Two weekends ago, i had the opportunity to go for the Africa Rising Music and Fashion Festival, held in Abuja, and Lagos.
Abuja’s event was scheduled to hold on Friday at 6pm, and i had the most interesting journey trying to make it there; it involved a migraine, an okada ride on Third Mainland Bridge, and meeting an uncle i had never seen before at Baggage Check!
Will be uodating info on that later.
Anyways, since there is no mountain high enough nor river deep enough and all that jazz, to keep me away from music, i went to Abuja.
Like i told everyone on Facebook, i was going to Abuja for two reasons- Usher, and M.I.
Usher because he is still one of the R ‘n’ B artistes i listen to, and i had been at that disastrous show he performed at at Polo Club a few years back, so i wanted to see him again when he would realise that Nigeria is not made up of a bunch of pure water throwing concert-goers!
And M.I because he is still my favourite Lyricist!
Abuja is a lovely city but it is so different from Lagos that my headache became worse there oh! Yeah, i know there are good roads and there is no traffic, but those people drive like LASTMA does not exist. Oh wait, LASTMA does not exist in Abuja..yet. i would strongly advise for LASTMA to go there!
Besides, i am a Lagos girl; i like the vibe and noise in Lagos so it was nice to be there, but i was clutching tight to my return ticket jare!
The vibe at he Hilton was different though! You could feel it in the air- something was happening!
Jay Z sat at the Piano bar having drinks, and trust Nigerians, we all entered the bar and ordered wine, pretending we were a country of stars as well.
Chei! It is not easy to be a star in this naija oh! How do the D’Banjs cope when even a Jay Z cannot inspire screams at the Piano bar at the Hilton?
I was trying to catch a glimpse of her Royal Highness, Naomi Campbell. I know she gets bad press for her temper, but she is still my chick, and she can throw her diamond crusted phone at me any day of the week; i will just remove her sim and use my own!
But i do like her a lot though.
The venue was a specially built dome and that was a great idea.
Until some genius with money builds an event centre in this Nigeria, we will have to make do with temporary structures and sitting on our friend’s laps!
The dome was great but within fifteen minutes of being in there, i was hot. And no, not like Naeto C is hot, i mean hot because there was no cooling system! That for me made no sense at all; even if there were no air-conditioners, there should have been fans! The seating arrangement was cool for those who paid N60,000; they were right in front and could see everything (until those who paid N10,000 made their way to the front!). Those in V.I.P however, were put upstairs where the only person who paid them any attention, was Jay Z, and that was for five minutes max!
I could point out that the event started late but i am sure you know that already. So let me just say that Olisa and Basketmouth made great hosts. Olisa hyped the crowd and spoke phonee while Basketmouth cracked jokes and spoke pidgin! Great mix, brilliant partnering.
Rihanna was up first and that girl ehn... She just looked so good! The dress (black and fitted), the hair (a pixie cut), the shoes, the songs, the steps. She did good i tell you!
Jay-Z joined her on stage for ‘Umbrella’ which sent the crowd wild! Jay-Z looked good abeg; he looked slim, wore a simple black tshirt and a pair of jeans, but teamed it with killer sneaks. And his set went from the new school to the old school; i bet he was amazed by how well we knew the songs. We weren’t the only ones feeling him though; Tyson Beckford was by the stage, rapping along and enjoying the show. Oh Tyson!
Stood beside him for hours backstage but i had no clue whom i was standing beside until someone took a picture with him and i saw the face! Chei! That’s how he would have come and gone and i would not have known!
Thankfully, i got to gist with him in Lagos although 'gist' is probably not the truth. More like nodded stupidly as he spoke.
That one, noone was keeping me from him oh!
Stood right beside his sound engineers and observed all the drama they put into their performances to make it all look seamless. I learnt a lot oh.
I was impressed that he came and gave us such a fantastic set that included live music and fantastic choreography. And when he performed his newest biggest single, ‘In The Club’, it felt like nothing could ever top that again. Ever!
Great job Usher, and sorry about the heat and stuff.
Backstage was dark, dingy, and a bit empty. There was no information flow, especially for the Nigerian artistes as to when they would perform.
And as for the models and designers that had been told their show was postponed to the next day, well, you can imagine how well they took it.
In the end, you might have heard. No Nigerian artiste performed that night and my heart broke for them. Not sure that show organisers understand that Nigerian artistes can perform anytime they like, and collect huge amounts; that is not what performing at an event of that magnitude is about. Rather, it is about the networking, the interaction, the opportunities that could be created, and the exposure they would have got!
I am gutted that M.I and Faze did not get on that stage that night. GUTTED!
Olisa announced that the Nigerian artistes would perform on Saturday at the Fashion show and i would love to tell you how that went but unfortunately, i had a flight to catch in the morning! And i found out that didn't happen of course.
But back to the flight which turned out to be uneventful, and to Lagos, the city that is in me blood!
Yes! Lagos was calling, but what would the Lagos event bring?
Let us start with the lady at MoorHouse hotel who gave my tickets away to someone else. I almost cried, and Tosyn in tears is not a pretty sight!
But maybe all things work together for good cos if i did get those tickets, then i would not have had to go to another place to meet the lady with my passes, and so i would not have had a tongue-tied conversation with Tyson Beckford, who loved my friend's tshirt.
