I came to know of them after a random search on Google provided me with a link to their blog two months ago. They called themselves the inner circle and the underground- a music competition for unknown acts- was their brainchild. It took me all of five minutes to make up my mind about entering for their next season. I wanted to take a chance on myself, needed to put me out there. Deep in my mind, I felt prepared for this phase.
Growing up, I recall recording accapellas over my dad’s Osadebe tapes. My siblings were bullied into assisting my every folly and they ended up getting a feel of Dr do good as a result of my impulsive nature. My brother had a permanent role to play- he hummed- while my sister alternated from humming, to the back up routine. I even remember writing my songs in a 20leaves exercise book, I had decorated with pictures of my favourite artistes – clippings from magazines and newspapers stuck to some of its pages with chewing gum.
You ask me what I do?
I am a singer. I sing in the shower, in the kitchen and even in my room at midday to drown out the akanchawa-esque tunes wafting in from the neighbour’s house. I hum and whistle whilst trekking to the market- stepping to invisible music and lip synching to the play list in my head. A lot of success stories I have read, almost always have the musicians tracing their singing roots to church choirs and/or a musician in their family. I bear no resemblance to these artistes. I grew up listening to makossa, zouk and coupe decale- the resident genres typical of a French colonised African country. I only started paying much attention to other genres when I turned eight and my dad installed free-to-air channels at home. At the time, my young mind was quite taken with the on screen performances of acts like 3T, Salt’n’pepa, Isley brothers, Allure and Xzibit. The latter imposed on me by the incessant plays I was subjected to by my older brother. I shied away from the choir and the guidance of a well travelled choir master- a mistake I regret till date. So I can say that my love for singing was strengthened by the compliments I received after rendering my occasional special numbers during the Sunday evening service in school.
Time crawled as I waited anxiously for feedback from the organisers. I had sent in a voice note of my singing voice against the required demo which was a mandatory criterion to enter for the competition. It took them weeks to decide on the final acts. During that period, I must confess, I lost interest at many points. With contests like these, you need to have your own come out to cheer you – I knew this. I just did not have a lot of them. I was certain of only two of my pals, a number too minute to vote me to the finals.
I acknowledged receipt of the acceptance email the day I got it- excitement flooded my insecure and doubtful brain cells causing my already distracted self, to morph into a full fledge klutz. I felt like a lottery winner. The fact that they wanted me in as one of the final 15 acts only meant one thing to me – I had some singing talent.
The D-day finally crawled into being much to my relief. I was cranky, nervous and wanted the day to end even before it had begun. Don’t get me wrong. There was an adequate dose of excitement bubbling somewhere inside of me – I mean I was going to be performing before ‘Lagos’. It did not even matter that I had lost my cell phone the day before because after the show tonight, I would have officially come of age. Armed with my two friends and a voice I daresay was average at best, I entered the venue ready for the night. I was finally coming out of the closet.
The show kicked off at about 7pm. The venue, packed full with colours and trends ranging from the bohemian to the preppy dressers, saw radio presenters, musicians, fashion and entertainment bloggers in attendance garbed in finery. As I watched in rapt fascination the dialogues and energy flow in that open space, it dawned on me that in Lagos, people really do know each other.
Our music tastes truly do vary – a truth that was evident in the no clapping and cheering routine that took place at the Ember creek that day. Although the lack of excitement in the building was a kill-joy, to be fair to the audience the lineup for the night was a tad boring. A couple of the contenders for the prize bounced to the stage and left fulfilled amidst hoots, loud laughter and non stop clapping while others mounted the stage that night and left the crowd mute and close to tears – tears of rage. Sadly, I had a lead role in the latter act. The rendition of my song home a la accapella was in one word, a FLOP.
After waiting patiently for my turn, it shocked me how much of the anxiety and excitement had ebbed away. There was only a dull feeling in my gut- a feeling I now recognise as dread.
All I remember after being given the microphone was how I muttered some words of introduction, stumbled at a judge’s name before diving into my accapella. I knew something was wrong as I journeyed through my song. There just wasn’t enough time to pause and attempt salvaging a wrong I yet couldn’t identify. I later on found out, my vocals went ballistic on me and that the song was a little too dull. Everywhere was silent as I rendered a mediocre version of a song that meant the world to me. All I could see was the glazed looks in the eyes of the audience. They wanted me to shut up and just go – a feat I finally managed to achieve without falling: seeing as I had dorned a heavy cloak of self pity. I was crushed as I descended the stage and made my way through the throng to sit with my friends at their table, a faux smile pasted on my face and my head held up high. My coming out act- the horror!
This recent venture of mine has made me realise how tough the singing business is and how hard some performers work to impress the crowd. I finally realised to perform and be booed out of the stage- or in my case stared out of the stage – takes guts and a will of steel (two things I have in limited supply).
It’s been weeks since that disastrous day and the mental picture is stronger than ever – I wonder if rinsing my brains in a saline solution will help. I lay in bed sometimes and replay the events of that day, wishing I could go back and do it differently. If only wishes were horses, I would be a chieftain in Argentina.
Ps: Shout out to my chums Ij and Sly for believing enough to show up. To Lota, thank you. May God bless our hustle now and forever.