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“Who would be my Caro?” Guest who witnessed Wizkid’s show in Abuja tells it all

The
show is for 5pm. I arrive on time. No sound of music at the gates of
the International Conference Centre. A few soldiers stand talking by the
right; over to the left, just inside the gate two young women sit
selling tickets over a desk. I approach them and ask which side to go
through.

Buy tickets here. Go through the other gate.

“I have a ticket.”

“Ok. Go the other way.”

The
soldiers tell me to tie the ticket on my wrist. One end is adhesive and
I do so as I enter the gates. Within, several masts rise from the earth
like mechanised stems, just the one having a flag, the Nigerian flag,
weaving gently in the wind. I walk past, onwards, to the side of the
impressive building.Just
outside the hall for the event, a few people are gathered; crew and,
like myself, a few early birds. A man walks over to the sponsor’s board.
He is wearing a black tank top with gold flames over jeans brought low
so the tail of his vest is exposed, delicately rumpled over his rump,
looking, inadvertently, like unsoiled diapers. He stands on the red rug—
it isn’t quite a red carpet until some real celebrity steps on it. He
makes a sign, another man points a camera at him.

Picture
taken, they both walk away. His hair is divided into plaits but they
look like ultra-shortened dreadlocks. He must be an artist.

A couple drives away minutes after alighting and walking around the premises romantically or aimlessly. They will be back.

****

Soldiers at the gate, just before I entered, were saying, “Na small boy o.” “I swear that boy no fit pass 20.” Wizkid is 24.

****

People stand; a few sit on the edge of concrete flowerpots around the building as I make to enter the hall.

“No,” I am told, “the event hasn’t started.”

“Well, the poster says 5’oclock.”

“Everything is ready, but oga says no one is allowed in.”

“Who is oga?”

“Yankee.”

A curious name I recall seeing on the event’s flyer.

“Ok. Can I speak to him? I want to interview him.”

“He is busy now. If anybody go meet am, e fit vex.”

There is another man trying to gain entry even though his wrists are unadorned.

Someone trolleys two large Ghana-must-gos
to the entrance. A bouncer, huge, wearing a black suit, red tie, and
sporting a rich black goatee on a face which looks scarred but is not,
stops the trolley. He asks what is in the bags.

The man bringing it smiles: “Food and drinks.”

Open am.”

Fried rice, browned chicken can be seen through a transparent food pack. The bouncer removes one, chucks it in a corner.

“You know how we dey do am,” he says.

****

It is 5:23pm when the first sound check starts.

Outside,
Wizkid’s voice can be heard over the speakers, cool, relaxed, none of
the laidback feistiness of his studio recordings. He is singing “Love My
Baby” which is normal enough, only he is singing it as a blues number,
caressing the words, lingering at the end of each line.

The
bouncer, whose name I’ve discovered is OZ, says “this is the most
talented…when I hear that song.” His statement is overwhelmed by the
speakers; he appears overwhelmed by what he is hearing as well. Soon a
female voice renders the same song bursting into a sensual, singsong
laughter in the middle of a verse. The backing piano plays on.

OZ
disappears. A few minutes later I see him munching, seeking out an
obscure corner to finish the food. He looks fierce but he also appears
to be a funny one.

Yankee
comes out. I don’t know him but his breast pocket has the name
monogrammed. The guard I spoke to points and nods in confirmation. I
approach him. Garbed in a long-sleeved shirt, folded between wrist and
elbow, blue jeans and flat blue shoes, he is looking at a phone with a
broken screen. He says he can’t talk. But wait. He goes in. We do not
meet after this.

Back, and then sent on an errand, OZ stops long enough to say half joking, half exasperated, “this food wen I just chop, they want make e melt.”

Air-conditioned
air comes out in irregular waves from inside. Yankee comes out again
describing small circles on the red rug for some men. Soon the entrance
has three men wearing black suits, only OZ fits the mould of a bouncer;
the others are skinny. You don’t need to be buff at the ICC. The place
forces decorum, and for any other behaviour, there are the camouflaged
men at the gate. Yankee disappears, reappears to bark names, ‘Isaac!’
‘Femi!’

****

Three
young men all with budding afros say 8’oclock is far. It seems they
have it on good information the event would start then. On the speakers,
Wizkid sings his remix of Future’s “Turn out the Lights” halting,
laughing midway, saying “I don forget the song.”

The place is considerably bare by 6:00pm. Wizkid’s fans are Nigerians.

