Africa’s connection with the diaspora has been a long-standing one. With the advent of the internet and social media, that relationship has been strengthened. Young people are finding creative and innovative ways to connect with their roots and their culture via social media. One group championing this is Ubunifu Space. The Ubunifu Space is a YouTube channel and online platform launched in 2017 to celebrate sounds coming from African artists in the continent and diaspora. From day one, the concept was simple. Five friends – Bryan, Monique, Shay, David and Ian – would watch videos by artists from the African continent and the diaspora, and film their reactions, all from the comfort of Bryan’s front room.
In celebrating young British Black musicians and dynamic rising musical voices in Africa and the diaspora, they tapped into a shared musical consciousness and a genuine human connection. A quarter of a million subscribers and over 40 million YouTube views later and the Ubunifu Space is a cultural powerhouse. Their reaction videos have become a sought-after tool for artists trying to gain exposure with new music; they recently launched a regular show on the country’s fastest-rising radio station, No Signal and they just launched their biggest project to date – a long-form video series documenting their recent tour of South Africa and Kenya.
#UBUONTOUR sees the stars of the channel fly to South Africa and Kenya in late November, through December, sparking the beginning of their summertime and the most popular time of the year. “We wanted to create a full circle,” says the Space’s founder Bryan Obonyo, “We’d learned a lot from watching videos but we wanted to fly out. Experience the music, the culture and interact with the artists and followers who share our enthusiasm.” The film shows the five friends interacting with their fans on the continent for the first time – moments which amplify just how much their channel has resonated. “Obviously you have Instagram and YouTube comments but there were people crying when they saw us!” Monique Touko reflects, “It’s all a bit mad really.”
For longtime fans of the Space, the documentary will be the first time the five friends are seen outside of Bryan’s living room. From an early morning flight at Heathrow right through to hazy cab rides home in Johannesburg, it’s an all-access pass to five friends living out a unique journey. “A lot of the time people see us reacting but don’t see us as individuals” Monique States.
As well as their legions of subscribers and fans, the documentary also brings The Ubunifu Space closer to the artists who they’ve been watching online for years. The likes of hit-making Riky Rick, Ghetts-collaborator Moonchild Sanelly, Cassper Nyovest, Busiswa, Sho Madjozi and the names go on. “It almost felt like finally meeting a long lost friend because we are so used to reacting to their videos and communicating with them from overseas, so it felt really good to finally meet & vibe with them,” David says. The documentary is set to give audiences a guided tour of some of the region’s brightest stars.
They also caught the first official summer of Amapiano – a gorgeous, infectious party sound which was born in townships and is fast blooming into an international phenomenon making mainstream inroads.
“Amapiano was having its first summer as the genre,” says Bryan, “We were immersed in it – seeing people release sounds there and then. It’s something that can’t be replicated.”
Beyond the late nights and heavy beats, #UBUONTOUR captures five young people on a personal journey. Self-described “Diaspora children” connecting with historic land and seeing firsthand what happens when a simple idea connects music fans who are 6,000 miles apart. Reflecting on the trip, Shay says “It was surreal, I couldn’t believe it and till this day I’m in shock. The culture in both countries blew me away and I honestly felt like I was at home. South Africa and Kenya remain close to my heart and I learnt and felt so much out there, can’t wait to return”.
Catch all 7 episodes of UBUONTOUR on the Ubunifu Space channel and the final episode on Monday 1st February 2021 with Episode 8.