What is Afrozons Dubai Soundoff? Dubai’s new Black diaspora festival

Dubai Tourism recently teamed up with Afrozons Radio and host Sheila O. to create Afrozons Dubai Soundoff, a travel experience dedicated to the Black diaspora. 

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Afrozons Dubai Soundoff is a premier travel experience put on by the Dubai Tourism Board in partnership with Afrozons Radio and host Sheila O. to promote the coming together of the Black diaspora in Dubai. But this one-of-a-kind voyage is not limited to people living in the United Arab Emirates. Afrozons Dubai Soundoff is intended to encourage the merger of Black nations and people of Black descent from all over the world. 

Afrozons Dubai Soundoff Sheila O. theGrio.com
Afrozons Radio host Sheila O.
Photo: Courtesy of Sheila O.

When you think of Dubai, you might think of skyscrapers, modern architecture, and the most luxurious city and nightlife scenes. But if there’s one thing you might not directly correlate to the glossy emirate, it’s a festival solely dedicated to unifying the Black diaspora. That’s where Afrozons come in. 

At this festival, you can expect to indulge in a variety of activities, including a welcome reception, an Afrobeat concert, dune camel rides, safari excursions, dinners, parties, and panels featuring heavy-hitting celebrities from 14 countries, including the United States, Ghana, Kenya, the United Kingdom, and more. The festival’s mission is to fully inaugurate Dubai as a top destination for the Black diaspora to enjoy.

Sheila O., whose full name is Sheila Okonji-Ashinze, is a well-known music and entertainment personality and mogul who made history in 2017 as the first international female media personality to bring an Afrobeat radio show, Afrozons, to major U.S radio stations. For the last five years, Afrozons Radio has been broadening the American musical ear with the delightful sounds of Afrobeat on Power 92.3 in Chicago, and is also syndicated on channel 141, SiriusXM HURVoices. The two-hour show demonstrates the diversity of the Black diaspora’s music, playing hip-hop, urban, and R&B but as its title suggests, Afrozons’ main focus has been to integrate Afrobeat into America, which it has successfully achieved since 2017. 

Afrozons Dubai Soundoff was imagined by Sheila O., who rallied the support of Dubai’s Department for Economy and Tourism. Together, they successfully brought over 500 people to Dubai in March 2022 to experience Black culture in a new city. Celebrities and radio personalities like Big Tigger, Loni Love, and Dj Bay Bay joined the event while several personalities from the U.K. and Africa including Angola, Tanzania, Zambia, and Nigeria pulled up to the fun, too. 

Sam Selolwane from RCA Records credited Afrozons for bringing greater awareness of Afrobeats to the U.S., telling Black Enterprise that “Afrozons has been ahead of the curve introducing Afrobeats to this side of the world for quite some time. 

“Sheila’s dedication to the artists and genre has helped catapult these artists and helped turn them into the household names we know today,” she added.

Afrozons Radio host Sheila O.
Photo: Courtesy of Sheila O.

Having seen her vision come to fruition, Sheila O. described working with the Dubai Tourism Board to bring Black travelers to Dubai as a fantasy. “I’m a girl born in Lagos, Nigeria. I grew up in London. Yes, I live in Chicago, but Dubai is a dream come true,” she said.

Based on the success of the event, Dubai plans on welcoming Black travelers to the City of Gold annually through Afrozons Dubai Soundoff, with a sweepstakes to win a trip to the venture likely to start around the fourth quarter of the year. Issam Kazim, marketing CEO for the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce, told Black Enterprise. “It’s a proud moment to have Afrozons here in Dubai, celebrating here with us in a city that [has] over 200 different nationalities that call Dubai home.” 

Noel Cymone Walker theGrio.com

Noel Cymone Walker is an NYC-based writer specializing in beauty, fashion, music, travel, and cultural anthropology. She has written and produced visuals for several notable publications such as The Recording Academy/ The Grammys, The Fader, Billboard, OkayPlayer, Marie Claire, Glamour, Allure, Essence, Ebony, and more.

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