Yam Carnival: Reviewing its debut featuring Kehlani, Beenie Man, NSG, Davido & more

Being back in a space with everyone dancing and vibing after the pandemic was a beautiful moment, even if there were a few technical issues at Yam Carnival. Sound issues and organisational mishaps served up a few obstacles throughout the day and cut short some of the performances, but the artists still showed what it means to love what you are doing and give it everything regardless.

Given that this was probably the first festival in a long while for many, there was no better way to kick things off then walking straight into Ms Banks’ set, which culminated with a performance of ‘Snack’. “You lot are already looking like snacks I don’t want to keep you waiting”, said Banks and as soon as the beat started, everyone was ready, setting the tone well for the rest of the day. Another highlight was NSG, who dipped into their bag of anthems to keep the main stage popping with hits like ‘Options’ and ‘OT Bop’, while they also brought out Unknown T as a special guest too.

Darkoo got the crowd going with ‘Gangsta’, ‘Juicy’ and the remix of Russ and Tion Wayne’s number one single ‘Body’, which she features on. She also brought Odeal back out onto the stage the second time the crowd got to see him after his earlier performance, as well as bringing out One Acen. You could tell they loved being up their together it was great to watch two people having the best time and feeding that back to the audience.

Following on from Darkoo, we were blessed to witness Patorankings energy and he definitely kept the mood going. We have to give a shoutout to whoever was on the drums because the musical interlude had everyone not just dancing but really dancing in the crowd.

Having gone 10 years without performing in the UK, everyone in attendance was hyped for Beenie Man’s set. The instrumental build-up to introducing him out to the crowd had the audience with the buzzing feeling of excited anticipation that you only get when you are at a festival waiting for your favourite artist to come out. Beenie Man also gave us a perfect example of someone being so confident in their artistry that they can deliver a show no matter what.

The sound and his Mic were quite low, which wasn’t his fault, and he turned it into a song with the audience shouting “turn up the music” and getting us to shout it back to him, making the best of a tough situation. He of course just made the most of what he was working with and delivered us what we all knew he would. All of his songs make you want to dance but the crowd particularly went wild for ‘Dude’ and ‘Who Am I’ and of course ‘Rum & Redbull’ which he used to close his set.

On the Afrika Shrine Alive stage, NAO and Koffee stole the show. Their performances were so exquisite everyone was wondering how they weren’t on the main stage. Koffee gave us a party, there wasn’t one person in that tent who didn’t have a smile on their face, arguably creating one of the best moments of the entire festival. She closed her set with ‘Lockdown’, the perfect choice with the crowd singing it back to her with the vim of a group of people who have definitely been waiting for this moment since hearing the song whilst in lockdown.

Nao showed us she is not just a singer, but a true artist. As soon as she started singing ‘If you ever’ with those angelic vocals that are so distinctly hers, she had the whole crowd captured. She floated around the stage so elegantly it felt like watching a movie and she brought out white balloons handing them down to the crowd, a nod to her 2018 album cover.

The penultimate act of the night on the main stage was Kehlani. Unfortunately, her set was cut short due to the ongoing tech difficulties, Kehlani came out every step of the way explaining to the fans what was happening and you could tell she really cared about everyone having a good time stating that she feels we are owed a performance and if it was organised she promises she will come back. The few songs we did get to hear what you cannot deny is her vocals are clean, so good in fact that if someone told me I was listening to the recorded version I would believe you.

Davido finished off the night headlining the main stage. He was another who got a rough deal with the technology but kept everyone enjoying themselves throughout. He got the crowd going by asking “who wants to make money this year?” before performing ‘Fall’ and ‘D&G’. That man left everything on the stage he gave all that he could and with the energy amongst the crowd, you could tell that we all felt that.

There’s no way to hide from the technical issues the day faced during the festival’s debut but what it did do is remind us what these events are about; everyone coming together to celebrate and enjoy the artists they love and finding common ground in music.

Here is a selection of some the highlights from Yarm Carnival. All of the photos you see below were taken by Qavi Reyez. You can find more of his work here.

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