Bantu

Lagos: Afropolitan Vibes to go quarterly

Formerly monthly, the concert series Afropolitan Vibes will now take place every quarter. The announcement was made at the last edition of the popular Lagos concert.

Bantu Band members performing at an Afropolitan Vibes concert. Photo: Dohdohndawa
Bantu Band members performing at an Afropolitan Vibes concert. Photo: Dohdohndawa

Speaking during the 17 March event, which had Adekunle Gold, Tomi Thomas, Majek Fashek and the Obadikah Brass Band as guest performers, Ade Bantu, lead singer of the host 13-piece band, Bantu, said the decision was taken to expand the reach of the show.

“Afropolitan Vibes is going to go to the Mainland,” he said. “We are going to go to Africa. We need to prepare.”

The announcement was met with chants and boos from fans gathered at the Freedom Park, Lagos venue, perhaps in consideration of a Lagos nightlife deprived of one of its major monthly fixtures.

The Afropolitan Vibes concert held its first edition four years ago, and since then has gone through changes. Initially a free concert, the show now requires 1500 naira ($5) as entry fee. The show has moved from the smaller amphitheatre stage at Freedom Park to the venue’s larger stage, its audience having grown.

“We have plans to add other elements to the platform,” producers of the show told Music in Africa. “These will include radio and live shows in other occasions during the intervening months. We also made the choice so we can develop the concept of the festival. We want it to be the biggest festival in Africa within three years.”

The next Afropolitan Vibes concert will take place on 16 June.

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Twerking in Lagos or who is the average Afropolitan Vibes goer?

By Ettobe David Meres

The Lagos concert Afropolitan Vibes celebrates its 4th anniversary tonight. Music in Africa republishes a classic piece on the monthly event.

Members of the Bantu Band, hosts of the Afropolitan Vibes concert. Photo: Dohdohndawa
Members of the Bantu Band, hosts of the Afropolitan Vibes concert. Photo: Dohdohndawa

The third Friday of every month sees the grounds of Freedom Park Marina animated by the cavorting feet of lovers of Afropolitan Vibes. Afropolitan Vibes is a live music concert with a predilection for alternative African music: afro-beat, afro-funk, afro-pop, afro-jazz, highlife. Judging by the number of people at the 18th edition of the show held last week, the Agbero band and their guest artistes are gradually building a following.

Rapper Vector tha Viper, singer Seyi Shay, and Adeniji Heavywind were last week’s guest acts. Daddy Showkey had a cameo at the end of the show. Although not billed to perform, Showkey took to the stage to honour a suppliant Ade Bantu, co-producer of Afropolitan Vibes.

"Showkey show your face," he urged.

Daddy Showkey not only showed his face, he thrilled the crowd with refrains from old hits. He had been away from the music scene for a long time—though he headlined an edition of Afropolitan Vibes—so it was apt to start with a chorus to remind the audience of the entertainer he once was. No surprise he started-off with "somebody call my name..." the frenzied crowd, in unison with the drums, supplied the moniker "Showkey!"

Next he sang "fire, fire in our country/Give me plenty water make I quench the fire" then he altered a line to tune of the times with "fire burn Boko Haram them. Then came, "if you see my mama, hosanna/tell am say, hosanna/I dey for Afropolitan hosanna, I no get problem/if you no get problem hosanna, throw away Ebola hosanna." Clearly nostalgic, the crowd got into the groove, and over half of them could be seen dancing galala, the onetime dance-hall ghetto rave. How they managed to achieve the intricate galala dance steps within such cramped space is a testimony to the skill of average Afropolitan Vibes goer.

Said an equally nostalgic Showkey: "The time when I play these songs, I no know say I go take am make money…People like me so."

The crowd did. And his performance put earlier ones by younger artistes in perspective. Or maybe the crowd was enthralled because of the memories the songs evoked, about a bygone era in their lives or that of their country. If he only needed to tweak a line or two to make it apt for this era, one wonders how much has truly changed.

The concerns for artistes may have changed. Artistes doubtless fed by the audience are seldom concerned with social causes. Fame is sought and gotten singing about sex and making money.

The band was playing a rhythm influenced by rumba or calypso. And Ade Bantu was sonorously singing "wave your weaves in the air/show the world you’re a Lagos Barbie" when a lady from the audience climbed the stage. She backed the crowd and shook her hips. Someone from the crowd shouted "I love you Lola! Go Lola!" Only then, did it become clear that what was on show is a rarity—a novelist dancing with grace. Each turn, each twist showed-off her skill. Her adroit coordination supplied the verb—Lola Shoneyin twerks.

