The final day of the fourth Lagos Jazz series was like a well-scripted Hollywood musical, building anticipation gradually and steadily until it peaked with Jude M.I Abaga’s heavenly performance alongside the Lagos City Orchestra crew.
Although action kicked off well behind the scheduled 3pm, it was no big deal for jazz lovers who were contented with the joyous atmosphere at Muri Okunola Park that Sunday night. After all, it was 1st December.
Loopy Record’s Lam Okerayi, DJ Lamborghini, one of the foremost female Disc Jockeys in Nigeria began the night with a special blend of Afro Hip hop, soul and Jazz, getting people on their feet with Zaharah’s jazzified Lengoma, Davido’s Skelewu and Starboy’s Caro in quick succession, while M.I and his crew went on with their sound checks. Having seen M.I during the sound check, I was determined at all costs to see him perform rap on Jazz rhythm — even if the event lasted deep into the night.
“Are you happy!!!!!!!!!” the very familiar voice of Classic FM’s Schullzz boomed through the speakers, as she introduced herself as the night’s host, promising a great night of exhilarating performances. Her prophesy began coming to pass soon after she introduced Survival Band.
The eight-man band opened the floor with aptly-titled Turn me on. Ire and Tomisin, the two dazzling vocalists of the band, sang catchy tunes to the funky rhythms of Taiwo Hollist and Bayo Adepetu’s complementing keyboards, while band leader Peter Fisher slapped away on his bass guitar. JinJin’s Groove, the second song performed by the band was perhaps its sweetest for the night. The piece allowed lead guitarist Dapo Omololu and percussionist Wura Samba to take the crowd away on a Latin tour with their rhythm, while Layi Ajayi on drums kept them anchored with sweet highlife flavours to the cheering of the multiracial crowd.
Show Dem Camp, a two-man crew heralded by chant-like tunes from an unseen female voice, followed. The artistes wasted no time in getting straight to business, first performing some freestyle rap about love, as suggested by one of their fans in the audience, after which they quickly invited Miss Iye, owner of the voice that ushered them to the stage. From faraway, the songstress cut the picture of a young geisha. However, when she rendered the Ewele meji ko rawon chorus, no one was in doubt that she had no roots in Japan. Before they performed their hit song, So fe wonu sokoto mi ni, Miss Iye left the stage for Poe.
While Orliam’s The Height Band was setting up, Tomboy DJ Lamborghini returned to the turntable, going down memory lane with Naughty by Nature’s 1991 hit O.P.P. After 10 minutes of intros and solos by the band’s drummer, Royal and percussionist Psalmistee with keyboard support from James SB, the instruments were all good to go. In a voice that blended several hues of John Legend and Lighthouse Family’s Tunde Baiyewu, heavily bearded band leader Orliam got the party to the next level, especially with the soulful Old Man, inspiring Akin, the band’s saxophonist, to play several licks. From the effortless musical manoeuvres of the band, one needs no telling that it has been together for long. Five years is no joke!
It was Nduduzo Makathini and his South Africa and New York-based band members who played the jazziest tune of the night. Makathini himself was on piano, Ayanda Sikade on drums, Salkhile Simani on horns, Shabaka Hutchings on sax and Zwelakhe-Duma Bell le Pere on double Bass. Their performance was simply a beauty to watch. Knowing the five had only played together once before the Lagos Jazz event made watching their performance all the more interesting, as they played the pieces one after the other from manuscripts on the stand.
For the fifth time that night, Schullzz took the stage as members of the M.I’s crew began setting up for the most anticipated performance of the night.
“Ladies and gentlemen may I present to you…” she said. But she didn’t present M.I then. Instead, she called on Oti Bazunu, founder of the Lagos Jazz series to the podium to appreciate the crowd and tell them about the Lagos Jazz series. Bazunu thanked all backers of the festival — Etisalat, Airfrance, THIS IS AFRICA, CBO Capital, Promasidor, Africa Magic, Oando etc — the performers, and most especially the crowd, for coming. He invited members of his team — Babatunde Jeje and Chocolate City Director, Bukola Sawyerr Izoegu — to take a bow with him on the podium.
In a perfectly-timed move, varying flavours of iced Top Tea were served gratis by one of the festival backers, Promasidor. The stage was set and everyone expected Schullzz to just bring the “short, black guy”. Rather, she invited Sheyi Shay and her two male dancers to perform her hit song Irawo, showering confetti all over the stage, D.J Lamborghini still on the turntable.
The suspense yielded to an audible grumble when Nosa of Loopy Records was invited instead of M.I but the crowd swiftly got spiritual and started singing along when Nosa sang his hit single, I will always pray for you.
Yet Mister Incredible did not come out. Next, Ruby, also from M.I’s Loopy Records, performed her Okay, converting the atmosphere to a typical African American church with her soulful voice and to the rhythm of Lagos City Orchestra violinist trio of Eclou John, Emmanu El and David Etim.
As Ruby stepped down amidst cheers from the now-standing crowd, the most anticipated act of the night, M.I Abaga, stepped on stage to the tune of Louis Armstrong’s 1967 hit single, What a wonderful world; and then in a perfectly choreographed fiddle movement by the violinists, tune shifted to M.I’s Nobody. This time, there was no Tuface to perform the chorus so the crowd did it for M.I and the night went on and on with M.I performing his rap to the tune of strings, percussions and wind instruments. Jazz. Who says it’s not worth the wait? Who says rap and jazz don’t go together?