Naija and Alternative Music: A Review of the Lagos International Jazz Festival 2016.
So if you read my blog late last month, you’d remember we talked about three places you could celebrate the International Jazz Day. Well, I was at two of the events. Got a couple of free tickets for the Runway Jazz (thanks to Smooth Fm). So I attended that on Friday evening, and then I did Lagos International Jazz Festival on Saturday.
Let’s start like this; the event was fun for me! Like most events in Freedom Park, there was space to stroll around, less ‘paparazzi’, and it was all free (Of course I loved that!) Loads of bands and artistes were also there to perform, so there was a wide variety of activities. The performances were also very ‘LIT’. In the usual fashion of the Lagos International Jazz Festival, there was more than one stage and I was mostly at the bigger stage which was somewhere around the second gate end of Freedom Park.
This stage was where most of the action was happening as most of the crowd was here. The event kicked off really well with ‘Tonie the Emperor’ as he delivered an awesome solo acoustic session. It then continued to gain momentum with various bands coming up the stage to perform live. Anyone who knows me already knows that my heart is sold out to live music, and any show that encourages artistes to perform live already has my heart. This event has my heart 100% for this. From the ‘Empress’ to the 15-man band called ‘JAYA BAND’, down to ‘Tayo Konga’ and his band, all the performances were very lively and energetic. I would say it was an enjoyable show!
The thing about it however, is that I expected more! I believe since it was called ‘Lagos International Jazz Festival’, there should have been more jazz than what we had there. A lot of the acts that featured there were afro-beat acts.
Now, I know someone would say to me that afro beat is a ‘baby’ of jazz. Yes, I agree. Jazz is a major influence on what afrobeat has become today but I do also think that there is a clear distinction between both genres and for an event that was a celebration of jazz, the afrobeat could have been a lot more downplayed. I had to take a little stroll to the second and smaller stage to which less attention was paid to begin to experience some jazz. There was this amazing three (or four)- man band whose name I didn’t get that was really amazing and the drummer totally killed it. The Survival band who performed on the larger stage were also very awesome and they gave us good jazz too.
Sometime last year also, I listened to a radio show last year where I learnt that Lekan Babalola (the legendary percussionist) was supposed to curate the event. Apart from the music, the event was supposed to delve deep into the culture of Lagos; the food, the dance, the art etc. All these heightened my excitement and expectation. Well, I didn’t see any of these. Everything I was looking forward to was nowhere in sight and I wasn’t very impressed about this.
If you were at the event in 2014, you probably remember what the event was like. There were like 6 different stages or so (named after various veteran artistes) with various jazz artistes and bands, and even the other genres were well blended into the program, such that no one genre was pre-dominant. That year, I was somewhat confused on what stage to watch from because there was great music coming out of all stages. I also hear (even though I wasn’t there), that the 2015 edition was like that as well. Even though the show had a very beautiful and dramatic end with very spell-binding performances from ‘Tari-Guitari’ and the opening act ‘Tonie the Emperor’, I would describe it as a watered-down version of the 2014 and 2015 events.
All in all, I do love the idea of the ‘Lagos International Jazz Festival’. It is a fantastic innovation and it should definitely continue. But not without a few necessary improvements. Thumbs up Inspiro Productions on the success of 2016 edition. Thanks for giving us this great show. Would I be there again in 2017? Oh yes! Definitely!