If there’s a place to find a twerking novelist in Lagos, it is in Freedom Park on an Afropolitan Vibes night. This is an indiction of the kind of people who attend the event. Yet those who seek a summarized census will want to know: Who does one find at Afropolitan Vibes? In other words, who is the average Afropolitan Vibes goer?

More often than not, average is deployed to a motley of curious usage. Because of such phrases like ‘on the average’, ‘the average Lagosian’, ‘average life’, ‘average up’, ‘average down’, or ‘average out’ it may be prudent to strip the word of its vague appeal. One way to do is, is to employ the perfect language of mathematics. In which case, average is the statistical measure of central tendency that indicates the mean, mode, or median of a set. This should make it easy to answer the question: who is the average Afropolitan Vibe goer?

To calculate the mean, median, or mode one has to arrange the Afropolitan Vibes crowd into groups. Dami Ajayi, a poet and medical doctor, said of the Afropolitan Vibes crowd: "Everybody who is anybody in the Lagos literati is here. Poets, novelist, aspiring writers, social media capitalist, Twitter divas, professional dancers, OAPs, musicians, engineers, actors, academics, journalists, even medical doctors." 

The crowd is cosmopolitan too. It is common to see a European, an American, or Asian, holding a bottle of Heineken and wriggling a waist to the rhythm. Do they dance because they recognise their cultures somewhere in the harmony of the hotchpotch Afropolitan music? Or do they dance because it is a natural aesthetic response to pleasant music?

The difficulty in answering either question exposes one’s inadequacies. One realizes that after grouping the Afropolitan crowd into an imaginary nominal data of male and female; of African, American, European and Asian; of Twitter divas, medical doctors, aspiring writers and poets there’s no discernible progress in the discovery of the average Afropolitan goer. Because it is a foray into the realm of big data, a problem better left for IBM computers.

It is easy however, to say what the average Afropolitan Vibes goer may not do. He or she does not heckle, did not censure Vector tha Viper when he rapped, "shawty sweet so I rest on her like rozia/She loves it to death whenever I go there/Come, come, come, nne wazobia."

Before Seyi Shay sang 'Murda', a song on several top ten Naija hip-hop charts she admitted that initially she was scared to perform. She said ‘I’m not used to singing on this kind of stage.’ There was no space between the audience and the stage, no assurance of security.

"But you’re family," she continued.

It may have dawned on her that the average Afropolitan is not prone to violent crime—that he or she is more likely to steal your lover than rob you.


First published by This Day newspaper on occasion of the September 2014 edition of the Afropolitan Vibes concert series

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Lagos: Afropolitan Vibes returns with magic and Ice Prince

The monthly Afropolitan Vibes concert returned for the first time in 2017 on the night of 17 February, following a January break.

Ice Prince performing at Afropolitan Vibes. Photo: AV
Ice Prince performing at Afropolitan Vibes. Photo: AV

The concert’s host, the Bantu band, started a few minutes past eight as a crowd of attendees trudged from the Freedom Park food court to the foot of the AV stage, bottles in hand.

For the first few minutes, it looked like the recession and Nigeria’s political woes had gotten to the usually ebullient Afropolitan crowd, a detail acknowledged by Ade Bantu, leader of the band. He coaxed movement out of an audience that seemed too lethargic to dance, making way for the night’s first guest.

Lindsey Abudei performed two songs that should have been longer, given how the night ended. Her voice teeters on the edge of flatness but never goes off-key. It is just enough to keep the ears engaged and draw attention to the words spoken. She opened with ‘Drift Away’ and ended with ‘Freedom and I’, both from And the Bass is Queen, her debut album. It might take a while, but soon there will be essays written about the wonders of the Nigerian musical voice with Abudei’s voice a key part of a long lineage of women with pipes.

Jaywon, the second artist of the night, is one of those artists who have the blessing—and sometimes curse—of being defined by one song that captured everyone’s imaginations early in their career. His ‘Odun Yi (This Year)' is a start-of-the-year staple, the way ‘Odun n lo Sopin’ is the end of the year song in Yorubaland, forever ready to be pulled out and played on repeat when hope is needed. He opened and closed his performance with this song, a move better appreciated when the night’s final act climbed on stage.

Jaywon’s voice, which rode the high notes of that ubiquitous song, isn’t what it once was. Whether this was due to the dryness of the night, or to the loss of a falsetto not properly managed is hard to tell. But what he did have, what Lindsey needs and should get soon, is that one song requiring only the sound of its first line to enchant a crowd.

