Nseobong Okon-Ekong reports that singer Muma Gee’s recent show in Lagos could nearly pass for a comeback, except that she showed capacity for a more robust performance in the future
Gift Iyumame Eke, better known as Muma Gee, is not exactly a mainstream musician. Her music has never risen to that giddy stature where it drives everybody like performance drug. However, what you cannot take from her is that she knows how to hold down a show and keep the crowd eating out of her palms; begging for more. Her training as a graduate of Theatre Arts is showcased every time she steps in front of an audience. From her sexy costume, to her engagement with spectators and her stage craft, she consistently exudes a spellbinding show.
Think of Nigeria’s Tina Turner, a mature woman who still has enviable erotic moves like a younger lady; that’s Muma Gee! At 39 and having given birth to three children (her first was a set of twins) in six years of marriage, Muma Gee still has a body that many men want to die for. So she is courageous to tease the crowd with some erogenous part of her body. For this show, she came to the stage in an all-black outfit with yellow accessory necklace. Her ankle-length see-through jacket was not covering much, but since it impeded her movement a couple of times, she yanked it off, somewhere along the line, to reveal a pair of skimpy shorts and a camisole that showed generous flesh around her mid-section. Her signature Afro hair was in place. For about five years, she took a back seat from the entertainment scene to assume the role of a housewife and mother. In between, she dabbled into politics.
However, Ngozi Omambala’s leisure platform, ‘One Nite: Live and Unplugged’ recently rolled out the magic carpet to accommodate Muma Gee in a heated session of performance that left many breathless and screaming for a repeat. Muma’s show brought the One Nite Live and Unplugged event to the mainland of Lagos, at the X-Factor Lounge on Adeniran Ogunsanya Street in Surulere, for the first time. Previous episodes in the last six years held on the island. The show could nearly pass for a Muma Gee come back, except that she did not have full control of the planning and other factors leading to the show. Although, the instrumentalists comprising the One Sound Band displayed superb skills and talent on their individual instruments, Muma said she would have loved to have more hours of rehearsal with them to achieve better cohesion and understanding.
Once during the show, she waved her hand and thought the instrumentalists understood the signal to pause. Visibly irritated that they did not dollow her cue, she queried, “Are you guys crazy?” She made up for this outburst when it came to her attention that it was the drummer’s birthday. To placate him and the entire band, she momentarily shifted attention to him with a birthday song.
In the course of entertaining an audience, veering off a planned course does not always result in a disaster. Many times, it is smoothened over in a haze of jibes and the audience would not even notice. However, bringing an excited instrumentalist back to the rehearsed course shows the fronts man is sharp witted and has the show under control. Muma demonstrated this leadership trait a few times when the bassist wanted to start her off on a song while she was still talking.
Her first song of the night was a gospel to praise the awesomeness of God titled, ‘Adoration’. She preceded the song with acknowledgement of VIPs like Frank Oshodi, Elajoe, Ann Njemanze, Anita Joseph, and the Ibru sisters-Gloria, Obukome and Elvina. It was, arguably, the only sober period of her act. It, however, established her vocal pattern throught the night: There will be a lot of yelling to emphasize certain words and phrases; as well, there will be a lot of interaction with the audience. More than anything else, the first song also established that she was going to approach the show with unapologetic arrogance. This statement gave the hint. “I know we are in a club, but this is a concert, as far as I am concerned.”
The brashness in her speech may have jolted a few.
Only Fela Anikulapo-Kuti had the boldness to address the kind of issues she did in next song, ‘Stolen from Africa’ which was given an Afro-jazz delivery. Before launching into the song, she highlighted the evils of colonialism. The third song, ‘No Leave Me So’, was a south-south highlife tune; rooted in thumping drumbeats and fast pace. She sought dancers from the audience who could join her on the floor to gyrate while waving handkerchiefs in the air-typical Niger Delta style.
Still addressing commonplace issues, she presented the song, ‘Scream’, an Afro-rock sound, which draws attention to the chaotic lifestyle in cities like Lagos-blaring horn from frantic drivers, too much noise from generators. These commotion, she said takes a toll on her; so she can’t sleep. Sometimes, the madness is multipied in dizzying proportions and it makes her want to scream! As expected, the arrangement of the song made room for an entertaining session allowing the lead guitarist display his dexterity much to the appreciation of the audience. The song fittingly ends with a long, blood cuddling shriek!
