If you were in Lagos through the Christmas holidays, you’re probably still trying to catch up on sleep and wean yourself of all the partying that went down. Decembers are usually packed full with events in the city but even by Lagos’ standards at that time of the year, December 2012 was a boss.
Every part of the city was alive. Besides the thousands of smaller gigs (by Lagos terms) that held every other hour from the Mainland to the Island, the much bigger events and parties, which in the past happened at most twice in the month, became such a chore. It was crazy to note that from like the 20th of December through to the end of the month, Lagos’ biggest party place, the Eko Convention Centre, had a public event everyday. It was insane!
Some days even had two massive events that could easily be major crowd pullers. The Ovation Red Carol, which is now a major fixture in the December calendar, held on the same day as the EME Concert. Both events on a good day could easily shut down Lagos. It was interesting to see all of these organizers jostling for people’s funds. Everyone tried to position theirs as the groove to be at and ultimately needed to pull in the big names, just to attract fans.
That need, gradually made these events predictable. Every event had Wizkid, IcePrince, Tiwa Savage, Dbanj, TuFace Idibia, Iyanya, etc. You needed those names on your bill to make a statement. You needed those names so as to appear grand enough for the fans that had become spoilt for choice. But then, we the fans really weren’t spoilt for choice at the end of the day, seeing as it usually ended up being the same artistes at the same venue singing the same songs with a different event banner hanging behind them.
But December 29th was different. I’m not the biggest fan of ‘alternative music’ per say. I do listen to it quite often no doubt but I love to dance. So, my first choice would usually be something I could azonto or etighi to. Bez’s concert billed for that day was an attraction for me simply because I had listened to his “Super Sun’ album quite a bit and knew a lot of the songs. Plus I always love an opportunity to see Cobhams live on stage. Even if nothing else, I figured it would be a cool way to end what had been a noisy December.
And it was worth every minute. The first thing I noticed was how much smaller and intimate the crowd was, than the other more commercial concerts that had been held at The Eko. Then of course the audience was much older than usual. But the biggest highlight was the fact that there was no DJ equipment in sight on stage. Live music rocks and the live band did great that night. Omawumi, Waje, Seyi Shay and Tiwa Savage all did an immense job vocally and performance wise. Bez of course was crazier than many expected. I still haven’t forgiven him for smashing a brand new guitar on stage; ‘rocker-style’.
Two other performers on the night, got a lot f the girls’ pants wet and it wouldn’t be the first time I’d be seeing girls scream whenever they’ve held a microphone. Timi Dakolo and Praiz are two of the best male vocalists in the country today and they showed it off brilliantly on the night.
But as I watched them, an issue that keeps coming up on social media and regular discourse, hit me. Recently on Twitter, @orezzy tweeted; “Praiz needs 2 stop dis his J.Legend mimicking and join inyanya (Iyanya), b4 hunger go kill am”. It wouldn’t be the first time I’d be seeing that. I can remember sometime in the middle of last year when someone asked Timi Dakolo what he was waiting for to do his own ‘Kukere’ type song. He replied saying something along the lines of “over my dead body” and moved on.
The music industry is tough as nails. It is even tougher for anyone who tries to be different and not follow the winning ‘money’ formula, especially in Nigeria. Music here has become so monotonous and one dimensional that my American born cousin who visited for Christmas, was in shock at how every single song sounded alike. Even I had stopped noticing until he pointed it out to me. My little brother said we were having our Kwaito moment; where every song was played out of the exact same beat. But hey, we’re loving it and not complaining.
It makes me wonder how much longer the Bez’s and Timi Dakolos and Praiz’s will stay true to what they ‘supposedly’ believe in. I say supposedly because we all thought Iyanya and Banky W were purely R&B singers but even they at some point had to ‘komole and gbe soke’ their songs a little. Dr. Sid and Ice Prince left rap, which we thought they could die for, and became singers. Initially, I thought most of these transitions were as a result of indirect pressure dictated by the music scene. But seeing fans speaking openly to artistes who dare to be different and telling them to better join the bandwagon is whole other issue.
I love Bez’s music and I think there is a market for him and Timi Dakolo and Praiz and whoever else still believes that lyrics and instruments matter. What they would have to decide for themselves though is whether that market is strong enough to keep them going (financially). The lure of the Range Rover Sport and being able to headline a concert whether “from Kano or from Toronto”, is real and most times, the answer is in going for mass appeal.
It will be very interesting to watch them adapt or evolve in 2013.