Ghanaian music festival ‘Afrochella’ sued for copyright infringement

Arts, Culture and Sport

Ghanaian music festival ‘Afrochella’ sued for copyright infringement

Coachella and its parent company Goldenvoice are suing music and culture festival Afrochella for “intentionally trading on the goodwill” of the California-based festival’s name and trademarks. Should Afrochella have done better in formulating its identity or what’s in a name?



When Afrochella first appeared on the scene we all wondered one of two things, was Coachella making its African debut? And for those who knew, that was not the case, how are they getting away with this?

Without any affiliation to the original festival, Afrochella has since 2017 held festivals with remarkable similarities to the American version. But with the aim of creating a vibrant celebration of Africa’s diverse culture while highlighting millennial creatives and entrepreneurs.

The organisation details its noble intentions stating, “The festival is designed to elevate and highlight the thrilling and thriving millennial talent in Africa by introducing an interactive event that teaches, explains, and explores various cultures through a pioneering approach.”

And for the multitudes who travel from all over the continent and diaspora to attend, the festival has not only delivered on that but also provided a kind of Mecca for African communion.


Photo credit: Afrochella via Facebook.

The spirit of Afrochella although faultless and long overdue, should have been better protected by its founders. Anyone could see how precarious the branding and positioning were, it really was only a matter of time before the ill-designed foundation crumbled.

Coachella is finally here to collect

A lawsuit was filed in a California federal court on October 5th by the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and its organiser, Goldenvoice against Ghana’s Afrochella. In the court document obtained by Pitchfork, Coachella’s attorneys claimed that,“Despite having no association with Plaintiffs or their COACHELLA or CHELLA festivals, Defendants are intentionally trading on the goodwill of Plaintiffs’ well-known COACHELLA and CHELLA festivals and trademarks by actively promoting music events in the United States and in Ghana using the confusingly similar mark “AFROCHELLA” and by fraudulently attempting to register Plaintiffs’ actual trademarks as their own.”

Photo credit: Afrochella via Facebook.

It goes on to say, “Not simply content to imitate and attempt to trade on the goodwill of CHELLA and COACHELLA. Defendants even went so far as to apply in Ghana to register COACHELLA and CHELLA as their own trademarks, using the exact same stylization as Plaintiff’s registered COACHELLA (stylized mark).”

For those wondering why now? The document elaborates that, “this year Defendants expanded their infringing conduct into the United States by promoting, presenting, and/or sponsoring at least seven different music events using the mark “AFROCHELLA” in the Los Angeles area, and have refused to curtail their infringing use of Plaintiff’s registered marks, necessitating the filing of this federal lawsuit.”

The lawsuit also presents evidence, via social media, showing that Afrochella organiser Edward Elohim attended the 2018 Coachella and admitted that the Indio, CA fest inspired Afrochella. “A Coachella themed event wasn’t going to be called the Gye Nyame Fest,” Elohim tweeted.

And the document indicates that Coachella has given Afrochella every opportunity to form a unique identity, “Despite repeated requests from Plaintiffs, Defendants have refused to adopt their own distinctive event name and marks, and as a result, instances of actual confusion have already appeared…”


Coachella has been struggling to keep a handle on ‘copycats’. Last year they filed a similar lawsuit against Live Nation Entertainment for contributory trademark infringement. Coachella claimed that a music festival called Coachella Day One 22 infringed on its trademarks by using the event name and advertising, promotional, and marketing materials that are “strikingly similar” to those used by Goldenvoice for Coachella. The parties have since settled the case, but the details are not available to the public.

Will this affect Afrochella 2022?

This year Afrochella is scheduled for December 28th and 29th at El Wak Stadium in Accra, Ghana under the theme “Afrofuturism”. The festival is planning to bring “Afrofuturism” to life through fashion, food, art, and music and explore the “endless possibilities of what ‘Afrofuturism’ could look like in 2022 and beyond.”

Artists set to perform, include Burna Boy, Stonebwoy, Ayra Starr, Fireboy DML, Black Sherif, and more.

Although arbitration usually does not affect ongoing activities until the case is settled, it is yet to be seen how it will impact aspects of marketing and ticketing for diaspora audiences specifically those based in the US. And if the court rules in favour of Coachella what will that mean for the future of Afrochella?


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