Metropole Magazine

Today's Weather: Abuja NG: Partly Cloudy, Day 360|Night 260

28 Jun Written by  Ladi Opaluwa

Notes on a Concert

There was going to be a live band, so my expectation going to the French Institute on a Friday night for a concert commemorating the World Music Day was to enjoy some jazz or highlife music, something mid-tempo. Alas, there would be none of these or any sound that might truly qualify as music, at least for a long time. The first two performers conspired to thwart my expectation.

The first, a dark, plump, middle-aged man whose name I should have noted, came on stage with much energy but little melody. His vivacity makes even more obvious his lack of talent. Where a subdued performance might have been pardonable, he chose to be loud and conceited in his inadequacy. He carried on in this manner, song after song, enamoured by his own performance.

I began to imagine his domestic life; possibly a husband and a father. The wife had married a promising musician. One can never absolutely know how these things will turn out. Tuface was once only a dream. Uncle here on stage too once had a dream; his dream has become a nightmare, at least for the audience. This thought could lead anywhere but the moral of his performance is to work while still a youth, for a time will come when people will consider you a fool if you remain ‘upcoming’ forever. It is easy to applaud a child on stage choking on his memory verse but there is something insufferable about a mediocre middle-aged artiste.

After a lifetime he left the stage, with a promise to reach every table―forget there were no tables―to sell his CD. I thought that might be my chance to slip to him a note assuring him it’s never too late to consider a career change.

He was replaced by a duo whose agility and insular enjoyment of their act if anything surpassed the former. Their song, the most grating love song ever, was more noise than rhythm, more gibberish than lyrics. At this point it was no longer about me. My dissatisfaction took an altruistic nature. I was embarrassed for Abuja and for Nigeria. It was an audience of mixed nationals. How can it be explained that Abuja cannot boast one decent musician? There has to be another M.I.

The duo was relentless. I glanced about for evidence of cringing. The episode became more comical than annoying, like a clip from music talent show auditions. With the number of people in bohemian outfits strolling in and out of the backstage, there was bound to be more. This is the reality, relax and laugh.

Just as I was giving up all hopes for entertainment, salvation came in the form of Oge Kimono, daughter of Ras Kimono, in rugged jeans, tank top under a sleeveless jacket, face cap concealing dreadlocks. She started off with Burna Boy’s Like to Party. Not the best version I have heard, having seen Burna Boy perform it live, still, finally here was music that resonated with the audience, a crowd pleaser. Heads nodded, bodies swayed. She deserved the goodwill. Besides, the standard had been set so low anyone who had come up to sing the national anthem would have received the same goodwill.

However the tempo dropped when she switched to an original number. Her charisma carried her through. She tried to engage the audience and we responded. It helped that she was pretty and had pedigree. Her performance, like the preceding once, seemed to last forever. I asked a neighbour if she was going to take the rest of the night and he explained that she was actually done but was looking for an exit. Never knew musicians can feel trapped on stage. These things are tricky.

It turned out Oge was not the saviour but a forerunner to the young white kid that would come up next. And this was how the entire black race was disgraced. After a succession of bad to average performances, a white teenager came on stage and from the first stroke of his guitar, you knew this was it. The music and the moment you had waited for all night. Pure ecstasy!  I was scared for the dude when after his first performance, an instrumental, he announced he was going to do an original song next, Champion, a hip hop number. He was a revelation: a portrait of Eminem as a young man. The white kid―I’ll continue to emphasise that―was totally convincing in whatever genre he chose. His pidgin was effortless, both in speech and in music. He received the first resounding applause, and there was an encore.

I asked myself: wouldn’t you rather go to bed now? My decision to leave at that point was smart, a source told me the next day.