An impressive lineup of stars greeted the crowd of attendees at the Afropolitan Vibes Music Festival organised to celebrate the fifth edition of the monthly concert conceived by Ade Bantu Odukoya to revive the live music scene in Lagos.
Indeed, until Ade Bantu and his team came along with the then 11-piece Bantu Collective band, the norm was for artistes to mime to their CDs at concerts. Five years down the road, it is still only the very brave artistes that have mounted the Afropolitan Vibes stage and shown their fans what stuff they are truly made of while creating an ambience that everyone agrees is tantamount to magic. And what unbelievable magic the show has wrought over the last five years with many an artiste, whether big or small, starting out or even at the verge of retirement, gracing the platform. Yinka Davies, Jimi Solanke, Beautiful Nubia, Alabi Savage from Ghana, Siji from New York, are among those who have been part of the earlier editions of the concert. Then there was Keziah Jones, Ayo Odia (a saxophonist based in the United Kingdom), Ego Ogbaro (who used to be with Lagbaja’s band), Abiodun Odukoya (Ade Bantu’s brother), Chinaza, Seun Kuti, Ras Kimono, African China, Daddy Showkey, Bez, Lord of Ajasa, Afrosoul songstress Ebisan, Afrobeat sensation Edaoto, Didier Awadi from Senegal and many more have partied with the Afropolitans.
It was the days of small beginnings but careful planning and determination by the producers has brought the vibes this far. The optimistic Ade Bantu used to always say that “It’s just a wonderful experience so far,” echoing the words of the regulars and the new comers who trooped into the Amphitheatre, Freedom Park, Lagos initial venue of the concert making the space impossible to take them all as time went by. Even the main stage of the former colonial prison could not carry the enthusiasm of the Lagos crowd that had fallen dangerously in love with Afropolitan Vibes. That they could not let go is the testament to the celebration last weekend at the Muri Okunola Park that has become a huge home for the concert.
To hear M.I tell it while giving the last performance for the night of day one. “You are the reason for the success of Afropolitan Vibes,” he told the crowd of revellers who come each month from Lagos and beyond and from all walks of life. He even went on to ask them to put their hand on their chest and repeat the same to themselves. How true that is. For without the lovers of good music, those who come to the monthly Friday concert, it would have just been the musicians on the stage and five years would have been a long time to try that. Time would not have flown by the way it did indicating that it had been fun all the way.
The festival turned out to be two days of mega fun characterised by good music, good food, the signature palm wine that has flowed from the very beginning, games, a chance to reconnect with friends and unwind from the usual tedium of the Lagos workweek.
The first day had, among other artistes, Styl-plus, Dede Mabiaku, M.I and of course, Ade Bantu and the 13-piece Bantu Collective band, who interspersed the performances with their own unique and unforgettable self-styled agberos lyrics and rhythms. And so, in conjunction with the artistes, they dredged up memories to be cherished for the two days of the festival and many days to come. And one only hopes that the festival has come to stay, these two days of oasis in this perched desert of live music. Like Styl-plus announced to Ade Bantu while they were doing their thing on the stage, we all would like to do it again and again.
There is no doubt that it is to ensure that this good thing goes on that is why there were master classes where artistes shared their knowledge with the up-and-coming musicians, and the members of the public interested for the two days.
But it was all for the music, all the artistes, who were overcome with bliss that the crowd could sing along with them, word for word. Perhaps the most intrigued was the duo of Styl-Plus that beheld everyone in the park, young or old singing along to ‘Olufunmi,’ ‘Imagine That,’ and a host of other songs they performed. What a delight it was to watch them. Then there was M.I, who just let the crowd sing away while he watched song after song including ‘One Naira,’ ‘Number one’ and others echo back to him on the stage. You know you are truly a loved and blessed musician when your fans can sing your song word for word like that.
If the plan was to gather all the elements of entertainment in one place as the organisers had said prior to the festival, then this was a success. It is little wonder that when the two days were over, the people didn’t want to go away. They had tasted a good thing yet again and did not want go back to something worse.
There was live music but there were also other innovations that made every single moment of the two days not only entertaining, but also magical. The Urban Sessions, for instance, or the drum circle, the music quizzes to win our official merchandise and then there was the DJs and Simple Vinyl and many other things that those who did not attend can never turn back the clock to experience.
By Terh Agbedeh