Ice Prince, superstar and final act, was the low point of the night. He has all the elements of that magic that makes music everything an audience wants it to be. In ‘Oleku’, he has a song that will forever stay in the mind of Nigerians; and that song has a voice too, albeit Brymo’s, who he called repeatedly while performing. Ice Prince has many songs as this: songs catchy enough that once they come on, every criticism of his act fades away. He knows this too, and perhaps that’s the problem. He clearly doesn’t respect the crowd, his fans, enough to give his best, even while he repeatedly thanks them for being there to listen to him.

It’s easy to take brilliance for granted, to listen to the bass line of a song and not find it remarkable because it blends into the background, dictating the rhythm and flow perfectly. This is the story of the Bantu band. They are the constant factor in the beauty of Afropolitan Vibes, able to match the style of various performers, from neo-soul belters to fuji crooners.

Their dexterity was on display during the first show of 2017 as they bent their sound to accommodate Jaywon’s struggling voice, rose to match Abudei’s crescendos, and adapted to Ice Prince’s “freestyle” and interruptions. By the time the band moved from ‘Lagos Jump’ to ‘Lagos Barbie’, from ‘Uptown Funk’ to ‘Oops Upside Your Head’, they didn’t need to encourage the crowd to dance anymore. They moved and jumped and dispersed at the close of the show into the dry Lagos night with smiles pasted on their wet faces. The Bantu band does this all the time, like a skilled magician casting a spell, knowing no matter the conditions of the night, the result is sure.


The February edition of the Afropolitan Vibes magazine, featuring profiles of the guest artists, is online.

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From Lagos to Mali: Bantu goes on 5000km anti-war road trip

Bantu, the 13-piece Afro-funk band led by the host of Lagos' Afropolitan Vibes, Ade Bantu, embarked on a grueling road trip from Africa's Big Apple to Mali for Festival sur le Niger earlier this month. 

L-R: Salif Keita, Ade Bantu and Tedienne Ceck
L-R: Salif Keita, Ade Bantu and Tedienne Ceck

The band undertook the 5 000km trip to be part of the festival's 13th edition and to make a statement against violence in war-torn Mali.

"Someone asked me why we would go through all this stress for a festival in some remote place,” Ade Bantu said. 

“It’s simple, we were determined to show solidarity with our fellow brothers and sisters in Mali who have been battling with Islamist insurgency for years. This festival was important to help heal wounds and build bridges."

Held for the first time in 2005, Festival sur le Niger takes place on the banks of the Niger River in early February. This year, Bantu performed before a crowd of 8 000 people in the town of Segou, which is located about 235km from the Malian capital Bamako.

During the five-day festival, Bantu shared the stage with other African artists such as Salif Keïta (Mali), Didier Awadi (Senegal) and the Ali Farka Toure Band.

The Festival sur le Niger also featured theater performances, exhibitions and music workshops.

Ade Bantu described his band’s experience at the festival as "amazing beyond words”. 

“The love from the audience and our fellow musicians from across the continent was humbling," he said.

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Nigeria: Afropolitan Vibes announces maiden festival

Afropolitan Vibes has announced 16 and 17 December as dates for its inaugural festival, which will take place in Lagos, Nigeria.

Ade Bantu performing at Afropolitan Vibes. Photo: Afropolitanvibes.com
Ade Bantu performing at Afropolitan Vibes. Photo: Afropolitanvibes.com

Started in 2013, Afropolitan Vibes has featured some of Nigeria’s best contemporary acts in its monthly series. The October edition featured Musiliu Ishola, Nigeria’s foremost apala musician.

Nigerian-German musician and film-prouducer, Ade Bantu, and Abby Ogunsanya, a marketing consultant, produce Afropolitan Vibes.

Ade Bantu is the front man of the 13-piece band, Bantu (Brotherhood Alliance Navigating Towards Unity) that hosts the monthly concert series. The band has four studio albums and has collaborated with stars like UB40, Nneka, Harry Belafonte, Fatai Rolling Dollar, and Asa.

Over its three year run, Afropolitan Vibes has become an important part of the Lagos cultural scene, presenting the finest blend of Nigerian music. Respected artists, Salawa Abeni and Shina Peters have performed on smae stage as the country’s younger generation of artists like Falz and Simi

The festival will include the concerts, art exhibitions, and music workshops. The festival will be hosted by Freedom Park, Lagos, same venue of the monthly concerts. 

For more information, visit the about Afropolitan Vibes website.


