Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Vanessa Obioha report that the first big entertainment show of the year was an all-round captivating experience for artistes and fans

In more ways than one, the recent Soundcity MVP (Most Valuable Player) Awards Festival at the Eko Convention Centre of Eko Hotels and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos was more of an awards show
than a festival. Of course, it had the right audience with thousands of music fans in attendance. Although the ceremony was televised and streamed live on social media, most people preferred to have an eye witness experience. They thronged the venue to be part of the glitz and glamour of the event. Being the first entertainment show of the year, the anticipation was very high. At least, most people were back from the Christmas holidays and the fuel scarcity that kept quite a few indoors during the yuletide had abated significantly.

The hype and buzz that accompanied the announcement of the festival also heightened the frenzy. Introduced in 2016 by Consolidated Media Associates, owners of Soundcity Africa (Television, Radio and Digital) to replace the popular Soundcity Music Video Awards which was finally rested in 2010, the organisers deployed their various media platforms to promote the event. With huge viewership on its TV channels and listenership on the radio station, Urban 96.5FM, the message was bound to reach a wider audience. At a time when the industry boasts of a few reputable music awards platform that can capture showbiz aptly, SMVP Awards Festival is a breath of fresh air. More so, as the awards has positioned itself as a Pan African event by going beyond Nigeria to appreciate artistes from other African countries.

While the huge turnout spoke volumes for the organiser’s reach, the massive hall which was transformed to an showground of sorts could not accommodate all. There was barely any unoccupied space in the ground floor of the hall. It was not different upstairs. Even the VIP section which accommodated nominees and celebrities was so packed that some attendees only had room to stand. The female protocol officials had a hard time persuading to move away from blocking the view of those seated. But their pleas fell on deaf ears. It took the intervention of security personnel to convince them to either squat or leave. This respite was however short-lived. Once the guards left, they resumed their position. At this point, the female ushers gave up.
Apart from the mammoth crowd, everything about the ceremony reeked of an award fete. There were no cultural activities on display within and outside the main hall; no other side attractions unless one wants to consider the free sampling of Guinness’ product ‘Africa Special’. There was also Cocacola Mix. For a music celebration to earn the status of a festival, it must, at least, provide other forms of activities because festivals go beyond sound and performance on stage.

Nevertheless, the SMVP Awards Festival was a very brilliant show. In fact, it has raised the bar for music award shows. It was also big testimonial to the excellence and professionalism of the CMA helmsman Tajudeen Adepetu. For five days, Adepetu and his team worked tirelessly at the venue to achieve the desired result. Carpenters, sound technicians, event planners, stage designers gathered at the site daily to transform the purlieu. The walls of the hallway leading to the main hall were covered with design of the nominees. Although there was a dedicated red carpet area right outside the convention centre, the floor of the hallway as well as the lobby leading to the events hall were draped in red. Inside, the auditorium was a continuum of glitz and glamour. The lighting and visual randomization spread from the screen on stage to the ceiling and walls, creating a fascinating effect befitting of an event of such caliber. The aesthetically designed stage was T-shaped. This allowed winners of the event to easily waltz into the stage from their seats instead of going through the backstage. Only the performers, host, and award presenters made use of the main entry and exit on stage.

Electrifying Performances
No doubt, Adepetu threw everything into the ring to have a spectacular show. This was largely made possible by three major brands, Guinness, United Bank of Africa (UBA) and Coca-Cola that threw their weight behind the ceremony.

Perhaps, Adepetu’s hat-trick was the theatrical script that was delicately brought to life on stage. Each music act that came on stage was a delight to watch, not necessarily because they were better performers but the skilled choreographers who accompanied them showcased pulsating displays. From their costumes to their dance steps, they electrified the atmosphere.
For instance, Skales’ performance was highly sensual. The sexily-dressed female dancers who performed with him displayed very erotic dance steps during his performance of his hit-track ‘Booty Language’, particularly the hook part which named the female backside in different Nigerian languages.

Moving to the rhythm of the beat, they swayed their hips, twerked while on all fours, rolled on the floor, rubbed their rear seductively, then performed a sexual move that required them thrusting their hips upwards while their shoulders rested on the floor. Their performance left most members of the audience jaw-dropped.

But Skales’ performance was just a foretaste of what to expect for the night. Junior Boy’s performance of ‘Irapada’ was very dramatic. The dancers waltzed into the stage dressed in traditional Yoruba costumes. The ladies were dressed in ‘iro and buba’ with big headgears while the guys wore ‘buba and sokoto’ with matching caps. Their gestures indicated that they were in a party setting where the ladies gossiped, clapped hands while grabbing their men for a dance.

There was no way Small Doctor could be outdone. He came on stage with his own group of dancers dressed in red football jerseys and shorts as he rendered his wave-making hit ‘Penalty’. The dancers displayed
football skills on stage and jogged from one end of the stage to the other, imitating the training routine of footballers. The audience was however deprived of a good theatre display during Kiss Daniel’s performance of his dancehall tune ‘Sofa’. The back-up dancers did not come to the stage on time and by the time they arrived in pairs; the crowd was already carried away by the song as they sang along with the artiste. His second performance ‘Yeba’, another favourite of the audience, however, saw the dancers entertaining the crowd with their moves.

However, it was Iyanya that totally stole the night. He was the only performer who did not rely on the popularity of his songs to entertain the audience but actually immersed himself in his performance. A very good dancer, he jumped, waved and moved along with every dance step. This showed that he must have rehearsed very well with them. Performing his newly-released single ‘Good Vibes’, the Mavin Records singer who was dressed in an all-white apparel had the time of his life while performing with his team of choreographers. His performance was very well applauded.

