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SOLD OUT SETTINGS: BAWO AT THE ICA

UK rap lovers gathered at the Institute of Contemporary Arts for the finale of Bawo’s Conference Tour, here’s what went down.


Words: Yehoshua Francis



On March 11th, music lovers gathered at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London to witness Bawo’s updated discography in a live setting. As a member of the audience put it succinctly, “I was sold when I heard him live and he made the songs sound better”. After seeing performances by many underground artists, I can say this is an ability possessed only by the most well-rounded artists, a category to which Bawo comfortably belongs.


Prefacing Bawo’s performance was a set by Reek0 and Samtheman: a duo belonging to the collective Brighter Days. Reek0 performed several tracks from his discography whilst freestyling on an eclectic selection of Brighter Days-produced dance beats. The enjoyment that he gets from being on stage is highly visible and incredibly infectious. Bringing on guest performers such as Capo Lee, Ramonie and Dochi, Reek0 presented the perfect opening set.



Bawo then opened his performance with ‘Phase.1’: the perfect introductory track to his latest project, and to this set. Bawo’s stage presence is undeniable, least in part due to his large stature. There is meticulousness with which he encompasses the stage, ensuring his words reach each corner of the room. It is as if Bawo’s flow was designed for live performances, with natural gaps in his delivery providing room for breath, allowing for a seamless and consistently polished performance.


The concert was filled with highlights; the crowd’s belting of ‘Mazzalean’’s chorus was beautiful, a literal chorus. Bawo performed ‘It’s Okay’ with French artist Mac Amish and their connection imbued the hall with a tangible warmth. Towards the end of the set, the DJ spun ‘Brasileiro’, an underground UK staple, which resulted in the crowd losing their heads.


Bawo’s set featured very strong guest performances from ayrtn, Louis Culture, Oscar #Worldpeace and Ayiesha Starr, whilst the crowd was filled with figures such as Namesbliss, Kojey Radical and Kenny Allstar. The ubiquitous backing from Bawo’s peers is not a coincidence but speaks to both his character, his talent and to his pending stardom. This is a notion shared by many fans in the audience that evening. Leaving the stage to chants of “one more song!”, Bawo returned to perform the bouncy, synth-laden ‘Chandler Bing’, which was the icing on the cake for what was the last night of ‘The Conference Tour’.


‘Legitimate Cause’ by Bawo is out now on all streaming platforms.



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