The downpour was heavy at Freedom Park in Lagos, venue of the recent four-day celebration in honour of the iconic music critic and broadcaster, Benson Idonije who turned 80. But the weather did not stop the swarm of fun seekers from grooving to the rich rhythmic sounds of the dancehall and afro-pop musician, Burna Boy who defied the rain to pay homage to the celebrant who is his grand-father, mentor and lately, music director.
Burna Boy made an entrance to the tastefully decorated amphi-theatre with his entourage which included the rapper, Phyno. Clad in a black short-sleeved piece just like his grand-father, Burna Boy, from table-to-table, exchanged pleasantries with his father’s friends and associates while waving courteously at the audience who came to honour ‘Benjay’.
Idonije’s hand lingered lovingly in his even as he engaged in small-talk with some guests before he took the stage. He warmed the mic with his call and response performance of the 2012 smash hit, “Like to Party” and raptured the audience with his latest Afrobeat experiment, “Soke”, a soulful mid-tempo track which deviates from the artist’s regular dancehall-fusion style. Burna Boy insisted on performing even as the torrents increased and reluctantly declared a break when the sound system failed to project his voice.
Prior to Burna Boy’s arrival on stage, the atmosphere had been fired up with the soulful performance from the jazz artiste, KC. It had been kept aglow with the Ibo-inspired rap fireballs from Wills. Quite naturally, it was a night that brought the Fela music clan together for Idonije who is the legendary Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s first manager. Dede Mabiaku, Baba Ani, Yeni Kuti and a few others were at the park for Benjay whose intellectual contribution to music is phenomenal.
That accounts for the four-day discourse and four nights of continuous music in honour of Benjay. The night had been preceded by an Afropop session organised by Community for Relevant Art (CORA) in collaboration with Black House Media (BHM). Called NECLIVE mini-series, the keynote address which was delivered by Adekunle Ayeni, the CEO of BHM, centred on the need to build a model for the industry in order to have a regulated music industry from the point of the entertainer to the entertained as well as the investors.
Using the Idonije example, he made calls on the media to make strong intellectual engagement with artistes and their music. The animated panelists’ session had Molara Wood, Laolu Akins, Osagie Alonge, Femi Akintunde-Johnson, on board with Chris Ihidero as the moderator.
The session ended with a special request by the ace broadcaster, Soni Irabor for Idonije to make his signature intro to the show, “The Big Beats” which the celebrant did, bashfully.