Sunday 16 September 2012

High life in Abuja

Braving the wet season downpours I headed out of Friday evening with new friend B ostensibly to have dinner. I knew we were going to eat fish, but little did I know we’d end up at one of Abuja’s hot night life spots, Blakes. At a 1000N entrance fee, it is way outside my volunteer budget. The younger vols often go to some of the city’s many clubs (usually the one’s with free entry) and bop the night away to the wee small hours to the latest hip-hop and other modern dance music genres which are not really to my taste. So as we approached I was already having second thoughts about the evening and trying to think up reasons for going home early :) So imagine my delight when we get sat down after picking our fish and ordering it to be cooked, when I hear the dulcet tones of a trumpet and the latin rhythms of high life wafting across the room to my ears. Oh heaven. If there is any music I associate with sub-saharan West Africa this is it.

We had got there relatively early at around 9:30PM in order to get a seat under cover as the seats nearer the stage are open to the elements, but the weather gods favoured us and he rain stopped and kept away. In the end the meal was Ok, nothing special but the atmosphere was great, not overly crowded by either ex-pats nor by 20-somethings. A number of acts took the stage during the evening beginning with a warm up compare rabbitting on about red devils in the usual pigeon English I fail miserably to understand until I  heard the words Arsenal and Chelsea – yes, football, the universally loved sport for all Nigerian who avidly follow the English Premier League! Ok so back to the night’s line up… 2 or perhaps 3 bands, and assorted individual performers, along with various dancers and acrobats, jugglers etc. The dancers, who were on stage for the vast part of the night , were 2 girls and 1 guy – oh gosh eye candy and they all knew it! And such energy. Pure showmanship. The young man dancer was perhaps one of the  strongest, fittest dancers I have ever seen. Late in the night’s events he and one of the vocalists did a staged act which I will try to describe. The dancer is down low on the floor, as if limbo-ing, and then raises his whole torso up and down, with the singer emphasising the motion with his hands and in time to the music. I lost count after 10 and he must have done 20! 

Of course all these “acts” are to engage the audience to give of their cash :) I assume that’s how the performers get paid . You see people go up on stage to dance with them and flash notes around and at the end of each set the artists come round the tables hats in hand. For the most part it is tastefully done, but there are times when performing for money this still makes me feel uncomfortable.  I know performers get paid, but do I need to see the money change hands? I know people pay for the experience be it paying to take a helicopter up over a glacier, paying an entry fee to a football ground, and even paying to be one of the passengers on the first commercial space flight. The last one of these we all know costs a huge amount of money, but for some reason I just don’t see the person who pays for this as doing it just to flaunt his or her money. Loads of people dropped notes to the singers, musicians, dancers etc but there was one guy who happen to be sitting on the table next to us, with a couple. She and I exchanged a few pleasantries but this man, on two occasions, went up on stage to dance, and instead of slipping the singer some notes either into his hand of shirt pocket etc had a handful of clearly new notes and was wafting them about, one after the other , confetti like around the singer and then one of the dancers. Grotesque! One of the stage hands had to come and scoop them all up for the band :)

A curio from the night – white handkerchiefs! Everyone takes out a (clean) white hanky and waves it around when dancing, some people even have 2!

Apart from that the night was great fun, Lovely music – old style highlife, modern highlife, some old pop, some rock and roll, some reggae, some Niaja pop and some modern African beat music I would not be able to put a genre to. Perhaps the  place for the 60th?:)  I finally arrived home about 3AM! and that was after having told out gate man when I left I expected not to be very late! This was so unusual for me that my flat mate had returned home from her night out, our house guest was in bed, and she thought I was as well, locked the door and left the key in the lock - consequently when I tried to open the door I couldn’t,  so I had to phone C, wake her up and get her to come and let me in. Oh dear what a way to end the evening! Nice one!

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