The story of Detty Rave begins in 2016. It was the year its founder, Mr Eazi, blew up internationally. He decided to close out the year with a homecoming performance in Lagos, Nigeria, the country he was born in, with his favorite DJs and collaborators joining him on the bill.
The homecoming motto wasn’t randomly chosen. December has always been a month of great festivities in Africa, not least because it’s the month the diaspora returns home. It also means there are a lot of competing events, from birthday celebrations to funeral services and wedding blessings to religious services, many of which gather a medium-sized festival crowd. Local vendors have long since stocked PA systems, screens and lights. But Mr Eazi, whose real name is Oluwatosin Ajibade, wanted to take things to another level.
He knew he wanted to depart from the classical concert set up from the outset, and turn it into something resembling a club night, only outdoors and for a much larger audience. One core aspect of achieving this was the use of lights and lasers. Collaborating with Dotun Lightspeed, one of the leading light set designers in West Africa, fans were treated to a visual experience unlike anything seen in Nigeria before.
Ajibade spent most of 2017 touring the world, and when the year’s end approached, he decided to put on another rave, this time in Ghana, where he built his career. Seeing that it was becoming a recurring thing, a name for the event had to be found. One of Mr Eazi’s monikers being Detty Boy (Detty referring to free spirits not afraid to play in the mud and get dirty), the name Detty Rave came naturally.
The event’s concept is inspired by Major Lazer, who’ve performed with Ajibade multiple times, live and on record. “I just fell in love with the way they do their sound systems, with Diplo and Ape Drums DJing, and Walshy [Fire] as the hype man. I fell in love with that kind of free flow form of partying,” he said, adding, “My vision is to create Afrobeat events led by the DJs, where the music is properly directed, and the experience, from lighting to security, is world class.”
During a Detty Rave, Ajibade takes on the part of hype man, singing and rapping along an Afrobeats-driven set by various DJs. But every now and again, a song will be performed by the original artist, who may pop up on stage unexpectedly and leave again, the audience’s minds blown. “At our first rave, the guy with the hottest song at the time, Shatta Wale, showed up. I didn’t even know he was coming. I was surprised, the fans were surprised, it was lovely,” Ajibade recalled.
The first Detty Rave took place at Labadi Hotel in Ghana, with some 3,500 in attendance. Detty Rave two and three followed, but then the policies imposed in response to coronavirus put everything on halt for two years. The event’s return on Dec. 27, 2022, brought over 11,000 revelers to The Rave Grounds at Untamed Empire in Accra, Ghana, where the event moved in 2019. Ajibade co-owns the site. He also invested in lasers, CO2 guns, and just put in an order for screens. “Not because there are no screens in Ghana,” he explained, “but just because the demand on local vendors during December is so high that you end up paying the same in rent as you would buying the equipment yourself. Same with the moving heads. If it’s the same cost to buy, ship, and clear it, then we might as well just buy it. Plus, we have our own venue, so it makes sense to own crash barriers, trusses, and a stage. People who rent this space can also book the equipment.”
The stage is built from scratch every edition, based on sketches Ajibade draws himself. “I already know the concept behind the stage for this year’s edition. The team is already working on a third version, mapping lights etc. Then the vendors will bring it to life,” he explained.
What hasn’t changed since the first homecoming concert in 2016, is Ajibade’s love for lasers. The latest Detty Rave brought Ghana’s aviation authority to the scene. “We had lasers that shot up into the sky to form a roof. Once you were in the crowd and you looked up, it looked like you were in a building, but the roof was different lasers. We had to turn those off because the site is in the landing area of airplanes,” Ajibade recalled.
Past Detty Rave lineups featured international stars like Rick Ross, Koffee, Giggs, Afro B, Kranium, alongside Africa’s top DJs and artists. The 2022 rave featured an exclusively African lineup with King Promise from Ghana, Joeboy, and Crayon from Nigeria, Ami Faku, and Uncle Vinny form South Africa, The Therapist from Sierra Leone, and many more. The aforementioned Shatta Wale also returned as a guest. With the exception of 2019, Ajibade never announces the lineup ahead of the event so as to not distract from the core experience.
The event has attracted international attention, including from promoters in LA and New York, who suggested to partner on a stateside Detty Rave, but Ajibade wants to focus on growing the brand on the continent first. He said, “The plan is to perfect it, take it on tour [across Africa] this year. There’ll be one in the East, where I already know the city, and one in the South, but it’s too early to announce details. We’ll see if 2024 is the year we take Detty Rave to the rest of the world.”