Where Were You: Art X Live Returns To Lagos

where were you?

For the past few years, Art X Live has become one of the leading art festivals in West Africa. The showcase is designed to exhibit the innovative works of African artists from all around the continent and the diaspora. Now entering its sixth edition, Art X Live made its return to Lagos this weekend, featuring works from over 100 artists across 25 countries both in Africa and her diaspora.


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While COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines kept many art enthusiasts away from the annual event the previous year, this year’s event reintroduced the Art X Live brand with a resounding bang. Building on past editions that have featured a range of talented newcomers and established acts from Lady Donli to Ladipoe and TMXO, this year’s event tapped into the magic of Afropop’s new vanguard of hitmakers including Lojay, Dami Oniru, AYLO, Pheelz, BigFoot, and visual artist FEZ.

This year’s theme, known as “Forward Ever” is curated by Lanre Masha, Faridah Folawiyo and Ayo Lawson who seek to celebrate Nigeria’s past, present and future. The theme also encapsulates the fervour of the performing acts who individually and collectively champion a new template of authenticity in today’s emerging soundscape. Therefore, it came as no surprise that Art X Live was a night to remember.

As someone who had never attended previous editions of Art X Live, I had little to no expectations of the event, however, I was pleasantly thrilled with the commingling of Lagos’ love for partying and music with the city’s appreciation for art. As a first-time attendee, the palpable energy from the crowd and the stunning performances from the artists was enough to convince me of the night’s great success. With December, our official party season just around the corner, it would be really nice for us to see even more of these.

To round off the event, I had the pleasure of speaking with some of the performing acts about their place in Africa’s emerging soundscape, their music, and the importance of immersive experiences such as Art X Live.

Our conversation which follows below has been lightly edited for clarity.

NATIVE: How does this moment feel for you? 

AYLØ:  It’s obviously an amazing moment, a very amazing feeling and I’m certainly very happy to be here. It’s a very new experience for me and the type of person I am. It’s also a reminder that maybe I’m on the right track and there’s a platform for a sound such as mine. I’m pretty excited. It’s been long and tough, the past few weeks have been crazy but it’s also been very fun.

Lojay: It’s been good, it’s been exciting. It’s been a vibe and I certainly can’t complain, I feel blessed. 

Dami Oniru: It’s been quite an interesting moment. For me, it’s hearing my songs I already put out in a different way than what I created. It’s so amazing and just shows how deep art can be and the power of collaboration.

Pheelz: It’s certainly been an experience, I’ve met a lot of interesting people and I’ve gotten to work with them so yeah, It’s been fun.

NATIVE: Art X is an important part of the culture here in Lagos. What does performing or showcasing at this year’s event mean to you?

AYLØ: It’s the most work I’ve done for a performance and it’s also the most creative I’ve been in such a short period and It’s the biggest performance for me right now. Like I said, I’m very excited to be here and I’m happy to be a part of this.

Lojay: There are a lot of major parts of Art x Lagos to be honest but I’m excited to come on and do my part and make the crowd pop.

Pheelz: It means a lot to me, this is my first ArtX ever and just playing a role like this means a lot to me and also I had a lot of creative freedom so that made me very interested in this. I’m very excited to see how it all plays out tonight.

NATIVE: How do you embody this year’s theme of ‘Forward Ever’ in your craft? 

AYLØ: Well for my performance, I worked with Pheelz and usually when I perform, I just perform the song as it is but this time, We actually re-engineered a couple of songs so there’s a couple of songs I’ve never performed like this before because this is the first time a version like this even exists.

Lojay: To be honest, it was just a matter of pushing the envelope for myself in terms of changing or switching up the vibe of my performance and giving people a different experience from what they’ve had before basically, that was key for me.

Dami Oniru: 2020 happened so fast for me, It’s like putting everything behind me and just wanting  to do more and be more intentional.  I felt like I needed the pause and now that it’s over, it feels like  the first time again and there’s no reason to stop now. It’s literally facing the front and putting everything in despite everything that has happened in the past.

Pheelz: First off, you simply can’t move forward without paying homage to what has happened so I drew inspiration from that. A lot of what I put together is very futuristic, so basically creating futuristic sounds but still paying homage to the past.


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NATIVE: Has art ever been an inspiration behind any of the music you’ve created? 

AYLØ: I guess yes, just the ambiance has been an inspiration but music, music has definitely inspired the music I’ve made and I’m still making, then film and just introspective media and of course, art is one of those things, It’s what you feel that makes it what it is and also what the artist may have done.

Lojay: Not behind my creation per se, but I enjoy making art. I draw so I just see all of this and I feel inspired to create. 

Dami Oniru: I won’t say visual art exactly but audios, songwriting and just even listening to other people’s songs, that’s something I’ve definitely put into my music especially tapping into different genres and writing styles.

Pheelz: Art, yes it definitely has played a role in my creation. I’m an artist as well, a visual artist and that’s what I do when I don’t make music, I paint and make 3D art.

NATIVE: You produced this year’s theme ‘Forward Ever’ alongside Big Foot. Can you talk us through the production process?

Pheelz: BigFoot is someone I’ve respected over time and It’s a thing where we both respect each other from afar and subconsciously just wait for an opportunity to work together so this was a perfect opportunity to just work and create together. The process was new at first, there was anxiety here and there but after a while, I got used to the team and everyone involved and just the vibe here so working became a lot easier. I’m happy everything worked out fine and everyone was really happy with the outcome.

Featured image credits/Art X Lagos