Afro Beta 2009-2019: Ten years of celebrating the culture that connects us!
Part 1 of a 5 part series on the origins and history of Afro Beta
This year marks the ten year anniversary of Afro Beta (2009-2019) which is a celebration of culture that I started shortly after I moved from Philly back to Richmond in late 2007. It was conceptualized as an idea that I brought to the Teklemariam brothers (Benyam, Yosef, and Natan) who ran Nile Ethiopian Restaurant. The initial iteration of Afro Beta was to build a collaborative event to bring together elements of some of the best dance music events in Philly and New York, but doing it in our own unique way.
My experience in Philly going to events like Rich Medina’s Jump ‘n Funk afrobeat night, and Natan’s experiences living in NYC going to events like François K’s Body and Soul parties laid the groundwork for what we wanted: an event that featured house music, positive vibes, and cultural relevance which is something that Richmond had never really experienced before. As a musician and lover of the vibrations that live music brings, I also wanted there to be live percussion. With that in mind, a major element of the event we envisioned was live drummers accompanying the music. So we picked a date/frequency, which was initially twice a month on Thursdays, and I made a flyer (pictured above) to start promoting it. That was the birth of Afro Beta v.1 in 2009, and it was met with a moderate level of success. But with it being on Thursday nights, it was difficult to reach anyone other than those most dedicated to getting their groove on during the week.
A few months later in February of 2010 I was asked to DJ a birthday party for my then bandmate Maurice “Barcodez” Jackson at a downtown venue. Drums No Guns leader Ram Bhagat came thru and we were able to build some really good vibes between his live drumming and my DJ selections. I had already been asked by one of my other bandmates, Sam Reed, to DJ a birthday celebration for J Miles at The Nile so I invited Ram to join me for that event in April. WIth so many entities calling out to their friends and tribe members, the April 3rd, 2010 Afro Beta “Fela-bration” session for J Miles’s birthday kicked of version 2.0 on the first Saturday of every month.
To help celebrate the ten year milestone, every week of 2019 I am going to be posting one vintage flyer from the Afro Beta archives. In addition to the afro-infused music, live rhythms, fly people, and global vibes that helped AB achieve success, the promotion around the event mirrored all of those elements. By mixing afrofuturistic imagery and complimentary font and graphic design work into the visual imagery, I was able to design and post flyers that reached beyond the personal networks of any individual. I was also designing flyers for my other DJ events, as well as for my band Photosynthesizers so I have over 200 flyers that I designed between 2010 and 2015 and many of them will be posted here over the next year. So stay tuned for the flavor, and if you have ever attended or supported Afro Beta in any way, I thank you for helping make a dream become reality!