They were everywhere. These teenagers and young adults. They came in packed in the December transatlantic flights which brought them from their bases in the UK and the US. On many, you could still get the whiff of sunscreen from the summer.
They all came through for the Nativeland 2017 concert. They ran around in crop tops, jackets and earrings, seeking out drinks, food and new ways to have fun. Two young girls, who could not have been a day older than 16 stared at a shirtless guy and giggled. They clearly liked what they saw.
Fun was present in abundance. We were at the Muri Okunola Park, where Nativemag, were successfully holding the second edition of their Nativeland Concert. It was a big deal, especially to the holiday seekers from the UK and US, who will get the chance to watch some of their best niche acts leave the comfort and connectivity of Soundcloud, and seek to transform their music into live art.
When we weren’t captivated by the stage, there were food and drinks all around. Alcohol flowed endlessly, but there was a strict rule against giving it to minors. While trying to charm one of the barmaids into giving me more than my statutory allocation of liquor, three minors showed up. The most courageous of them asked for a drink.
“No, you are too young for alcohol,” she said, her face as hard as Olumo Rock.
“I just turned 18 in September,” he said, gesticulating towards his backup members of his gang. “Is that so?”
“Yes!” They all chanted. Great guys, they were taking their first steps in Guy Code. Always stand with your bro, whether in search of alcohol or in pursuit of a lady. Have his back at all times.
But the young alcoholic was lying, and it was as clear as water. This was a guy who was still dealing with puberty. You could see the innocence in his eyes, the juvenile smile on his face, and his lack of a girlfriend. At best he was 16. Ambitious 16.
“No.” The barmaid wasn’t having any of this fake age lie. And while I couldn’t hold back my laughter for long, as he walked away disappointed, I still got my issues to deal. I needed more alcohol.
“No way,” Miss Iron-Face told me.
I walked away, low and dry, and faced the music.
Onstage, the talents from Soundcloud, also known as ‘The New Wave’, were working overtime. Fasina, Fresh L, Mobblanta, No Politics Mob, Kazeem Twins, Yinka Bernie, AylO, Lady Donli, Barelyanyhook, Dice Ailes, Prettyboy D-O, DJ Aye, Wavy TheCreator, Odunsi, , Santi, and co were working their vocals to the crowd, with varying successes. But it was all a vibe.
Prettyboy D-O had maniacal energy, but it all worked well for his single ‘Footwork’. Lady Donli’s ‘Poison’ did the opposite; it gave us life. Odunsi fell onstage as he celebrated with Kasien. DJ Aye twisted sounds, Ajebutter22 led us all to happiness, while SDC was sublime as usual.
Davido supported Mayorkun, his protégé who has had a banner year. Everyone screamed out to the urban turnup of ‘Like Dat’, while they went the Native way, singing “Shuku shaker, Aya shoemaker…” long after OBO had turned his back and left the stage. Tekno must have performed close to 10 songs, and every damn record was a hit. Kojo Funds and Yxng Bane were a vibe, while Nonso Amadi mellowed it out with ‘Tonight’. Maleek Berry rounded it off in great style too, performing his hit records which have made him such a huge star.
But the moment to remember was Burna Boy. Burna Boy the misfit. Burna Boy the hyper-masculine. Burna Boy the controversial. Burna Boy the artist. The man who was recently bailed from Police custody after he’s been accused of sponsoring an armed robbery attack on a colleague came onstage for a performance.
And while the spectre of jail lingered, it didn’t stop everyone from joining in the energy, beauty and purity of his art. A disturbed figure, he performed ‘Pree me’, a song which captures his current siege mentality.
“Lately I’ve been on my toes, enemies are on a mission…”
He then went on to perform songs off his 2017 catalogue. They include ‘Streets of Africa’, ‘Rock your body’, ‘Sekkle’, ‘Gba’, and ‘Déjà vu’. He also threw in ‘Don Gorgon’ and ‘Run my race’, for old times’ sake.
Burna Boy also had a surprise up his sleeve, as UK Grime rapper, Skepta showed up. He briefly performed ‘It ain’t safe’, before disappearing with the promise, “Lagos, see you soon.”
There was no mention of his police case. The art ruled in a space designed to enable him to embrace the best parts of himself. The demons can come in his solitude, but with the fans, it’s all about the art. And as he exited the stage, someone mentioned the obvious.
“Burna Boy is the most talented artist in Nigeria. If only he could carry himself with less controversy and trouble.”
Nativeland has done it again. They have successfully brought together the best of all sound formations in Nigerian music, into a scene where the fans are appreciative and eager to create a bond with artists. Bring on 2018.