****

Two
girls, one with a white shirt saying ‘I Love a Naija Cop,’ make to
enter as Wizkid, over the speakers sings “Sexy Mama.” Told they can’t
enter, one’s mouth turns the wrong way and they walk back to their car.

The
three afro-ed young men stand, sit, stand, frustrated, a belt of all
three underwear on display. Yankee comes out speaking Yoruba into his
phone. He switches to a walkie-talkie soon after. Inside, Wizkid is
saying something about the necessity of Caro’s body. A kid holds an ipad
in the corner.

Dusk is approaching. The speakers carry the album version of “Don’t Dull.” Wizkid doesn’t seem to have any duds.

It
is 6:20pm; the place is split in chattering segments. Five amorphous
groups of two to five members each engage to the left. Drumstix has set
up a Shawarma stand, its heat and aroma enticing, famously loved by
girls in Abuja, it draws them near. The stand is erected to the left of
another entrance, a less glamorous one, with its lack of red rug. It is
clearly the entrance for purchasers of the regular hand bands. Not many
people have the red glossy band on their wrists; still, not one person
is at the unadorned entrance. In Abuja, even in the dark, perhaps
especially in the dark, appearance is everything.

So
far none of the other fifteen musicians and comedians has been sighted.
The official girls of the event walk to and fro, clad in black tees
proclaiming iREP and in fanny-hugging pants, dispelling insouciance as
they dispense unclear errands. Swaying, talking like they realise it is
the eternal sex appeal of youth rather than efficiency that has brought
them this gig.

The
first sign other musicians exist in Nigeria shows by 6:30pm when,
finally, speakers by the roadside ring out Olamide, Flavour and every so
soon, Wizkid. From outside, now legitimately dark, the lit lobby of the
ICC, glass walled and enclosed, can be seen. The seats arranged in the
African Hall, which would hold Wizkid, can be seen beyond signs showing
black arrows, Registration, Information, Plenary Halls, Committee Rooms,
Telephone, Toilets; all, presumably, out of bounds to Wizkid revellers.
Cars stream past on the road, honks mixing with back-to-back Wizkid
music. “Scatter the Floor”, “Tease Me,” “Baddest Boy,” sung with fellow
EME group member Skales, is the only indication of the nearby presence
of another artiste mentioned on flyers for the event.

It is 6:35pm, and humans are in a file at the uncarpeted entrance.

“Red! Silver! Gold! Go to the other entrance.”

Although
Wizkid’s music is enjoyed across social strata, his show would not,
cannot. A few people migrate. If anyone fancies herself special on the
flimsy hand-band file, she would have to be the rose that goes through
concrete.

****

In the hall, Rihanna and Future sing “Loveeee Song”. Then Future starts to holler something about waking up in a Bugatti.

“Four
in the morning and we ain’t going home,” Rihanna sings as “Pour It Up”
plays. Several hours behind time, life may imitate lyrics.

On
stage: three stands, two monitors, one keyboard. Two large screens
stand at both extremes in the foreground; a hoisted banner with Wizkid’s
likeness frames the background.

The
DJ is good, scratching, bopping his head, as hit singles play in turn; a
mishmash of local and foreign tunes rent the air. Even half-forgotten
songs— Joe’s “573”, Faze’s “Originality”— get airtime. Half a dozen
speakers onstage convey the sounds to a segregated audience.

Tables
of 8 and Platinum tables of 8 get ringside seats: if Wizkid has a zit,
these are the ones close enough to lance it. The difference between both
tables is two hundred thousand naira. What this amounts to in terms of
the tables is not clear. Maybe it’s the wines. The tables are laid with
white fabric; plastic chairs are covered, fitted snugly with more white
fabric and a red cloth knotted behind them. This section is cordoned off
with white ribbon from the VIP section.

The
VIP section has five straight-backed seats in seven groups arranged
neatly in eight rows. It, too, is isolated, disreputably perhaps, by a
red rope— not a ribbon.

The DJ is impressive still. And if the show is half as good as the DJ, it would be a success; ribbon and rope irrelevant.

At
7:15pm, the screens participate in the music mix like as on Channel O’s
Bassment and Trace’s Video Mix. This is a nice touch. Many people
abandon their phones to stare at the screen. The first Wizkid video to
air is “Caro” in which he is featured by LAX, but it could as well be
his track. Like most of his recent output, it is edgier and more clearly
sexual.

