Friday night. In keeping with the tradition, Quilox, one of Lagos, Nigeria’s finest clubs opened (or reopened) for the rest half of the year. To celebrate, cocktails, wines and whiskey. Girls, obviously selected and made-up with a knowing eye, ferry glasses and stand behind stands. The drinks are free. It is etiquette the Quilox way—if you could snag an invitation to the event you probably can afford those drinks anyway. Consequently, the number of people trying to get in increase. The throng outside the gates would swell as the night wears on.
The stars are here as well, and their number, too, will increase. There’s rapper Olamide who is excessively subservient as he goes in, bowing before bouncers and other staff. Like everyone else gathered he is aware it is his celebrity, not this display of humility, which gets him in. In any case, this is part of his persona, or as it is called, his brand. He is the down to earth artist, the Lagos boy propelled to stardom by the street and sustained by same. He is with nondescript company, a guard and a manager probably.
Music is supplied by a band led by saxophonist Yhumie. A rather unusual choice. ‘We wanted something different,’ says Rosie Ogazi, overseer of the night. ‘Not the usual DJ playing plus the saxophonist came highly recommended.’
Yhumie plays sax-renditions of popular tunes. When he gets to playing an Olamide tune the rapper is inside, ensconced perhaps in the renovated club’s VIP area. No interviews on the night, unless you are MTV—then you get the not-too-famous. The ‘big boys’ are within; no microphones near their mouth. Only bottles.
No one but celebrities can get in the club until the official opening for which the singer Banky W is recruited. First he conducts a contest to hand over a phone to the best dressed on the night. Naturally, two women come up. A shouting vote session is conducted and the crowd is split. A repeat brings up the same result; ditto a show of hands. The singer hands the phone to one and tells the other he’ll buy another.
Banky W then asks club owner Shina Peller over. They talk for the benefit of the crowd. And then fireworks light up the Island sky for several minutes. The doors to Quilox opens. Music blares within; huge screens showing music videos hang on the club walls; dancing girls stand on the staircase leading to a level of dancing, drinking patrons. It is all the rage.
At the top of the stairs a hype-man urges the crowd to get it on. Like they need encouragement. At some point this role is taken up by Banky W; not for nothing is he known as the party king.
‘We have two seasons,’ Ogazi says. ‘Every break we recuperate, reinvigorate and then come back with something fresh. There is a new décor and new VIP area.’
Yet it is easier for regulars to tell how Quilox Season 3 is different from Quilox 1 and 2. For everyone else the club has two levels for dancing, drinking and being. The lower one, wider, is cordoned off by a rope and two muscular sentries. It is where the stars and the wealthy gather for the night. Non-celebrities use the walkways and stand around the bar. To head upstairs a special wristband is needed, where standing at the terrace you see cars parked just off the highway and people trying to get in, futilely. It is only a few more hours to dawn and those trying to get in can go home to sleep off the enthusiasm. But not tonight. A selfie within the club’s interior must be taken.
MI. Since it launched a few years ago Quilox has had a hold on upscale Lagos and for the city’s resident musicians. Rapper MI made the allure public with a song off his Chairman album (2014). “…because they don jam me for Quilox,” he rapped on ‘Bad Belle’.
Maybe he just couldn’t make it or maybe there’s another reason. Weeks before the rapper tweeted about being disrespected at the club. The club tweeted an apology. But on this night, no one affiliated with the rapper’s Chocolate City label is present. The grudge lingers perhaps.
No such grudge from singer Akon, who comes in straight-faced, protected and led by a few burly men. In his position as club-crier, Banky W greets the American’s entrance with, ‘He’s my brother from a Senegalese mother!’
It is 3:20 am. Akon is fashionably late. The DJ acknowledges his entry with a slew of the singer’s early hits. Then the remix to the song ‘Roll It’ with Banky W and Wizkid and Akon comes on. Banky leads the club in a singalong of his own verse.
Akon doesn’t sing his own verse. He doesn’t have to. His presence is the night’s highlight and he knows it.