It’s Wednesday, 9am on the dot. I am standing on the O2 Arena’s coach park. Alongside me is a couple of hundred record label staff, artists, press and creatives waiting to spread across five to six stretch coaches. Where are we heading? To an island.
Osea Island is an exclusive island in the south of England, 90 minutes from London. When I say exclusive, I mean that you can only access and escape it three times a day when the tides are low. Luckily for us, this year’s Island Life festival gave us lots to feast our eyes, ear and bellies on.
It’s not the first time Island Records take over the small island. They have previously invited many artists with headliners, The Weeknd and Sean Paul, to perform at the 24-hour summer party. This year’s special retreat included live performances building to headline act, UK rap artist, Giggs.
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After coasting through rocky roads and some sludge, we arrive. The day kicks off with a pool party. Not far off from those you see in music videos. Guests are scattered everywhere, except in the pool. Vibing to music from Waved in Full DJ’s, queues are lining up at the food stalls and tans are being collected. Everyone is smartly conserving their energy for what’s to come.
Around mid-afternoon, the DJ lowers the volume of the music. It’s for time Island Records’ annual rounders match. Aptly named Rum and Rounders, we find ourselves well-liquored and ready to rumble. We make our way to the field. I join a football match that is split based on T-shirt colours: Light T’s vs Dark T’s. You can imagine how much confusion there is about who is friend and who is foe. The first goal is scored by north-west London's rising artist and producer, Knucks. The games unwind, but the fun continues.
The sun is still drenching the island with its rays paired with tickles of cold breeze. I find one of the vintage bicycles scattered around the island for ease of transportation. I reach the Captain’s House. The first thing I smell is the beautiful aroma of jerk chicken. Queues are waiting and drooling to get a taste of Mama’s Jerk drumsticks and plantain. The flow of alcohol is steady (courtesy of Hennessey) and the flow of music is provided by Born n Bread DJs. The South-London collective give us everything from R&B, hip-hop to dancehall and Afrobeat in preparation for the next act.
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Dermot Kennedy takes the stage. Island’s Irish singer-songwriter delivers nothing less than his heart. In a stripped-back yet fiery performance, the guests are immediately entranced by the supremely talented vocalist. Moments later, I notice a tall man in a royal blue tracksuit. It was none other than Giggs who I have been told has arrived in style by a helicopter. He greets everyone with a smile. I told him how much I enjoyed his recent performance of The Essence on COLORS. He kindly allowed me to take photos of him, ‘’Take natural ones, do your thing!’’
Still excited by my encounter with Giggs, House Gospel Choir, take the stage and shake the house. The performance did not fail to get the crowd singing, dancing and praising the crisp harmonies.
The next hot spot to go to is The Factory. Here, we wait for what we came for. Drinks are still flowing, easing the anticipation of, according to The FADER, ‘one of the most relatable voices in the UK’ to step on stage. In the meantime, I come across one of my favourite producers, Juls. The Ghanaian producer is a master in the afropop industry, producing hits for Mr Eazi, Wizkid and Burna Boy to name a few. As we make our way to the stage, Ray BLK and her skilled band open with a bang. The singer performed some of her biggest hits, including ‘My Hood’ and ‘5050’. She delivers an intimate performance, each song coupled with personalised introductions.
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Alex Boateng, head of Island’s Urban division, warmly thanks Ray BLK and introduces the headline act. A man standing next to me apologises in advance for when he starts to flail and jump around to each and every Giggs banger. The awaited man of the hour takes the stage and greets us with a ‘’Yo, yo, what we sayin’?’’ His energy is infectious and his humour is entertaining. He opens with single ’Swingin in da Whip’ and ends by taking us on a ’Whippin’ Excursion’. The lead single from 'Landlord' shuts down the place leaving us to enjoy the rest of our island escape.
In the darkness of the night, a pink light is still beaming from one food stall. Le Swine is dishing out juicy burgers to boost some much needed energy as we party into the morning and finally sneak out of the island when the tides are low.
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Words: Noor Palette (@noorpalette)
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