When Tiwa Savage came on stage to perform with Alternate Sound Live Band, everybody expected a live performance. But along the line, the DJ cued in her songs: ‘Malo’ featuring Wizkid and ‘All Over’.
Apparently, her act was an opportunity to showcase the very impressive live band. Interestingly, 2Baba who usually performs with a live band was without one at the event. Notwithstanding, he was a crowd’s favourite. Performing his popular hits including ‘Gaga Shuffle’, he ended his act by calling on the government and security agencies to put a stop to the recent killings by Fulani herdsmen in his home state, Benue. It was a bloody New Year celebration in the state when a gang of marauders attacked some villages, leaving scores dead.
While Nigerian artistes had a good outing at the show, South African rappers EMTee and Cassper Nyovest, and Ghanaian act Sarkodie who took home the Best Collaboration Award for ‘Pain Killer’ his collaborative effort with Runtown (not Patoranking as author and OAP Toke Makinwa excitedly announced on stage) ; didn’t fail to excite the audience. Cassper displayed his hip-hop dance moves as he performed his 2017 hit single ‘Tito Mboweni’, while Sarkodie basked in the glory of having the audience singing back the lyrics of ‘Pain Killer’ to him. EMTee on the other hand got the crowd all rolled up during his rendition of his popular track ‘Roll Up’. Other artistes who graced the stage were M.I., Seyi Shay, Yemi Alade, Dice Ailes and Realself among others.

With the boisterous manner which hypeman and Cool FM On-Air Personality Oladotun Kayode widely known as Do2dtun and DJ Neptune opened the awards festival, having Ebuka Obi-Uchendu as the host was a killjoy. Of course, he has the savvy looks and eloquence but lacks the charisma for a show of that nature. He was too formal and couldn’t sustain the adrenalin pumping mood Do2dtun created.

The awards show had its funny moments of blunders. Toke Makinwa set the gaffe ball rolling when she excitedly announced that Sarkodie and Patoranking were the winners of the Best Collaboration Award for the song ‘Pain Killer’, instead of Sarkodie and Runtown. The DJ followed suit by mistakenly playing Simi’s ‘Joromi’ when Runtown was announced the winner of the Viewers Choice award. Davido crowned the gaffe of the night by dedicating one of his awards for the night to his late friend DJ Olu whom he said died earlier this year. Hello, Davido, we are in 2018!

A Reflection of the Music Industry
Every award show is a reflection of the music industry. From the red carpet to the main event, there is an opportunity to have a glimpse of the lifestyle of these music artistes and how they manage their fame. While the Nigerian Entertainment Industry is not going through a sexual harassment tornado like its American counterparts it is, however, important to pay attention to some of the hidden messages celebrities convey through their fashion statements. The red carpet of the Soundcity MVP Awards Festival highlighted the escalating degree of glamour, ambition and perhaps loneliness of these artistes. No thanks to the American entertainment television network, E! that has trivialized red carpet interviews by identifying women by what they wear rather than who they are.
Expectedly, the female celebrities stormed the red carpet with full glam. Some wore fashionable outfits while others flaunted parts of their body unabashedly. The men too donned well-tailored pieces that gave them a dashing look. Wearing their fame with pride, they smiled to the cameras while striking beautiful poses.
But there was more to the apparel that meets the eye. The pieces they don seemed to resonate their achievements, ambitions and perhaps a latent fear of losing it all in the limelight. No doubt they need the fame for relevance in the industry. After all, everybody wants to ‘blow’.

Fashion appears to be the only way that some of these celebrities measure their success. Yes, they must have produced record-breaking hits or featured in box-office blockbusters. However, it is at the award shows
that they truly show their bank statement. At least, there are no filters in real life appearances. You see things clearly at a close encounter. The superficiality of the red carpet unfortunately is what is misleading the upcoming ones. At the end of the day, it bores down to who you know in the industry and your fashion statement on red carpet. The burning question now is what happens after the klieg light dims? Who are the truly happy and successful ones?

Big Winners of the Night
Davido was the man of the night. Right from his arrival, he caused such a frenzy that his fans ignored the happenings on stage to focus on him. He won the most number of awards for the night. His 2017 super
hit ‘If’ fetched him two awards ‘Song of the Year’ and ‘Video of the Year’. He was also the recipient of the biggest award of the night: ‘African Artiste of the Year’. Maleek Berry also took home two awards for Best New Artiste and Best Pop. Olamide and Wizkid took one award each: Listeners Choice and Digital Artiste of the Year respectively. Tiwa Savage was the only female winner of the night. She took home the award for the Best Female MVP. Other winners of the night include Cassper Nyovest (Best Hip Hop) and Diamond Platnumz (Best Male MVP)

Fans Reactions
The fans at the Soundcity MVP Awards Festival must be every showbiz planner’s dream. They were bold and sassy. They first showed their true colours by booing each time Ghanaian act Shatta Wale’s name was mentioned. It didn’t help that Sarkodie tried to redeem his fellow countryman’s image by acknowledging him after his performance. The second time Wale’s name was mentioned, they booed again. However, their voice was loudest when Tanzanian artiste, Diamond Platnumz was announced the winner of Best Male MVP. The nominees in that category boasted of Nigerian music heavyweights like Wizkid, Davido, Olamide, and 2baba. Apparently, the crowd wanted Davido or any other Nigerian artiste to win in that category. They boldly rejected the result. Within minutes, the hall erupted in chants: No! They even made silly comments that the only Diamond they knew was the financial institution Diamond Bank. It was not the first time that fans strongly disagree with the results at awards shows. Usually, they voice their concerns on social media platforms, but this time, they expressed their dismay right at the event. A helpless Richard Mofe-Damijo who was the unlucky bearer of the result was befuddled. For a while, he appeared to be waiting for a signal from the organisers to calm the protesting audience but none came. Nevertheless, he managed to wriggle his way out of the situation.