“Caro dey fire pass Ferrari,” “Caro carry leave story”
he sings. The transition of male and female child stars is different:
while the male embraces innocence by uncovering girls, the female sheds
her own clothing. Over in the US, Miley Cyrus is resolutely shedding her
clothes to adult pop stardom.

An
annoyingly accented voice informs the audience the show is about to
start. Thankfully, the microphone cuts her off repeatedly. So when she
asks “if you are here for Star Boi (Wizkid’s new sobriquet) put your
hands together,” no one does. Maybe the audience is tired. It is 7:25pm
after all. Or maybe they are irritated since when she substitutes Don
Jazzy— after going through Flavour— for Wizkid she does get some
applause.

She
tries to repay the audience with sarcasm, but the microphone, again,
cuts her off. Finally, she relents and introduces the deejay as DJ TTB
and disappears. As she goes silent, it is Wizkid’s rival for young pop
icon, Davido, who comes on the screen. He is singing his newest hit,
“Skelewu.”

****

The voice returns by 7:40pm; so does the microphone problems. The audience ignores her pleas for applause. So she invokes God: “I take God beg una, make una clap.”
Then she introduces the first act. The microphone’s curse afflicts him
as well. Before long he pleads for the audience to further his career by
clapping. Fortunately, it is not a rabid crowd; he gets moderate
applause and a few sympathetic howls.

The
young singer is probably same height as Wizkid; but Wizkid’s likeness,
towering over him onstage, is replicated in the singer’s music. This may
be Wizkid’s deleterious effect on youngsters and the music industry.
Many young people enter the industry with nary an idea of carrying a
tune, believing they, too, can make it. And no matter the volume of
silence greeting a poor performance, they continue to find reassurance
in their mentor’s amplitude.

The
singer jumps from the stage and begins to serenade a lady, plausibly
dragging another person into his own humiliation. Having ringside seats
does have disadvantages: a vicious punch may splatter body fluid on an
expensive dress. At the moment, girls occupying regular seats may have
felt lucky to be sequestered far from the action.

****

First
act notwithstanding, by 8:00pm, DJ TTB is still the main entertainer.
Only a few VIPs present and less than half tables of 8 taken, the show
wouldn’t start to cater for the Wizkid needs of regular ticket holders
mainly. Abuja’s geography reflects in the distance from the stage:
Asokoro, Maitama, Wuse II close to the stage, on tables; Nyanya, Mpape,
Kubwa, Lugbe further in the VIP quarantine; and Abaji, Kuje, Zuba far
off in the regular seats. Yankee couldn’t have brought Wizkid et al in
the service of Abuja’s gangrenous appendages.

The
voice comes on again saying “we apologise,” then adds “you know how it
is,” instantly losing the goodwill just conjured. The show has
officially begun, she says. It is 8:15pm.

She announces comedian Chuks D General as first performer. Minutes later, silence, no comedian, no music.

The
voice is finally corporeal by 8:23pm. Matilda Duncan, a radio presenter
on Rhythm FM. Someone shouts her name twice. Her voice is less
aggravating now that she has materialised. She introduces another radio
personality, Faith, who, again, introduces Chuks D General. It is
8:30pm. Three and a half hours after the advertised time, the event
starts.

It doesn’t appear anyone has left. For Wizkid, fans are longsuffering.

****

The
comedian takes shots at the poor, laying into ‘Masaka girls’ whom he
believes are in the regular seats. He advises them to go home since
there are no more buses going that way. He gives way to a singer who,
save for a piece of cloth, that could be anything from curtain to towel,
dangling from his left rear pocket, would be instantly forgotten.
Another singer, Badguyses takes the stage with a male and a female
dancer, equally good dancers but unequally clad: he is fully clothed;
her arms, belly, thighs, maybe even conscience, bare.

The
tank-top-wearing man with gold flames earlier seen taking a picture
takes the stage by 9:00pm, his boxers now uncovered by his vest. He
proceeds to ask who attended church. No response. He proclaims “we are
going gospel.” His name is Brown Sugar and his next song has him
wondering over an unnamed female’s waist.

Matilda
Duncan comes out by 9:30pm to bully members of the audience on tables.
Most of the people on the tables are radio personalities and club owners
she appears to know reasonably well, so all may be fair. Nevertheless,
her antics, in that grating voice she employed, seem reasonably
mean-spirited.

