BAYELSA JAZZ NIGHT, WITH A UNIQUE SENSATION
For a global music culture that is gradually being imbibed by the Bayelsa State people, last Saturday night could be described as a first outing with a bomb.
Bayelsa was enmeshed in a sleepless night roaring with thrilling cymbals, trumpets, percussions, pianos, flutes, guitars and sonorous voices. It was the maiden edition of the much-publicised Bayelsa International Jazz Festival. The show featured an impressive line-up of world-class acts, including the revered South African jazz maestro
Hugh Masekela and Nigeria’s Afrobeat King Femi Kuti, whose elevated performance could have been inspired by his nomination for yet another Grammy award, a feat he is enjoying for the fourth time in 10 years.
The show, planned two months ago, was adjusted for ex-South African president, Nelson Mandela, who passed on last Thursday.
South African High Commissioner in Nigeria Mr. Lulu Mnguni, who recalled Nigeria’s support for Mandela’s struggle for freedom, said the life of the former leader was a life well spent; “a life to be celebrated, hence it appears we are not mourning, but celebrating with Nigeria, who didn’t leave the trenches during Mandela’s struggle for the liberation of the South African people from colonialism and apartheid.”
Prior to the performances by these two giants, Kuti and Masekela, support acts like Ego Ogbaro (Nigeria), Somi (USA), Bright Gain (Nigeria), Gangbe Brass Band (Cotonou), Lekan Babalola and the Afro Jazz Messengers (UK), created a steady rise of the show, with a tempo that took fun seekers to the much-anticipated climax. The carnival-like concert, which increased business activities around the Gloryland Cultural Centre in Yenagoa, got music enthusiasts frolicking till the early hours of Sunday.
A conscious tourism commitment by the state government, through its Tourism Development Agency, is joining states, such as Lagos and Cross River to give Nigeria a plausible music identity of global colouration.A show, such as the Cape Town International Jazz Festival in South Africa, is a major tourism earner that brings about 34,000 visitors annually, same goes for the Joy of Jazz Festival in Johannesburg every year.
Babalola’s folktale-like signature tune set the mood for an evening of home ‘delicacy.’ He jammed with the Eko Brass Band, leading the way for high pitch trumpeting and a skilful dexterity as a traditional percussionist, singing familiar tunes, suh as Iya Ni Wura, a popular Lagos Island song.
Following Babalola’s act were performances by Daniel Isele, a multi-instrumentalist from Benin, who paved the way for another great treat from the seven-man Naijazz All Stars. The group, whose members came from the UK, US, Nigeria and South Africa, was another set to behold.
But just before Masekela lifted his trumpet, Governor Henry Seriake Dickson, who apparently had foreknowledge of the old man’s art, conferred on him, an honorary citizen of Bayelsa State. The governor, who said he was also adding ‘Ezokene’ to the names of the South African musician, said he was honouring him for his ‘historic visit to Bayelsa and his long-time commitment and dedication to African music.’ The honour came with a certificate and symbolic plaque, containing
‘the crest and colours of Ijaw nation.’
Masekela expressed his gratitude for the honour, saying he was adding the prefix, Iringbemi (a Yoruba word for sojourn’s fortune) to his new name.
Sporting a Niger Delta attire, the musician sprang into action, dazzling the crowd with his multiple vocals, varying pitch, trumpeting prowess and hilarious dance steps, unusual of a man his age.
His performance continued with Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s classic Lady and Orlando Julius hit Asiko, confirming his place as a versatile African musician. Perhaps there couldn’t have been a better way to wrap the show than the ‘Bring Back Nelson Mandela’s hit, which got the crowd dancing and cheering excitedly.
When Kuti climbed the stage, it was a mixture of great music and jibes. The newly-nominated Grammy hopeful reeled out songs from his repertoire, including Bang Bang Bang for which he was nominated for the Grammy in 2003 and No Place for My Dream, his latest pick by the American award initiative. He paused once in a while, just to throw a little banter, decrying bad leadership. The crowd cheered, asking for more.
Part of the revelation of the night was the governor’s announcement of an initial take-off grant of N200 million for the state’s Music Foundation. The fund, to be managed by the state’s Tourism Development Agency, was presented in cheque to notable Bayelsan singers; Timaya, Timi Dakolo and newly-crowned Most Beautiful Girl in Nigeria, who is also an official tourism ambassador of the state.