A refreshing night at the Lagos Jazz Series

The seventh editon of the Lagos Jazz Series opened at the Muri Okunola Park, Lagos on 25 November.

Omar was headliner at the Lagos Jazz Series. Photo: Word Mag
Omar was headliner at the Lagos Jazz Series. Photo: Word Mag

The styles of music appreciated by Nigerians can appear narrow if measured by the parameters of popular success, but the country's music tastes are as diverse as the people in Lagos. The Lagos Jazz Series is exemplary of this diversity.

The event had the feel of an outdoor bar with a band to entertain guests who laid out mats issued at the entrance of the venue, picnic style. Some brought their own coolers loaded with drinks to supplement what was on offer from the vendors at the park. And at 8.27pm, the event opened.

The Lagos Jazz Qunitet, (really, a six-man band on the night) accompanied Evelyn “Evelle” Zibili, winner of the fourth season of Nigerian Idols. She opened with a jazzy adaptation of the popular Eyo folk song. After her performance, the Lagos Jazz Quintet took to stage to do a series of jazz instrumentations, including a rapturous percussion-heavy set. The band also did an adaptation of the Eyo song different from Evelle's version.

The next act of the night was fast-rising soul-singer Maka, winner of the Beat FM Fresh Beat competition in 2014 and sang, as part of her act, perhaps her most popular song, ‘Mu Na Gi (You and I)'.

Oti Bazunu, the founder of the Lagos Jazz Series climbed the stage after Maka’s set and, as a sort of intermission, spoke of the origins of the series, of the early sponsors and how due to a certain sponsor-fatigue in the country the Lagos Jazz Series has none this year. “But the show must go on,” he said, as he promised the audience a refreshing night. He also thanked Keith Richards, former managing director of Promasidor and recipient of multiple chieftaincy titles in the country, for his support through the years. Thereafter, he gave details of the festival and introduced the Cape Verdean acts, Lito Coolio and Lizenda da Cruz, whom he met on his visit to their islands.

The music of the Cape Verdeans came as advertised: a mix of the traditional morna sounds, with a high tempo funk-infused reggae. Sandro, the singer who started the sets, was particularly impressive in his handling of the acoustic guitar, and his creole singing and tongue clicking mixed with scats eerily close to the sound of a trumpet. Lito Coolio performed covers, including one of Bob Marley’s 'No Woman No Cry', and their own originals, to the applause of the audience. Evelle also did a duet with Sandro, backed by the band.

As the event winded down, the crowd was eager to listen to Omar, headliner of the night. In their anticipation, perhaps, laid the greatest revelation of the make-up of the audience.

Many had listened to Omar while they lived, schooled, studied or worked in the UK, and were eager to see to him perform. Ask anyone else if a musician from the UK not atop any charts will be popular in Nigeira and they’ll probably say no, but the Lagos Jazz Series crowd was at midnight, waiting for the british soul-singer to climb on stage. Once he did, they left their mats and rushed to get closer to Omar, final act of a night that was refreshing like its organiser, Oti Bazunu, promised.

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