Jazz As a Gift


Yinka Olatunbosun

There are indeed people, who need neither alcohol or an obscene amount of money to stay in high spirits. The CEO Inspiro Productions and Founder, Lagos International Jazz Festival (LIJF) Ayoola Shadare is just one of them.

Here is an evidence: for the past two editions of LIJF, a recurrent series of fuel scarcity in Nigeria had threatened the mega gathering of jazz fans and musicians. But Shadare stayed strong, making the festival a cultural staple and “unjinxable”.

When this reporter met him recently in Ikeja, this fuel scarcity jinx with jazz appreciation month was one of the issues that arose in a half-hour chat about the looming festival and its special offering.

Shadare is in love with jazz and “crazy” over Lagos, the city where he had lived and worked for decades. With the celebration of Lagos at 50, the LIJF is presenting a Lagos Special Edition titled, “50-50-50”. In other words, 50 artists will perform 50 popular Lagos songs amongst other jazz songs within the last 50 days of the Lagos at 50 celebration.

The festival is part of the global celebration of jazz, which is recognised by the United Nations.

“International Jazz Day is observed on April 30 every year and it is globally recognised by United Nations and UNESCO,” Shadare began. “It is estimated that 2.6 million people are reached with this global celebration. This year, we have adopted two charity groups which is very significant for us. The Sesor Foundation for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and the Down Syndrome Organisation of Nigeria owned by Majekodunmi of Jazzville. Somehow, jazz and these organisations seem to work together. We are glad that this happens because on a broader scale, I believe that art in various forms can be used for social change. We should have done this partnership earlier than now but you know as they say that God’s time is the best. It is actually an eye-opener for us that art should be used to promote good causes.”

As usual, jazz will not be served just straight but in the mix with other genres fused with it. What is unusual however are the headliners for this edition. Wait for it. The fuji icons, Obesere and Malaika will blend Fuji with Jazz. You don’t want to miss this unprecedented remix live on stage, which will be shared by a famed jazz artist from Singapore.

“If you look at the content of our festival, it is not only jazz that we do,” he explained. “We accommodate jazz-related artists and performance poets. We are going to encourage all the musicians this year to sing popular Lagos songs and we also have the Lagos Modern Orchestra. It is a 50-man orchestra that will play, led by accomplished composer Seun Owoaje and Toyin Adeniji who will be live at Freedom Park.”

April, the Jazz Appreciation Month is loaded with a lot of jazz concerts spread across the country. What the LIJF team does is to hold jam sessions as precursor to the three-day festival at designated venues in Ikoyi and Ikeja from April 12 in partnership with SPAN Academy of Jazz and Contemporary Music.

“We plan our events to have that tourism component so that tourists can come,” he added. “Half of the people who come for the festival are from out of town. Economically, it is impactful for the city and I must commend the Governor of Lagos State Akinwunmi Ambode for what he is doing in the city of Lagos with the Light Up Lagos project. He has a strong push for hospitality and tourism and entertainment. The LIJF is our own gift to Lagos at 50.”

Since Jazz is not popular music, most of the featured artists are hardly seen at concerts dominated by pop musicians. But for Shadare fondly referred to as “Shaddie”, the airplay for jazz music has soared in recent years.

“Jazz music used to be played on ‘graveyard shift’ which is Sunday evening between 10 and 12 but now jazz is now played in the afternoon on stations like Metro FM, Cool FM, City FM and Smooth FM. Many media houses like yours have given us publicity. In the last decade, there has been a giant shift from being passive to some form of recognition and we will still keep at it. Jazz is also one of the main genres that the Governor himself has given attention. For us at Inspiro, we try to look at it from an industry perspective rather than company’s point of view. In the unveiled programmed for Lagos at 50, Jazz is there. The only area where I am quite worried is the support from corporate organisations. We need more support from them.”

At the festival, artists will play with live bands. Even with the loud cries of paucity of funds, Shadare is determined to make the festival worthwhile and at the same time, affordable. For him, life is like jazz, it is best when you improvise.