Asake pays tribute to women who died during Brixton crowd crush during O2 Arena concert

Nigerian afrobeats star performed his first UK show since December crowd incident where two people died

Nicole Vassell
Monday 21 August 2023 10:46 BST
Brixton Academy crush: Large crowd gathers outside venue as Asake gig cancelled

Afrobeats star Asake paid tribute to the people who died as a result of the Brixton Academy crowd crush, during his debut O2 Arena show on Sunday (20 August).

The Nigerian artist performed three dates at the south London venue late last year. On the third and final night of his shows (15 December), several people were injured when a number of fans without tickets tried to enter the venue at once.

Security officer Gaby Hutchinson, 23, and 33-year-old gig attendee Rebecca Ikumelo both died of injuries sustained in the swell. Brixton Academy has been closed ever since.

On Sunday, Asake gave his first UK performance since the tragic incident and opened the show with a tribute to Hutchinson and Ikumelo.

Before the singer, 28, appeared on stage, backing performers dressed in white walked into view with flowers as a spoken word poem was recited in the background.

“I know some feel loss and some regret,” the poet said.

“We need to hold this moment. I need to hold this moment. They need to hold this moment.”

As the poem played, the backing screens showed footage from news reports at the time of the crush, including shots of the Brixton Academy with flowers laid outside the venue and police tape keeping members of the public away.

Other shots included social media content from the deceased, including a video of Ikumelo smiling.

Screens then showed pictures of Hutchinson and Ikumelo with a message that read “rest well”, before the concert got underway.

Rebecca Ikumelo and Gaby Hutchinson
Rebecca Ikumelo and Gaby Hutchinson (The Independent)

The moment was commended by many watching at the O2, as well as those watching the live stream online.

A concertgoer who attended the show told The Independent that the moment was “really touching” and that the atmosphere in the arena was “beautiful”.

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However, the tribute was criticised by the Twitter/X user Rachael (@rachaeliku_), who was Rebecca Ikumelo’s sister.

“What a sorry excuse of a ‘tribute’ from @asakemusik,” she began her message, posted on Sunday night.

“My sister lost her life at your show and you haven’t spoken to a single member of my family since. But you can hold another concert in London less than nine months later and play her videos as a ‘tribute’?”

At the time of the deaths, Asake (born Ahmed Olalade) posted a statement expressing his condolences on Instagram.

(Michele Eve Sandberg/Shutterstock)

“I am devastated by the news that Rebecca Ikumelo who was in a critical condition since Thursday has sadly passed away,” his message read.

“My sincerest condolences to her loved ones at this time. Let us please keep her family in our prayers. I have spoken to them and will continue to do so.”

The Independent has reached out to Rachael Ikumelo and Asake for further comment.

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