythms and quick-fire delivery, a sound he calls 'afrorave.' Rema first nabbed listeners with smash hit Dumebi back in 2019 and since then, he’s appeared on a track with Skepta and collaborated with FKA Twigs. 'Rema's* first ever live show was at Homecoming in Lagos so we are super excited to bring him to Manchester!' says Ladoja. 'That to us shows a real journey, it’s something we’re very proud of.'

Hosted by TV and radio presenter Julie Adenuga (who is Skepta’s sister), Homecoming Live features Manchester’s own Nigerian-British DJ Anz, who is known for her eclecticism on the decks. Selecting everything from electro to garage, grime and afrobeats, she’s had a steady rise in the club scene since her breakout in 2017, when she won Red Bull’s Riddim Rally. Plus South London’s Midas the Jagaban, a balaclava-clad, anonymous rapper whose name riffs on ancient Greek mythology and the Yoruba word for leader. Midas might sound ominous but her music is anything but; last year’s Party With A Jagaban shows off her upbeat, rhythmic style and catchy flows. It’s Homecoming doing what it does best: seeking out trailblazers in both music and style.

'To be able to put Rema* next to Midas the Jagaban, or to celebrate and exchange sounds between Manchester and Lagos via Anz’s A Letter to Eko radio shows that she hosts on NTS Manchester – they are real life examples of the cultural exchange that is so important to us,' Ladoja says. 'One of our main goals of Homecoming is to amplify artists, and our central value is equality. We use the festival to platform artists and creatives from the continent next to their global counterparts for them to be able to flourish.' Homecoming Live brings that flourishing to Manchester.

Christine Ochefu is a journalist and editor from the North West.

* PLEASE NOTE: There’s been a change to the advertised line-up. Due to illness, Rema is unable to perform at the show as planned, and sends his sincerest apologies: 'Thank you UK ravers for your constant love and support. It means the world to me. I'm crushed that I cannot travel in time for Homecoming Live – but I promise you all, we will rave together again soon!' – Rema

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