Wizkid,
she says, would be out in ten minutes. No chance, instead another
comedian, Triple White, takes the stage for a second time. He runs out
of jokes, but riffs anyway to significant success. He implores Yankee to
allow the regular ticket holders move to the many empty VIP seats. “Abeg lets help the less privileged.” For his efforts, laughter, insults.

He
leaves the stage at 10:15pm, DJ TTB continues, playing Gloria Estefan’s
“Conga” and thus solidifying his reputation as my hero of the evening.

****

Although
recently, his star has receded, Gandoki is received with applause.
Someone shouts, “you’re late.” The comedian explains his Lagos flight
was delayed: scheduled for 2:45pm, it took off sometime around 7:00pm.
This offers him easy passage into a series of jokes about the aviation
ministry, a soft target in these times. His comedy, big on physicality,
and delivered like conversation, hasn’t changed. His humour dispenses
its laughs on the way so by its end, an awkward pause develops which he
brushes away with another monologue.

Lights,
save the ones on stage, go out at 10:25pm, maybe because the organisers
just remembered, or perhaps in preparation for Star Boi.

So far only five of the fifteen artistes on the bill have shown up.

Gandoki
makes a few jokes on the usual middle class suspects: alcohol,
marriage, pastors. Before leaving he lends bizarre advice to government
to check banks, churches and mosques, because soon ‘spiritual go dey fear physical’. The idea may be relevant, but said as he does, the words achieve esoteric dimensions.

The
flimsy-banded audience, propelled by an announcement seen more than
heard, rushes to the empty VIP seats, as Jaywon comes on stage singing
“we making money this year”. Most of the artists, not particularly tall,
when they step off stage, become difficult to see. Oblivious, and
insisting on going offstage, many members of the audience counter the
diminishing sight of the artists by standing on seats.

****

At 10:45pm, Matilda introduces the headliner, getting the crowd to chant his two-syllabled moniker.

The
man, clad in black tees and jeans, emerges singing the blues version of
‘Love My Baby’ I heard earlier. Suddenly, phones become cameras.
Although the surprise at the man’s diminutiveness expressed by the
soldier’s earlier is justified, girls taller, bigger, older, scream. The
man’s own image towers over him.

He
comes offstage singing “Holla at your Boy,” dancing toward girls who
grabs and pulls him so much he weaves to escape their clutches. A huddle
of mostly girls now forms around Wizkid, integration fully achieved, it
is impossible to tell who has on a red glossy or a flimsy paper
hand-band.

Previous
acts have tried calling to no response; but not Wizkid. He orders the
music stopped, and calls to a thunderous response:

“If you see me drive by?”

“Holla at your boy!” the crowd responds.

Here,
at last, is the disadvantage of tables. While girls from less expensive
divisions gather wildly around the man, tables force a cultivation not
easily shaken on the occupants of that section. The man couldn’t have
been much visible from their position.

If not beholding Wizkid up-close was hell, the tame would enter first.

****

Niyola,
a crewmate from the EME collective, joins him in performing “Love My
Baby”. Pretty much singing him off the building, he concedes, saying
“she sings my song better than me.” He leaves her on stage to sing three
of her songs. She shines in a sparkling gown that ended halfway to her
knees. Her stage presence is palpable but she is playing a losing game: a
woman in a gown, even one shimmering in the spotlight, cannot produce
the required joules to move a crowd hankering after Wizkid.

He
re-emerges to sing “Baddest Boy” accompanied by Skales. The blues
rendition is misdirection, he is now miming.  By 11:20pm, he leaves
abruptly, the audience wondering what has happened. At last, he comes
out, sang “Jaiye, Jaiye,” his duet with Femi Kuti, and then announces he
is looking for Caro. “Who would be my Caro?” Cue screams of female
affirmation. A man even offers himself, an occurrence to which Wizkid
retorts, “I’m looking for Caro; I’m not looking for Adam.” It is
supposed to be his last song, but the fans ask for another.

He obliges them, sings “Pull Over,” and disappears backstage.

Read more HERE

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Kemisola Adeyemi

Kemisola Adeyemi is the Assistant Editor of Kemi Filani News. She loves to write and write and write and hopes to own a publishing firm someday! Email: [email protected]

8 Comments

  1. All these just because of one bad show? Why didn't the writer focus on the hundreds (if not thousands) of great shows the guy has put up? Cut Wizkid some slack. These things happen, let's move on.

    Besides, its up to the show organizers to promote their show. Wizkid would have been paid in full before stepping foot on the event venue.

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