I would love to tell you what we spoke about, but i am not sure i knew even at the time sef.
After a spot of Karaoke at Swe Bar, the UnRulies and i went to the venue, Polo Club.
I must admit that i was very impressed with the security provided. That place is not my favourite venue because it is usually rowdy but there were all sorts of uniformed men with all sorts of Rottweilers patrolling the grounds.
The security situation was however, the only thing i liked about the venue. Between having to walk a thousand miles to the Obalende end of the club, to having to walk through mud to the tent, i was cursing the fact that we have no event centres; but thankful for the fact that i was wearing comfortable sandals.
Once i had surveyed the audience and seen that whether you be V.I.P or I.P, or just P, the hours spent at the concert would be spent in the mud, with people pushing and shoving, i went backstage!
Backstage was crazy! The good, no GREAT kind of crazy. It was well lit, and well ventilated, and the vibe was indescribable! Imagine mini-tents strewn around, with models and designers, cameras and reporters, musicians and stylists all mingling and talking at the same time!
It was almost perfect!
Unfortunately, once again, Nigerian artistes were disrespected. Apart from the fact that there had been no provision made for where they would sit, they were then spoken down to at several times by people who should have known better, and moved around quite a bit. Infact, at some point, a lady threatened to call security on them when they sat in a tent supposedly meant for Chris Brown!
It was silly and petty and Africa cannot rise until Nigerian artistes are treated properly and with respect!
9ice was not pleased at all, and i thought he must have found it ironic that when he went to another man’s land (England), to perform for another country’s icon (Nelson Mandela), he was treated more courteously and with better regard.
While all this drama was going on backstage, the Queen, Mary J Blige, was killing it onstage! She performed most of her hits, and sounded even better in person. Not all artistes can perform live but Mary J can, and did!
Chris Brown got on stage and sent the teenagers in the crowd (which was everyone but myself apparently) into a frenzy! Their screams and yells and constant attempts to hold his hands and catch his towels, reminded me of what i did when Boys 11 Men came to town! (Yikes, have i finally revealed my age?)
Once they had performed, it was time for the fashion show. Yes, the fashion show was actually going to hold!
While the stage was being set up, i seized the opportunity to speak with a writer from the German Vanity Fair. We met with some of the artistes, and also Ify Jones who is surely a name to watch out for. We also got to go to the Chris Aire camp and watch as last minute details were attended to and took loads of pictures of Oluchi and Ify.
Naomi Campbell had, contrary to what Olisa was saying on stage, left from her hotel to the airport and was not around, but that was not going to stop us from enjoying the show.
Chris Aire is the King of Bling and his collection was elegant, all-white, and dazzling! The crowd loved the clothes and Ify and Ojy looked especially good.
Seizing a rare opportunity, i got in line to interview Chris and he told me that it was a collection specially designed for this event, and inspired by Africa. He wanted to show that it was not all razzle dazzle, you could go simple, but still elegant.
Simple or no, you could not miss the bling. I mean, this is the same man who says when he walks into a room, he notices what accessories every lady has on.
Now all this time, Fat Joe was backstage and this was in a way, a good thing. For one, he spoke with quite a number of people (and while he was asking where i was from, i was getting an autograph!), and also met some of the Nigerian artistes, like Wande Coal and Dr. Sid.
You could see he was full of energy so you know once he got on the stage, he was going to blow it up, and that he did! As he performed, the collection by Lola was shown which was a nice idea and could be used as an alternative next time. Fashion and Music; maybe we can then cut down on the time it takes to set stages!
Oswald Boateng was the next designer to show his collection and his suits are so clean cut, structured and properly finished, that you cannot help but think James Bond when you see his work!
Deola Sagoe was the last designer on the bill and she had so many fabulous pieces, i was gaping throughout.
It was well past 3a.m but the crowd was going nowhere! We wanted to see our Nigerian acts oh!
Unfortunately, Dbanj and Blackky did not perform but Shank ad 9ice did.
Shank performed three songs, including the infamous ‘Julie’ and had dancers choreographed by Kaffy to back him up. The crowd warmed to him which was good because it was so late in the day (morning?).
And then, in a suit and trademark cap, 9ice got on stage to perform ‘Street Credibility’ and ‘Gongo Aso’. You should have seen backstage; no forming, everyone was there yahoozeeing and singing along. I mean we love you Mary J and Chris Brown and Fat Joe, but these ones are our own!
And that is what show organisers need to understand; the crowd wants their artistes as much as they want the foreign ones.
5a.m, and it was hard to believe it was Monday already. Thankfully, the organisers ensured that the security was still tight and i was grateful for that as i had to walk on Awolowo Road by myself, after a quick shout out for Hip T.V.
I got home and was torn.
In my hands were cards, and contacts and autpgraphs of people i had met backstage and that would always bring good memories. The concept was a brilliant one; music and fashion, the best of both worlds. The music itself was excellent; no artiste came unprepared or unconcerned, the fashion was on point. Yes, it was a great initiative, and a lovely show.
But i hated the shoddy planning and organisation, the crowds, and the way Nigerians are treated in their own country.
Did Africa rise?
Not so much. But music, fashion and questions did.