Metropole Magazine

 
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29 Mar Written by  Ladi Opaluwa

Of Free Concerts and Coerced Spectators

One of the events happening quietly on the side-lines of secular musical performances in Nigeria is the gospel concert. Long before the boom of Reality TV where previously unknown persons assert their popularity on pseudo-reality programmes, the gospel artiste knew to push the boundaries of his fame on the concert stage. The trend has been for an instrumentalist who by virtue of his talent has achieved interdenominational fame within a city to organise a concert in which he is the headliner. Attendance of course is free.

So there you are in a packed hall somewhere in Abuja watching the saxophonist, Yomi Sax, in an energetic jazz performance. It is the opener of the Atmosphere of Worship― as ethereal as their titles come. The production is harmonious despite working his instrument frantically in every direction, swaying along with it, eager to impress his audience. At a point he even manages to pass it under his leg without breaking a tone.

In spite of his hard work, the afro-sporting Yomi only gets a tentative applause after his first number, as often happens when a performance begins, and is sustained, in the climactic mode. It is akin to hitting the high note on the first line, for whatever follows, if good, is taken for granted, and if bad, well, too bad. You, and others, fail to realise that he had peaked from the beginning, you wait for him to rise, hence the mild applause. The second and third numbers are no less energetic, but audience reaction is thankfully more enthusiastic.

Yomi Sax doubles as the headliner, and so for the main act, he goes backstage and returns wearing a suit over his long-sleeved shirt. He is accompanied by a choir, and there they will remain as backdrop till the end of the show. The rendition consists of a set of unfamiliar, slow-beat songs that by their nature induce apathy. Your impatience will not make him skip a part. You keep yawning and his flight to stardom keeps soaring.

The guest preacher, Daddy, whose sermon you contrive to forget is soliciting donations towards the next edition of the annual event. He is not a fundraiser, he says; he is only raising funds, for lack of a better word to use. He calls for pledges of a hundred thousand naira, no volunteers; fifty thousand naira, no volunteers; twenty thousand, you guessed it, no volunteers.

Then comes the Goldie illustration. In order to rationalise his interest in pop culture, Daddy explains that after Goldie’s death, he checked online to know what the rave was about the singer, and what would he find: jamgbajastic images of someone who had been sick for a long time. Now, here standing beside him is a true star giving you positive entertainment and you hesitate to appreciate him? You resent his irreverence towards the late singer; for though there is a dearth of sincere criticism of her artistry, none is needed from a sanctimonious perspective. But back to the point, Daddy’s short anecdote worked miracles, on a quite a number.

Once more Yomi disappears backstage to prepare for the final act. In the meantime, practically nothing happens, nothing to do but watch the long-suffering choir members: ladies in heels and men in suits on a hot evening.In a moment of epiphany you realise that nothing spectacular is going to happen next. You know about free lunch but no one ever warned you against free concerts. You are here to make him famous. He spends his money to put this together; you spend your time to watch the show. You are one of a few left in the hall when he re-emerges in traditional attire, promising a fast beat, dance session. You may as well sit out; your day is spent.

Dog