Lagos comes alive with jazz

Lagos is at the centre of African jazz this weekend as the Nigerian city hosts two jazz festivals to mark International Jazz Day: the Lagos International Jazz Festival and the inaugural Satchmo’s Jazz Fest.

Yemi Sax will perform at Satchmo’s Jazz Fest in Lagos.
Yemi Sax will perform at Satchmo’s Jazz Fest in Lagos.

The Lagos International Jazz Festival aims to celebrate Nigerian musicians who play jazz or its various fusions, but with indigenous flavor. The event will kick off on Thursday 30 April, UNESCO’s International Jazz Day, at the Freedom Park, Marina, Lagos, and will climax on Saturday 2 May, with the likes of Grammy-winning percussionist Lekan Babalola, US-based multi–instrumentalist Adeniji the Heavywind and bass virtuoso Bright Gain, director of the SPAN Academy of Jazz and Contemporary Music in Lagos. Also on the bill are veteran clarinetist Tee Mac, vocal sensation Ego and neo-highlife star Nomoreloss. This year’s festival will also see plenty of young local talent on stage, such as Segun Atoyebi, Jerry Omole, Daniel Bankole, Seun Olota, Femi Leye, Awayin’o and Dotun Bankole

Performances at the Lagos International Jazz Festival will be delivered on five different stages, named after prominent Nigerian musical icons: Fela Kuti, Elder Steve Rhodes, Fatai Rolling Dollar, Osita Osadebe and Bala Milla. Apart from the musical performances, this year’s event will feature master-classes and art exhibitions. As part of the celebration, Rashid Lombard, founder of the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, will be the special guest and speaker at this year’s International Jazz Day lecture.

LIJF founder and director Ayoola Shadare of Inspiro Productions told The Guardian in Nigeria: “We believe that the festival should be one of the leading Jazz festivals in Africa in the near future and we are working tirelessly to fully integrate Lagos into the global jazz tourism circuit. We are satisfied with our eclectic lineup of artistes, who will be playing this genre and other related ones with traditional jazz, Naijazz, Afro-jazz, Fuji, Afrobeat, Apala, highlife and Naija hip-hop.

 “This year, the festival is going a step higher by incorporating both the Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM) and International Jazz Day to its program. The month of April is Jazz Appreciation Month and worldwide a number of programs to promote jazz - both as an historical and contemporary art form - are held, with concerts, lectures, workshops and exhibitions. The JAM culminates with the International Jazz Day on April 30. This was officially designated in November 2011 by UNESCO in order to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe. We expect a huge turnout to the event given the extensive media and publicity plan put in place, with support from the city’s leading radio stations and other media outlets,” said Shadare.

Meanwhile, Satchmo’s Jazz Fest will open on with flagship concerts, seminars and workshops on Thursday 30 April, continuing with activities and concerts throughout the weekend of 1-3 May. The new fest brings some of the finest international performers from around the world to Lagos and aims to create a platform for artists to share, teach and exchange in a professional context. On stage at the Oceanview Marquee at Eko Hotel on 30 April will be Grammy-nominated South African guitarist Jonathan Butler, Bobby Ricketts (USA) and Cleveland Watkiss (UK) and local star Yemi Sax. The Grand Finale concert on 3 May at Lagos Oriental Hotel will see performances by Somi (USA), Tunde Jegede & The Nomadic Mystics, HKB Finn (UK) and Trio Ivoire (Germany/Cote d’Ivoire). Also billed to perform are Kwitee & The Hot Seven and Brian Cox.

The festival is preceded on Wedneday 29 April by a masterclass and workshop at MUSON, led by Tunde Jegede, Cleveland Watkiss and HKB Fin, exploring improvisation, composition, voice, vocoder, as well as hot tips for poetry and performance. A hands-on approach to creative musicianship, this practical workshop guides participants to creating an original piece of music – a unique opportunitiy to learn through doing.   

Satchmo’s Jazz Fest ’15 and UNESCO’s International Jazz Day will be a “first of its kind” collaborative celebration of the unifying and uplifting spirit of jazz in Nigeria, and will hopefully continue to entertain, encourage and enlighten for many years to come. Tickets are available from various venues in Lagos. See the festival website for more details.

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