Music Feature

37th Annual Odunde Festival

by Julia Aguilar
A look at the largest African street festival on the East Coast. Photos by Julia Aguilar
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This past Sunday, Philly was piping hot. At 23rd and South, a cloudless blue sky and sizzling asphalt set the stage for the 37th annual Odunde festival. The culminating event in a ten-day-long celebration of African culture focused this year on Bahia, Brazil. Crowds thronged through blocks lined with vendors selling traditional jewelry, instruments, oils and shea butter. Seeking shade from trees and umbrellas, performers improvised incendiary drum circles, and FICA Philadelphia (among other local capoeria and regional FICA groups) played whirling rodas of capoeira, a Brazilian martial art, accompanied by singing and clapping.

Every year, Odunde, meaning "Happy New Year," in Yoruba, hosts over 125 vendors of varying West African, Caribbean, and African-American crafts, food and clothing to share the Yoruba holiday revering Oshun, a holy Orisha in Yoruba religion. Though the street festival is the pinnacle of its celebrations (attracting between 3,000-5,000 people annually), Odunde holds a series of academic, historical, and entertaining events throughout the first week of June. This year's included a symposium on Oshun at the African American Musuem in Philadelphia, and an outdoor Zumba aerobics class that hosted over 300 participants. 

Be there next year, the second Sunday in June!

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