Nseobong Okon-Ekong was part of a youthful of audience with so much giggling as the artiste, Celeste Ojatula performed a string of intense songs to a close circle of friends
When she was done, her guitar and other handy items were packed into a purple gig bag which she strapped on her back like a rucksack. At best, one would think she was a ‘learner’ or music enthusiast, but this natural decoy is the standard surprise element that Celeste Ojatula has become associated with. Until you actually see her on stage, performing, there is nothing about her visage that gives a clue to the passionate attachment she has developed to her guitar and the intense music she is able to produce.
The venue was chosen deliberately, perhaps, to conceal the small size of the audience. The spectators covered the entire space in the lobby bar of the De R Hotel at Alausa-Ikeja, Lagos. They were mostly young adults in their late 20s and early 30s. It was apt for the handlers of this eclectic artiste to name this session of interaction, ‘An Evening Hangout with Celeste’. On the side, it was also advertised as an ‘Acoustic Hangout’; meaning it held a promise for listening to good and enjoyable vibes. It did not disappoint on this vital potential. The show was largely a gathering of friends, as Celeste likes to describe her growing number of followers and admirers. Many of them were chatting as if they had moved together from a previous retreat. The mutual trust and friendship portrayed them as people who had spent a lot of time together. They looked happy. They were sharing drinks and eating from each other’s plate. The television on the wall was tuned to a football channel, but no one was watching. The spectacle playing a guitar before them was too engaging.
Everything appeared normal on the surface, the regular business of the hotel was going on, as guests were being checked in at the reception nearby. Dammy Lawal, CEO of Core Media, organisers of the show said, the plan was to captivate curious hotel guests and hope they could stray into the concert
There was a huge snooker table in the centre of the bar, creating the ambience of a place where people had come to pass time in a fun way. From where she was strumming her guitar, Celeste exchanged banters frequently with her friends. The feedback was immediate; it was like a conversation between a principal person who was the focal point and many eavesdroppers who had the privilege to chip in a word or two, every now and then. Celeste laughed a lot, mostly at her own anecdotes. Sometimes, the audience members were taken in and they giggled with her. The jokes were brief and served as necessary interlude. She continued every sentence with filler words like ‘ehm’ and ‘so’. This happened a lot in the course of the evening.
She even took her friends on a course in Yoruba. Incidentally none of them could interpret the phrase which she posed as a prelude to her next song, ‘Okpikpi’. That was deep for a graduate of English Language from the University of Lagos who is currently in her youth service year, teaching secondary school students in Ogun State. But it revealed her as one who was very close to her parents and/or her grandparents. We don’t have to look far to find her inspiration. It is definitely, Asa. To confirm this, she did a lot of Asa covers in the course of the night. She was supported with a second electro acoustic guitar by Ehimanre popularly known as Emre. Her music told stories in a different way. She promoted Yoruba culture through proverbs and turned them to beautiful music. The core of her music was based on human experience and she conveyed them in a very poetic way. The stories took many back to their childhood and the popular children’s programme on television, ‘Tales by Moonlight’.
There were also two back-up singers, Adeboye and Arutha. Her Yoruba folklore in songs like ‘Aditi’ resonated with many. By popular demand, she performed ‘Black Again’. A memorable period at the show was the coming of the guest artiste, Acetune. He presented a lot of drama. Her performed a love song that evoked a lot of emotion, largely because of his theatrics.
Lawal explained that the event was put together to introduce Celeste’s music to fans. She was part of the first Rock Festival at Freedom Park in 2015. He said his company which promotes only rock music, rock parties, rock concerts, merchandising and tours; also manages Celeste whose style was described as ‘Asa meets Simi’.
In her black sleeveless blouse and an Ankara skirt, Celeste cut the image of a bubbly, innocent youth out to impress her friends with her new skills. She even offered them a chance to show their own talents too. The audience chanted for a certain Billy, but he jovially declined the clamour.
However, Omotayo Music, an RnB artiste took up the challenge. He did some songs from his EP, ‘All of a Sudden’. The song that caught everyone’s attention was ‘Kikelomo’. His voice was amazingly sexy. He had a good control of it, weaving it through different moods. The professional that he is, Celeste was trying to back him with her guitar, but her effort did not quite take him to where he wanted to be, so he took the guitar himself. Before striking the first note, he made a confession. “I am not such a great guitarist.” He did not have to apologise. No one seemed eager to hold him down for any misdemeanor, although he continued to justify his mood and artistic direction. “I play music that speaks to the heart and the soul. You don’t have to party all the time. Sometimes you should just sit and chill.” His next song was a tribute to a departed friend, ‘Omoh’. A reading by Ruth followed. She best exemplified the spontaneity of the evening. Coming before the audience, she said, “I am supposed to be reading a poem that is sobering but I can see that everybody is really happy; so I am a bit confused, but wait I am going to get it on my phone.”
The audience waited. It was part of the show. She went through her phone, got the poem and read it, much to everyone’s appreciation.