Concert review: Afropolitan vibes, St Janet and her church of St. Bottles
The 38th edition of the monthly Afropolitan Vibes, perhaps Lagos’ premiere music concert featured live performances from pop superstar Sean Tizzle, Internet sensation Niki Tall (Oyinbo boy) and the 13 piece Bantu collective led by Ade Bantu, who also doubles as convener of the event.
Held on Friday 17, June 2016 at Freedom Park, Lagos Island, the Bantu band was as generous as usual, throwing the crowd into fits with familiar anthems like Lagos Jump. Niki Tall worked hard and the audience bought into his infectious charm. It helped also that he performed songs that were familiar to the audience; think Oritsefemi’s Double Wahala and 9ice’s Gongo Aso. Niki Tall’s entire career may be built on a gimmick- white boy singing Nigerian pop songs with all the enthusiasm of their original composers- but in Lagos, Nigeria, for obvious reasons that may hearken back to colonial era Nigeria, that particular gimmick never fails to work.
Sean Tizzle breezed through crowd favourites like Perfect gentleman and Loke Loke before rounding off with his biggest hit Sho Lee. As the biggest and most mainstream star of the bunch, Tizzle received top billing and closed out the show. While Mr Tizzle, Niki Tall and even Bantu were mostly capable performers, if there was an undisputed star of the night, responsible for taking proceedings to that heightened and famed next level, it was the improbably named juju singer, St. Janet.
Not many may have expected this to happen but then again, true Afropolitan Vibes faithful know by now that the Freedom Park stage is the ultimate leveller. Time and time again, it has been thye case that when current hot property is stacked against industry veteran, it is the later that almost always emerges victorious. Contemporary acts still struggle with the concept of performing live and naked, backed only by Bantu’s excellent band and more times than not, this shortcoming manifests itself in the performances.
St. Janet may not yet have approached industry veteran status; she only came to prominence a little under a decade ago when she scandalised audiences with her unusual, raunchy brand of salty juju. But as she proved Friday, with her tacky yet thoroughly enjoyable performance, her ministry is going to be around for a long, long time.
Real names Omotoyosi Kayode Iyun, St. Janet was instantly an anomaly and a bag of contradictions all at once. Raised in the church like many a gospel artistes, St. Janet left her white garment origins and toiled under Los Kenge, a popular Abeokuta based artiste before striking out solo, with the blessings of her husband she claims.
Her lewd lyrics and bawdy let-it-all-out-there performances quickly garnered notoriety and at some point even the Lagos State House of Assembly once held a session where they debated banning her music from public institutions. St. Janet became public enemy number 1 and her album was promptly banned from the airwaves. Reuben Abati, at the height of his newspaper column days, once wrote a mild rebuke, denouncing her evil, evil ways and her pious colleagues professed to keep her damned soul in their prayers.
With her team of enthusiastic back up dancers who represent the brand to a tee, St. Janet proved in the space of a few minutes why she has managed to weather all these storms with nary a dent to her career. Her subject matter may serve as counter programming to society’s mainstream prudish pretensions but even more than that, the truth is that St. Janet is a firebrand live performer.
It matters little whether you speak a lick of Yoruba, are a Juju music lover, have heard any of her tunes before or give a hoot about her artistry. St. Janet bravely faced down the crowd that gathered to watch her perform and by the end, had undoubtedly converted more souls to the cathedral of St. Bottles, where she presides as General Overseer.
St. Janet’s set started inauspiciously enough as she found a way into the ears and minds of her audience. Flirting on the edge of tacky, her music, alive and throbbing with heavy percussion notes, carried far into the night. Her voice, sonorous, without being over the top was clear and controlled as she sang mischievously of smelly pubes, transactional sex and sticking it in hard.
By the time her energetic dancers, came on,- all wriggling bodies and come hither poses,- the entire act had descended into some seedy version of a fevered dream. It was wonderful, the spectacle. Trumpets blared, saxophones yelled and bottoms jiggled. At the centre of this worship session was St. Janet, in calm control one minute, joining her dancers for a quick choreographed run the next. Clearly the moves of a performer who takes her stage craft seriously.
Not one to judge, St. Janet came for both righteous and the sinners alike. New converts mingled shamelessly with die-hard fans and for the entire duration of her set, the grounds of Freedom Park was converted to an outstation of the St. Bottles cathedral.