No one saw them arrive or mingle with guests, so when popular comedian Okey Bakassi who doubled as Master of Ceremony announced the line-up of acclaimed musicians, many sneered at the statement believing it to be a gimmick frequently employed to retain the company of invitees to an event and keep them glued to their seat till the end of the programme. They could not be persuaded with the presence of a band that was already serenading the assembly as people settled down.
The band was there. But it could be anybody’s band!
The first sign that the children of Sir Godson and Lady Esther Iheaku, who had organised a joint bash to celebrate their parents’ 80th and 70th birthdays respectively, were going to deliver on their promise of a good time for everyone was when Onyeka Onwenu who is becoming used to the sobriquet Lady of Songs, stepped on stage to perform.
Allowing Onyeka to take the first shot was a well-executed plan by the organisers. With her knowledge of Igbo, her songs like ‘Ekwe’, Iyogogo’ and the refrain to ‘You and I’ became easy sing along for a largely Igbo gathering.
The guests warmed up to her, even as she established a few precedents that became the order of the evening; like stepping down from the stage to pay courtesies to the grand old couple who were being honoured and being recalled for an encore when the audience could not get enough of her.
A hint of indigenous entertainment was presented by a troupe from the Anambra State Ministry of Culture, Tourism and the Diaspora who were well applauded for their performance. Emeka Rollas and his Gyration group kept many dancing on their feet to a string of fast-paced home-grown beats made popular in institutions of higher learning by a social group known as the Kegites Club.
Within that belt of untainted form of Nigerian composition came a group that claimed to have been with Oliver de Coque. Entertaining at the Onitsha Sports Club venue of the event where their mentor had performed many times brought back mutual memories of the late Ogene Highlife exponent.
Perhaps, the real surprise of the evening was a presentation by the grand-daughters of the Iheakus. Many guests were taken aback when they turned out donned in attires that depicted the Igbo culture and dancing to late Christy Essien-Igbokwe’s ‘Tetanu’, despite the fact that many of them live in America and Canada. It was a moment that many could not hold back their emotion.
For the first time that evening Granpa Iheaku, who was previously cajoled to dance, stepped down from his exalted seat of honour on his own accord and was followed by his wife. They went into join the circle of fun created by their grandchildren. They relived their childhood in that flighty split second!
All too soon, it was time for intense Nigerian and international old skool pop and soul music rendered by Emma Grey who came all the way from Warri. With tunes like ‘Knock on Wood’ and ‘I Want You to be Mine’, ‘Grey’ hit home, taking the party to another level of pleasure.
By the time ‘Osinachi’ crooner, Humblesmith came on stage, the heat was on as many surged forward to catch a glimpse of him and to dance close to the stage. He had riveted every attention to himself with several chants of ‘Igbo Kwenu’. It was difficult to drag Humblesmith away from the stage. Although, he was made to return ‘by popular demand’, he had to exit for a while for the headline act of the evening, Kcee.
For the Limpopo crooner, it was an easy ride. The crowd was hungry and ready for him. But he did not take them for granted because the previous had hit a high note that he had to maintain. It was just as well for him to open his act singing, “baby give me tonight…I’m going crazy…let me be your lover…I wanna be your lover.” The crowd needed no further prompting. They took it over. From then on, everyone became Kcee’s chorus, intoning after him, whether he was singing ‘Baby Pull Over’, Reggae Blues’ or Fada Fada’. But Kcee did what no other entertainer did that night. He rewarded some members of the audience with cash for outstanding dance.
It was one of those parties that the house was still full and bubbling even though it was going to midnight. And the DJ was just warming up to take over from where the performing artistes stopped.