By Vanessa Obioha
True to its word, premium whisky brand Johnnie Walker rocked the city of Abuja last weekend with its unique blend of jazz and whisky concert. It has become a culture of the brand to curate the best live music experiences for its teeming fans since it berthed the Johnnie Jazz and Whisky concert in 2017.
The series have seen artistes such as Brymo, Asa, Femi Kuti among others thrilling audience with electrifying performances that often leave them with a lingering feeling of music ecstacy. The mission so far for the brand is to create an experience where the old and new stars can perform to a motley audience, thus building evergreen moments.
Returning for the third time to the city of Abuja, the brand threw all in the ring to give lovers of the whisky brand and jazz music an unforgettable experience.
Expectedly, the grassy grounds of Central Park in Abuja brimmed with happy feet, eager to revel in the live performances lined up for the night.
In its usual tradition, the night was filled with music and flavours. At the mini bar set up for the occasion, attendees clinked glasses enjoying the different cocktail flavours. The atmosphere of camaraderie was heightened by the bubbly chatter and laughter of guests who clapped hands, pat backs and captured moments at the photo booth as they await the musical performances. For this edition, Sir Shina Peters, Patoranking and Niniola were the lineup artistes.
Immediately, the host announced Niniola on stage, the beautifully decorated seats on the grass began to fill up. Those who were unlucky to find a seat didn’t mind standing as long as they caught their favourite act on stage.
Since her debut album ‘This Is Me’ in 2017, Niniola has constantly pushed the envelope, positioning herself as a reckoning force in the music industry. Last year, she took the bold step to fund her own concert, thereby making a statement about her ability to depend on her craft for success.
That hat-trick must have paid well for her as her schedule gets tighter each passing day.
At the JJW event last weekend, she proved once again why she is the acclaimed Queen of Afro-House.
Starting with a jazzy rendition of popular songs, including American singer Jill Scott’s ‘A Long Walk’,Niniola mesmerised the crowd with her voice.
Her next set saw the artiste switching the tempo to an upbeat one as she sang ‘Ibadi’. This set was characterized by rigorous dancing. A dancer herself, she didn’t shy away from the challenge poised by her eclectic dancers. She walked into the crowd, displayed her dance moves which elicited cheers from the crowd before two members of the audience joined her on stage to dance.
What made this particular set a feisty one was the energy the live band Coded Vibes brought on stage. They exuded so much energy and vivacity such that it was evident that they really took time to rehearse their performances. And the crowd enjoyed every bit of it. When she performed ‘Bana’ they joined in the chorus heartily; and when she segued into ‘Sicker’, they put on their dancing shoes and gave her the Zanku moves.
As if that was not enough, she again changed the upbeat tempo to a Fuji one, eliciting loud cheers and claps. Her ability to transition smoothly from one genre to another while still keeping the rhythm of the song is a testament of how well she has mastered her artistry.
She proudly told the crowd that “We are taking our culture to the world.”
If the crowd thought they had seen enough of the Afro-House queen, they were in for a surprise when she performed ‘Maradona’. Expecting the usual beat, Niniola again turned the performance into a Makossa soiree. But just when they were getting too familiar with the beat, she switched into a jazzy note, then back to an upbeat.
Clearly, Niniola was just having fun on stage and her fans were drawn to her enchanting persona. To end her performance, she sampled some songs in Afrobeat, before taking a bow with Femi Kuti’s ‘Beng Beng Beng’.
Not to be outdone by Niniola, Patoranking came on stage all fired up after a short interlude. Performing with his live band Fire Republiq, he was introduced on stage with the famous Buju Banton’s song ‘Our Father in Zion’. In his usual tradition, he did a freestyle where he talked about his rise to stardom while encouraging the crowd to be optimistic and believe that they were born to win. The crowd however were eager to hear him perform his popular songs.
Kicking into full gear, he whet their musical appetite with ‘Suh different’, before seamlessly segueing into ‘Love You Die’. Like Niniola’s performance, the backup singers added flair to his performance with their different voice ranges. Patoranking must have also borrowed a leaf from Niniola as he also infused Makossa sounds to his performances.
But not for long as he performed his 2016 sexy hit ‘Daniella Whine’. As if on cue, ladies began to display different sexy moves. The atmosphere suddenly became overly electrified. Still maintaining the tempo, Patoranking took the music lovers down memory lane with one of his breakout songs ‘Girlie oh’, before launching into ‘No Kissing’.
Done with the sexy and love songs, Patoranking went inspirational, singing ‘Make Am’ followed by a medley of Bob Marley’s songs including ‘One Love’. He followed it with ‘Alubarika’. He would later round up his set with songs such as ‘Confirm’, ‘Another Level’, ‘Available’, and ‘My Woman’.
Saving the best for last, Sir Shina Peters waltzed into the stage with a mission: to prove that he is evergreen. He gladly told the crowd that he started hip hop in 1990. He proved it by giving a hippy rendition of ‘Loke Loke’. Not done, he went further to show that he was the first Yoruba musician to rap by doing a rap style for the audience.
For most part of his act, Peters reminded the audience that the young shall grow and the old shall not die. This was evidently seen in his energetic and engaging performances where he urged the audience to put on their dancing shoes.
“My kind of music is not the type that one sits still, you must dance,” he told them.
The crowd cheered him on when he started singing ‘If you love Shina Peters, dance to ny music.’
With each act saw the crowd cheering him on. Their applause apparently touched him as he spontaneously began to pray for them.
Though he performed a handful of his songs, however the crowd were eager to hear him sing ‘Ijo Shina’. Whether it was deliberate or not, Peters decided to end his performance just when his backup singers started belting the lyrics of the song. Irrespective of that abrupt end, the crowd still went home with relishing tales of the night.