It was a night many have dreamt and longed for, but only few get to experience first-hand. On one hand was the anxious anticipation of contestants knowing that this one night can make or mar their journey to stardom, on the other is the enjoyment of good quality music in a safe space as you gaze on cars streaming by on a Friday night in a city that never sleeps as Odunlade Adekola, Africa’s no 1 meme king, connect points of the show, engaging the crowd with gifts and energetic displays of a masterful compere.
Anyone who has ever attended a concert in Nigeria knows that the two biggest headaches are security and quality of performance and sound. At the Golberg’s Ariya Repete 2018 semifinal concert held at National Stadium, Surulere on May 4th, one experienced a standard in music concert organization which, if copied and replicated, should become a template for a successful concert.
There was good police presence right from the gate of the stadium and bouncers who handled tagging and other security details where all courteous yet firm. Even those who were in the “popular” side were safe enough to do throw some shaku shaku dance steps that definitely have PhDs from Harvard with reckless abandon.
Oh the music. Everyone who came had at least two moments where their home training departed their body, as they gyrated to the renditions of both contestants and guest artistes. Adekunle Gold caused a sensation when he came to the venue with many in the “popular” section wanting to take selfies with him. By the time he finished serenading with his hits like “Orente” and “Money”, the crowd were chanting for more. Bonsue Fuji king, Dr Adewale Ayuba and his backup singers’ synchronized dance-steps added extra salt to his educative and entertaining performance and many of us were sad when he was forced to stop. Afro Juju maestro, Sir Shina Peters showed us showmanship that testifies to all he has learnt in the trade since he was 13, first whipping up nostalgia with his 1990s hit songs, them engaging the audience in various antics with his back up dancers. By the time Saheed Osupa was performing, the bones that should be tired of dancing were given a surge of energy by his skillful lyricism and gyrating beat, with many in the audience singing along.
All these performances were in between performances by the winner of last year Ariya Repete Music Competition (who got a standing ovation) and the 32 semifinalists of the 2018 edition. The 12 drum contestants spiced up their presentation with various eye-catching actions, including a female drummer who was using her head to beat the drums, though there were technical hitches with the microphones not being able to pick some drums’ unique sound. The quality of songs of the 20 musician semi-finalists was so good about half of them got standing ovations. The way each and every one of them performed with the same band showed the amount of practice and effort that went into making their performances seem effortless. They allayed fears of many Fuji and juju music enthusiasts who had felt that the twin genres of Fuji and Juju music were dying, as many contestant made the job of the judges difficult.
In the end, 16 contestants qualified for the grand finale scheduled for the Trans Amusement Park, Ibadan, Oyo State, on Friday May 11 and that promises to be a more thrilling experience. I do not expect many to be able to seat for long, especially with the array of artistes lined up for appearance, including the living legend, King Sunny Ade and classical fuji maestro, K1 de Ultimate. Anyone who misses it will surely regret it.
P.S. Did I mention the way Goldberg flowed like river for all and sundry that attended? It was a sight to behold seeing hard-looking men one will instinctively take as hoodlums and young urban professionals enjoy a camaraderie of Goldberg in a safe secure environment. I look forward to see more of that.