DJ Blast on founding Seattle’s first Afrobeats festival—BLASTFEST (Interview)

Photos: Kelsey

Crossing paths with DJ Blast was no mistake.

Last year in May, Microsoft hosted its annual Afri-Week panel. Advertised as—a celebration that honours the history, traditions, progress, and culture of African countries—one of the organisers contacted me to be a panelist. DJ Blast moderated the virtual panel. Thenceforth, we maintained healthy communication through social media apps and text messaging. At first, when the Lagos-born talent contacted me to book Focalistic, the Pretoria, South African star, I did not realise it was his festival. So, when I found out, I had to get the scoop!

In our email Q&A, the festival founder highlights the importance of community, representation, his culture as a Nigerian-born mover and shaker, living and working in North America, and more.

Photos: Kelsey

GRUNGECAKE: Seattle has been home to a sound that millions of people grew to love. So much, so that, we took it on as a name. How. would you say the has of Seattle city been [musically] since then?

DJ Blast: Grunge, House, and Garage music has typically defined the city of Seattle, however I feel like they just had better marketing teams. Seattle has always been a home to all music. From Quincy Jones, to the birth of Ray Charles’ career. Then, you have Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain. Kenny G, Sir Mix-a Lot, Macklemore, and now we’re starting another wave with BLASTFEST. Every genre has been influenced by Seattle in a massive way, and we hope to continue that trend with this festival.

GRUNGECAKE: Would you say there are parallels between Seattle’s popular subculture and Afrobeats? How so?

DJ Blast: I think the goal is to shine light on the less popular subcultures. There is a huge transplant community, the massive African and Caribbean community, and the indigenous Black community of Seattle. I feel like one of the missions of BLASTFEST is to show that we are here and present in this city, and that we can do amazing things. Too often, we see our stories going untold and unrepresented, so we’re at an inflection point where we can start to rewrite the narrative.

GRUNGECAKE: The festival is your namesake. Where does your name come from? And where in Nigeria are you from?

DJ Blast: Bobby Blast originated from my days as an athlete, and I initially used that moniker as my photography brand “Blastography.” Eventually, when I transitioned to DJing, BLAST remained and continued to be a perfect fit for the experience that I hoped to provide.


DJ Blast: I’m born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria—the home of Afrobeats. Although I spent many of my earlier years in Dallas, and I began my DJing career as a primarily Hip-Hop DJ, in retrospect, Afrobeats was always my calling. I’m happy to consistently give the Afrobeats community the BLAST experience.

GRUNGECAKE: As a DJ of Nigerian blood, how does it feel to be one of the many ambassadors pushing your culture forward in North America? As someone who understands how difficult life could be for people of color in the US, did you think this day would ever come?

DJ Blast: I’m honoured to be considered a cultural ambassador and I don’t take that title lightly. I feel like it’s my duty to represent Nigeria, and Africa overall, in the best possible light. Furthermore, my desire is to redefine what it means to be African in the American mind. I want everyone to see our rich culture for what it has been, what it currently is, and what’s yet to come.

I am particularly happy with the progress made for people of colour in the US. That’s not to say that there aren’t still miles of work ahead of our country holistically, but I am happy to be a change agent. I wish to create the world that I hope to see here in Seattle.

GRUNGECAKE: This year marks the first annual Afrobeats festival ever in Seattle! As someone who actively and intentionally pushes the “Africa to the World” brand, I smile from ear to ear about it. I remember when being proud and African amongst fellow people of color wasn’t hip or cool. Now, we have our thing! We’re operating at the highest levels and creating massive opportunities for our communities and ourselves as business owners.

Taking a step back, what does this all mean to you? To launch and book some of Africa’s most prominent stars for your first festival?

DJ Blast: To me, it’s the opportunity to draw a line in the sand. I think we’ve gone far past the days of being mocked for our accents or our culture, and now we’re at a point where we are introducing people to the amazing world that is the Afro-culture.

Asake was a very purposeful choice for headliner, in the sense that he barely even speaks English in his music, yet he has had a meteoric rise to the mainstream stage. We want to show our culture in its most authentic form, and we wanted to start the festival off on the best foot forward. We feel like once phase two of the lineup releases, people will be even more excited!

GRUNGECAKE: For outsiders, who aren’t from the United States or Seattle, what should they expect when travelling to the venue for your event?

DJ Blast: Seattle summers are next to none. We picked one of the most iconic venues in the city, to create one of the most iconic events in the nation. Expect a weekend of enjoyment in every form, from great food and activations, to happy hours and after parties. The entire weekend is shaping up to be a great time.


GRUNGECAKE: What’s the importance of the BLASTFEST? What’s its function?

DJ Blast: BLASTFEST is here to amplify our culture in every facet. We don’t want to just be a great Afrobeats festival. we want to be a great festival—period, and we want to put the Afro-culture on display whilst doing so.

I do believe this will give tentacles for other cultures to attach themselves, and better identify with the African experience. Particularly, African-Americans that are interested in better connecting with their African origins.


DJ Blast: The importance of BLASTMART is to enable other Black owned businesses to win as well. So many times, it feels like we’re all trying to break into a market and only a few of us get chosen. So, I have created an opportunity to bring an audience to these amazing vendors, and for them to broaden their customer base. It has always been of utmost importance to me to empower businesses that may have otherwise been overlooked, and BLASTMART is my first attempt at doing so.

GRUNGECAKE: Who are you most excited to see live? Let us know about the other DJs on the lineup. How were they selected? Are they locals?

Asake & Focalistic are actually the only artists on the lineup that I haven’t personally had the chance to work with prior to the festival and I am really excited to make this a reality. The DJ’s I curated are master selectas. They transform spaces through music in ways that are unreal, and I want the world to be able to experience their sound. They come from every major region of the United States, and they all have roots in Africa as well.

The BLASTFEST happens on July 29 in Seattle, Washington, at the Seattle Center. Asake, Kizz Daniel, and Focalistic are on the bill to perform. To learn more about the festival and to purchase tickets, visit this link.

Written by Richardine Bartee

Her unprejudiced love for people, the arts, and business have taken her this far. Join Richardine on her journey as she writes history into existence, one article at a time. Richardine is a member of the Recording Academy/GRAMMYs, and a GRAMMY U Mentor. She is the North American Press Agent and US Business Manager for Oxlade; Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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