She was still screaming when the guitar struck the tune for AWS, African Woman Skilashi, an Afropop song which Muma Gee predicts will relaunch her to reckoning this month. The producer of the song was in the audience. The street appeal in AWS is evident. Pandering to women’s baser instincts, she whips up powerful emotions that are difficult to ignore. Of course, the women roared in response when she asked them if they have got their ‘Skilashi tight’. But what in the world does the lingo, ‘Skilashi’ mean?
Perhaps, this verse from the song points to its implication.
“I’ve got my skilashi/my efizzi/I’m sexy/Afrotastic/African woman”
“My body no be for rental/rather na instrumental/I no dey try to dey judgemental/This matter e serious and crucial/Why you go want to taste my centre/And if you force yourself to enter/You go no say khaki no be leather/I go wind you so tey you go mental.”
Your interpretation of the punch line and word play is as good as mine. From the reaction of the crowd, Muma Gee may have added another word, skilashi, to the glossary of street songs. And judging by the excitement at X-Factor that night, the women and men have different explanations for skilashi. The line of reasoning continued to widen when Muma Gee pointedly accused men of being “looters of the African woman skilashi”.
The women agreed. The men disagreed.
As she couldn’t find enough space on the dance floor, she entered one of the guest booths, climbed the couch and raised her hands to acknowledge cheers. Putting one leg across the rail, she wriggled her waist, arched her booty and continued to sing, “I get my skilashi…my efizzi”. At this point, she invited Elvina Ibru who she described as a goddess and diva. Before Elvina said anything, Muma urged her to turn around and show her skilashi. So, is skilashi a woman’s booty? Perhaps. A seemingly shy Elvina went on to shake backside cautiously before she handed out a warning. She said, “To all the young women, I want to tell you use your brain, not your breast. One day the breast will fall.”
It would take a while before Muma noticed Dede Mabiaku in the crowd and she was inspired to fuel the prevailing enjoyment by bringing Dede on stage. Dede threw up a clarification that tears the house into the kind of fierce rivalry between arch fans of opposing football teams. His summation was that if the United Nation says that there are five women to one man, then women have the power to change or perpetrate whatever they like to see in the society. He changed to chorus to “five women to one man, na so di tin e be”. That sounded like an advantage to the men, as they cheered Dede on.
The next song, ‘Workshop’ continued the notion of pitching men against women; or was it women against men? Muma continued her bitchy rage against men when she hit the male folk hard for not paying when they go into a woman’s ‘workshop’.
The reason for her apparent bellyaching against men would soon be revealed. In an honest outpouring from heart, she said. “In six years of marriage, my husband packed out of my house six times. Each time, he would return with cock-and-bull stories, buy a gift for me and we would make peace. All those years, I was responsible for all the financial responsibility that should normally be discharged by a man. I did not complain. On top of that, my husband cheated on me with different women. I took it all in the hope that he would be truly remorseful, but when I became convinced that he was using me as his meal ticket and he made the mistake of packing out of the house again, I told him it was over. He has been going around maligning my name. I never said anything in public until tonight. I do not drink alcohol. I do not smoke. I was faithful to my husband when I was his wife. Nobody can say that they caught me cheating on him. That is a bit of my story.”
Apart from re-launching her career in music, Muma announced that she is set to study Law at the University of Lagos. She is also packaging a tourism-cum-culture television programme called ‘Culture Rocks’. The audience applauded loudly when she brought her three children on stage. It was the birthday of her last child, Oma.
The show promoter, Ngozi Omambala was very happy. She said, “Muma Gee was simply electric on stage. She is a seasoned musician. It was a gritty, raw and honest live performance set, full of integrity with nothing sugar coated. We welcome back this powerhouse of a Diva energised, rebranded and ready to take the industry by storm as shown by a surprise & impromptu performance with Afrobeat legend Dede Mabiaku present as a guest. They collectively had everyone up in a frenzy of appreciation – two legends, real music, it was a music master class in live music.”
The show featured other warm up artistes like MTrill, OC, Collabo from Ghana, Surprise and GBT winner SQUI displaying fantastic performance.