Ebony Life TV, Africa’s first global black TV station launched recently and has taken a flight of fancy. Ayodeji Rotinwa reports
“Everything you know about Africa is about to change,” Ebony Life TV’s pay-off line reads. The same quote had been repeated copiously in promotional advertisements, interviews. Anticipation encompassed the country, and indeed the continent like a great cloak. It wasn’t only the grandiose, ambitious claim that was piqued by curiosity far and wide. Mo Abudu, the woman behind it, was also subject of much interest and speculation. She started her illustrious media career from the relatively humble beginnings of being a talk show host. Now, she was bidding to launch Africa’s first global black channel and also be the first woman to own one, a brace of firsts. There was mutterings of doubts in pockets and corners. Indeed, it was a financial behemoth of a project that would require expert skill in quantities never expended in the history of media/television out of Nigeria. “Will she do it?” was many a doubting Thomas’s question. She did.
Between June 30 and July 1, Abudu made history, launching officially Ebony Life TV. The channel went live, on air at exactly 12 a.m. on the July 1. The event that preceded it the night before was a decadent affair to remember.
Welcoming guests at the hallway entrance of the Expo Hall, Eko Hotel & Suites, venue of the event, were fit, bodacious female dancers colourfully and resplendently attired in cultural, carnival finery. Accompanying the dancers was a gay, exhilarant band that played for hours on end, prior to the kick-off of the event. Guests were directed into the hallway by ushers dressed up in faux Egyptian costumes that were a pleasant eyeful. The hallway which is originally, all white walls and tan marble floors was transfigured into an elegant, black, passageway with black, cardboard walls and carpet, that gave one the feeling one was en route something distinctly momentous. There was a theatrical, bedazzling air about the place.
The passageway then gave way to a glamorous gold carpet where guests were feted by the paparazzi and captured in the glow of their flashing lights. Off the carpet and then into the hall, one felt yet again, a miniature sensuous explosion. The hall was divided, a quarter of the space fashioned into a makeshift upscale bar. Champagne flutes, delicious cocktails floated at speed around the room with a grand piano, pianist and singer in a corner belting out jazz, soul, and bluegrass numbers from times past. Portraits of Louis Armstrong, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti adorned the room. The scene, coupled with guests dressed in their chic, black tie-best was the perfect picture of sophistication and fine taste. The drinks and small talk session soon ended and guests were directed into the main hall where the night’s festivities were to hold. The hall ticked all the boxes for decoration, stage design, giving the hall which has been used repeatedly, vapidly, in the past, a shiny lustre.
The show began. Anchors for the night were compere par excellence, Dolapo Oni and R ‘n’ B artiste, Darey Art Alade and both delivered a seamless performance. They weren’t the only ones. The event was laced with stellar performances that were marriages of two music generations – M.I. and Ebenezer Obey, Wizkid and King Sunny Ade, Onyeka Onwenu and Omawumi, 2face and Victor Olaiya, Tiwa Savage and Banky W singing an Onyeka Onwenu and King Sunny Ade classic; all these duets were nothing short of prime entertainment, an auditory treat for guests who were young, old and in between. The evening’s entertainment didn’t stop there. Preview videos of programs to show on Ebony Life TV (Channel 165 on pan-African television platform, DStv) were played. It was an impressive, rich line-up that covered all the bases of interests for the demographic the TV station targets – the millennials. There was also a fashion show that chronicled the transformation of indigenous Nigerian fabrics in designs by the legendary, fashion industry pioneer, Deola Sagoe.
The entertainment was interspersed by an award ceremony that recognised and gave accolades to those who had contributed immensely to the development of the Nigerian entertainment industry and speeches from the woman of the hour, Mo Abudu, the Governor of Cross River State, Liyel Imoke whose state is the TV’s station’s leading partner, the Minister for Trade and Investment, Olusegun Aganga and the Publisher, Editor-in-Chief, Forbes Magazine, Steve Forbes.
Abudu’s speech was especially inspiring. She noted repeatedly that the decision to embark on such a project was God-given, made four years ago and without Him, it wouldn’t have seen the light of day. She also outlined her vision for the TV station, “to create content that speaks to the continent’s most important demographic, the custodians of the present and of the future, aged 18 to 34. No one is speaking to this key demographic of the continent. They crave a platform for self expression, they want a voice, they want to be heard.” She also pointed out, suffused with emotion, that there was a need to change the African story, the perception of Africa and project to the world all that is positive and progressive about us. “For too long, the world hasn’t appreciated, understood or seen who we truly are because our stories aren’t being told by us, but now it is time!”
Steve Forbes shared Abudu’s sentiments. He reiterated that Africa should no longer be seen as a picture of destruction, disaster and desolation, change had come and Abudu could be one of the harbingers of this change. He also noted that entertainment was his home country, U.S.A.’s global export and the same should, and could soon be said of Nigeria. The highlight of his short speech was a line which we as a people need to embrace and appreciate. “True wealth isn’t always in the physical but in the mind and in this, Africa is rich.”
The evening was a reveller’s dream albeit one pregnant with substance. Abudu is poised to use the almighty tool of media and entertainment to provoke a perception shift and started a new conversation amongst Africans and a wider audience, global blacks. If anything this reporter saw at the event is anything to go by, everything we know about Africa is about to change...