Good Times Inc.
Fela anikulapo-Kuti, by today’s standards was a bad businessman. he created an original, innovative product of live entertainment, ‘afrobeat’ out of a necessity to survive in the musical market and differentiate himself from his biggest competitor, geraldo Pino, a sierra-leonean whose brand of soul music, reminiscent of James Brown and other american soul artists, had captured the larger market share. Inspired first by the war-time politics of his day and later by the continuous oppression of the masses by a revolving door of military regimes, Fela shed his early day ‘afrobeat’ of highlife and jazz influences infusing it with hard funk, african chants and ultimately, protestations. his was a revolutionary genre in sound and in content- new, infectious and carrying the anger, frustrations, pain of a nation, in song. It was an instant hit. Fela had a cash cow in his hands. however, when he set up the new afrika shrine- the now hallowed venue- where this product, now highly in demand, could be made readily available, with him performing live every other day of the week, the price of admission wasn’t money but a desire to listen to firebrand sonic dissent. Fela did not cash in. a lot has changed since Fela’s time- the political climate is not as suffocating, much of today’s music doesn’t have a social conscience- but a concerted effort to capture and propagate the culture of the day via entertainment, as he and many others did in his time remains till today albeit with a difference.
Today’s cultural raconteurs (of course, not in any way close to Fela’s magnificence) are not only wise in trends but adept in capitalizing on them. Foremost of this new class are abimbola shittu, Chin okeke and Oriteme Banigo, cofounders of eclipse live africa, a branding & communications agency and producers of gidi Culture Festival, an outdoor music and arts youth festival that has created an innovative product, much like Fela: a rich dish of culture, served in one bite with quality live entertainment as its main course. Banigo, okeke and shittu are scions of western education, who have cut their teeth in corporate europe and america and between them, have worked in the royal Bank of scotland, Deloitte london, fortune 500 companies such as Credit suisse, AP Moller Maersk group and have investments in oil & gas, agriculture industries. The tie that binds them however isn’t their financial training but a passion for entertainment and the development of nigeria’s creative economy. The former is the fuel that drives their performance in the latter. “There’s a huge demand for entertainment because there’s a lack of the right kind of entertainment. The youth percentage is 80% of nigeria’s population so there’s a market opportunity here. There’s also a huge opportunity to guide how youth culture in africa develops,” says okeke of the sentiments that inspired the creation of gidi Culture.
Okeke is right. nigeria’s lifestyle and culture market is treasure chest waiting to be discovered because of the sheer number of potential customers. entertainment has however taken flight in recent years but it would seem it cannot surpass a certain altitude. entertainment of most kinds are now served rather predictably (and fairly unimaginatively) via music album launch concerts, corporate brand-sponsored extravaganzas, comedy shows, store launches/opening parties and lesser known: plays, musicals and operettas. The consumer, well exposed to global goings-on
The crown jewel of the things on offer is live entertainment from late evening to the next early morning by a line-up of sub-saharan africa’s superstars of the moment – and beyond.
as a result of today’s digital age, wants more. The closest thing to different has been the monthly-held afropolitan Vibes, founded by ade Bantu, a highlife, afrobeats, jazz outdoor concert, reminiscent of Fela’s new afrika shrine sounds. (The resident band plays his tunes very often) The concert marries the old and the new, setting the stage for musical greats of years past such as Jimi solanke to be shared by jazzy upstarts such as Bez & Brymo. afropolitan Vibes attracts a motley collection of people from company executives and expatriates to roadside merchants, united by the pursuit of a good time. The concert too has yet to capitalize on its good fortune (though an educated guess says it will very soon) Its price of admission is a persuasive request for attendees to buy a calabash of badly filtered palm wine and a grounds fee of n1000. gidi Culture Festival on the other hand is playing for big numbers. It has created a competitive product, founded on trends, and it wants to sell.
Its event holds on the sands of eko atlantic, lagos’s new city, in progress. on offer, is a sea of tents that offer art installations, food and allotted spaces for sports games – volleyball and beach soccer. The latter are especially a treat as they are played out by celebrities in music, film, TV and radio. attendees get to see their favourite stars stripped from their carefully curated glamour shells; sweaty, grunting. They get to see how the other half lives- human, after all. The food is a diverse array of culinary treats from gelatos to the local favourite of grilled, peppery beef, better known as suya; provided by vendors and small-medium enterprises in the business of a happy stomach. The crown jewel of the things on offer is live entertainment from late evening to the next early morning by a line-up of sub-saharan africa’s superstars of the moment – and beyond. The gidi Culture stage has been graced by the likes of Congo’s Awilo Logomba; nigeria’s M.I., Davido, Burna Boy, Falz The Bahd guy, waje; Kenya’s Victoria Kimani; Tanzania’s Vanessa Mdee and rwanda’s Urban Boyz; and america’s preeminent DJ, Diplo.
Undoubtedly, what gidi Culture is providing is an altogether different proposition from what obtains in the lifestyle landscape, even on a continent-wide scale. There’s no other
There’s no other platform that puts a large constellation of sub-saharan africa stars on one stage. The blend of sports, arts and live entertainment, outdoors, in one offering in unique.
platform that puts a large constellation of sub-saharan africa stars on one stage. The blend of sports, arts and live entertainment, outdoors, in one offering in unique. It’s fairly young structure – its founders are all under 35 - and driving force suggests it will hold its place across time for what is trendy, hip and ultimately cultivate experiences that taps into the now, which the youth are willing to pay to be a part of. Its modest entry price of n4, 000 ensures mass participation (and high profit margins) from students, to young professionals to those on the either side of the 18 – 35 youth demographic, children (during the day’s sports and arts activities) and the older but “young at heart”, according to okeke. gidi Culture has even been compared to recently held Coachella, the U.s.a’s biggest annual music and arts festivala flattering parallel. gidi Culture, by virtue of monopoly, barring a likely impending charge by afropolitan Vibes or another such platform or the falling of its own standards, will enjoy a generous stake in the lifestyle/entertainment event market.
Were Fela to be alive today, in his prime -which he is in a way, as his music has transcended time- and armed with these advantages aforementioned, surely the good times and numbers will be rolling in his favour, in enough zeroes to make him the first african entrant into the Forbes billionaires list, in the entertainment industry?
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DIRECTOR, KEMI ADETIBA PLAYING VOLLEYBALL
AT THE GCF CONCERT