 

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Timi Dakolo and Awadi headline Afropolitan Vibes

Acclaimed Nigerian vocalist Timi Dakolo will perform at the September edition of Lagos concert Afropolitan Vibes. Senegal’s celebrated rapper Awadi joins the singer.

Timi Dakolo
Timi Dakolo

This edition, the 29th, comes after the Bantu band received invitations to perform at Germany’s capital Berlin. Ade Bantu and crew entertained at the Citizen’s Festival and performed at the city’s club Lido. The band has returned to Lagos in time for the popular monthly event held at Freedom Park.

September’s headliner Dakolo is the recipient of several awards for his vocal mastery. He took the award for Best Vocal Performance for the song ‘Iyawo Mi’, a tribute to his wife, at the 2014 Headies. His frequent collaborator and producer Cobhams Asuquo won the Best Recording category.

His co-headliner Awadi is perhaps Francophone Africa’s face of hip-hop. He was named Best African rapper at the 2004 Tamani Awards. An avatar of hip-hop culture, he has established a festival devoted to the genre in Dakar.

Both Ade Bantu and Awadi have collaborated before when a collective of African artists recorded a song against extremism.

This month’s show will also feature hip-hop artist Ill Bliss and singer Immaculate.

The 29th Afropolitan Vibes holds Friday 18 September at 8pm. Venue: Freedom Park, Lagos Island. 

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Bantu plays Berlin

Friday nights in Lagos can be heady. In 2013 those nights got even headier when Ade Bantu, singer and songwriter, took to Freedom Park, starting a concert with friend Abby Ogunsanya. Named Afropolitan Vibes and held third Friday every month, the concert became a melting pot of peoples, drawn in part by artists living in the city who received the memo early.

The Bantu band
The Bantu band

Two years later, the concert has paid the price for success: it attracts a larger audience than may care for the live music Afropolitan Vibes routinely supplies and featured guests include more and more pop stars. Yet Ade Bantu and his Bantu band have made pop royalty and their subjects bend to the concert’s rules—the artists play live, a novelty for Nigeria’s mainstream players and instead of champagne, the crowd drinks the homebrewed palmwine. You can say the art scene is nothing without compromise.

In mid-September the band moves its blend of afrobeat, hip-hop, highlife and afrofunk to Berlin, Germany’s capital and a city with a long association with varied strains of music. As guests of Siemens Stiftung (the Siemens Foundation, independent from the Siemens company) the man and his band will play at the European city’s Buergerfest (Citizen’s Festival) hosted by German President Joachim Gauck.

It is not a strange gig: Ade Bantu has been associated with Germany since birth—he is part German. He has lived there and in 2001 was part of the Brothers Keepers movement, a group of musicians speaking (or in this case, rapping) about European racism and xenophobia. In that regard the Buegerfest and Bantu were made for each other since the festival historically honours social engagement as important part of civil society.

Some of that social engagement shows up Friday nights in Lagos. At the most recent edition of Afropolitan Vibes the gangly musician urged his audience to ask the Buhari-led government to ‘bring back our girls’, referring to the Chibok girls kidnapped well over a year ago. A year is a lifetime but Ade Bantu hasn’t forgotten.

Going from Nigeria to Europe means he may need to speak about such matters. And already he has answered related questions. ‘The situation in Nigeria is difficult,’ he said recently. ‘The Boko Haram terror attacks in the northeastern part of the country are ever-present. We couldn’t just put up with that.’

Ade Bantu also spoke about a need for structure in Nigeria’s music industry, giving credit to Music in Africa’s online platform. ‘The new platform “Music in Africa” is certainly an important step in the right direction,’ he said.

‘For the first time, everything is on one platform, available for everyone. I know some of the authors. They come straight from the scene that they are writing about. That gives the content authenticity that their peers are looking for. It strengthens the individual artists, but also the music sector as a whole.’

Moreover, his knowledge of the German language means Ade Bantu stands in a position to take the idea of Music in Africa, a platform he has been involved with since inception, to the people of Germany. To that end, besides his life and work, Bantu will discuss the platform. He will be joined onstage by Nathalie von Siemens, managing director at the Siemens Stiftung.

Bantu carries Lagos’s energy, long a massive, mythic component of the city, to Berlin’s Bellevue Palace via music. And the band will be back from Europe to the Nigerian city in time for the September edition of Afropolitan Vibes. Perhaps together with music and activism, he’ll bring back Berlin stories to the concert’s growing audience in Lagos.

As the man himself has said, ‘Berlin will be an adventure…we are looking forward to it!’


The Bantu band performs 12 September at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin. Free entry.

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