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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