The night of Sunday, October 17, 2010, concluded the week long musical festival, Felabration. A festival created to celebrate the life, music and fashion of legendary Nigerian singer, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
The Felabration, according to the organisers, also celebrates and promotes Afrobeat, a genre birthed by Fela – a man also referred to as ‘The Black President’; as well as the African culture.
The week long concerts, held at the New Afrika Shrine, Ikeja, had been graced by numerous Nigerian mainstream acts including singer, Nneka; Question mark all-stars, Harrisong, D’Suprmes and Ego; The Choc Bois, MI, Jesse Jagz and Ice Prince; and the Storm Records crew, Naeto C, Pype, Sasha, YQ and their new recruit, J Martins. Friends of Afrobeat from across Africa also had stage presence over the Felabration week including King Mensah from Togo and the Soukous genius from Congo, Awilo Longomba. The Congolese was said to have thrown his diamond laced necklace into the crowd during his Friday performance. Barring a couple of minor snags, the Felabration was reportedly successful over the week.
The final night Like other nights, the 5pm start time remained fictitious as it took over two hours wait to get the night started even though the hall was reasonably filled at schedule. The organisers had five previous concerts to have learnt from, tweak their organising and get the final night running without hitches, but they did not. The final night still experienced some kind of off-times, when nothing was happening on stage, in between.
This, pretty much, sums up the flaws of the 2010 Felabration festival; it became an express fun ride the rest of the way, Ara-rara-ra Comedian, Omobaba No. 1, came on as host at about 8pm and officially opened the show with the popular shrine lingo ‘Ara-rara-ra’.
As the crowd responded “Oro-roro-ro”. Word is those where the words Fela tests the microphones with during his days. After a couple of jokes and hilarious jabs at random people from the crowd, Omobaba finally made way for different performers. A couple of music hopefuls took advantage of the festival to promote themselves before the Gangbe Brass Band from Benin Republic came on.
Know your brass
Equipped with different brass instruments including the trumpet, trombone, Tuba and Euphonium, the brass band thrilled with different Afrobeat and Highlife numbers, before the unexpected happened. Two times Grammy Awards nominee and son of Fela, Femi, joined the Gangbe Band. Yes he was billed to perform, but nobody thought he’d perform so early that night, plus an introduction that will provoke high resonance applauds, befitting for an internationally recognised act was expected. He however chose to crash in on some other band’s performance.
As he got on stage in his flowered orange coloured beach wear, Sax in-tow, the crowed could not hold its excitement as the whole arena that was gradually getting buried in thick smokefrom cigarettes, marijuana and incense, suddenly came more alive. Everybody got to their feet cheering as he worked the elegant Sax hanging from his neck playing a very long sequence that continued to rise in pitch. It was a breath taking performance.
Moving on, Dancehall sensation, Mallam Spicy, came on and rocked the mic with his popular numbers including ‘E dey Pain Me’ and the popular Terry G diss track, ‘Free cure’ before the new kid, Solid Star took control over of the stage. In white attire and spotting a weird kind of Mohawk hairstyle, Solid Star got the crowd singing along as he sang his break-in single, ‘One in a Million’.
Creating another high point, singing couple, Tunde and Wunmi Obe, brought some more energy and dance to the night. Dressed in black and white with Tunde wearing a black Du-rag and hat, T.W.O as they are popularly known, began their rendition with Baltimora’s classic, ‘Tarzan Boy’ before moving to Sean Kingston’s ‘Somebody Call 911’, James Brown’s ‘I Feel Alright’ and a couple of other feel good popular music.
Afterwards they thrilled the crowd with their own songs playing their comic, ‘Fine Bara’, ‘Zombie’ and ‘Mogbo Mo Ya’ among others. Their performance is specifically made excellent by their strong stage presence while performing with a live band as opposed to miming over their CD. Wunmi came well on point playing the lead on most count especially during the sampled songs; plus she worked her big frame easily without any apparent trouble. Terrific! At this period, it was getting to be midnight and the hall was filled to capacity.
The Mo’Hits attack
The energy level even got higher as the Mo’Hits crew took over the festival. By this time nobody was sitting down any longer; the chairs even became an elevation object for some, as they made sure they did not miss out on anything happening, on the stage. Wande Coal, Dr. SID, D’Prince and K Switch took turns in working the crowd as they dole out hits after hits.
Although their performance was pretty much miming their respective songs, the energy they dissipate on stage ensured the crowd couldn’t care. The crew went through, Dr. SID’s ‘Over the Moon’ and ‘Something About You’; D’Prince’s ‘Omo Oba’ and ‘Jonz’ and the many hits from Wande Coal including his currently scorching single with R2Bees ‘Kiss Your hand’.
Dressed in his usual body fitted, big collar shirt and boot cut pants, Fela made an appearance. It, in simple fact, was D’Banj; but that night he made himself an embodiment for Fela. The cheering got louder as he walked in and gave the popular double knuckle salute of ‘The Black President’. The manner with which he controlled the band was a perfect Fela setup; his entire body language as he moved was purely modelled after the man whose life and music was celebrated.
It would have still been a talking point if D’Banj had just turned up, did a mime of his songs and left but he pushed it to a peak. He got a live band to perform with, added spices to each song making them all different from the original and he brought down the house with his butt shaking dance. At this point, a look outside the hall revealed a full street with people making the most of the music that reached them. You can almost feel an equal amount of energy from outside even though they couldn’t see what was happening in the hall.
D’banj gave that kind of performance that will re-open the discussion on why he should have been seriously considered to play ‘Fela!’ in the Broadway musical. He made it the night Fela came back from the dead.