If you had told me on Monday that I’d one day be a stan for Brymo Olawale, I’d have opened my palm in your face and told you ‘your papa’. I take being a stan very seriously, I can't be driving off bridges for just anyone.
Now, it’s not as if I ever thought Brymo a bad musician - for fans thinking 'what is this one saying' - I just didn’t have enough interest in his music to be anything but an intrepid listener. But here I am now, thinking Brymo is descended from dodo and beans. After listening to him on Wednesday night, things are just not the same.
Every year, I pack myself and my entire book budget for the year (if there is such a thing and if I had enough willpower to walk away from the many book temptations in Lagos) to Abeokuta for the Ake Arts and Book Festival.
Every year, something in me changes. Some subtle, others not so much.
Every year, I look at the program beforehand and tick off the events I want to attend. The music concert at Ake is a new addition and so it got my attention mostly because of Adunni & Nefretiti. I had seen them perform once and it was beautiful.
When he started singing, his voice shocked me. I was shook. My housemate is a huge Brymo fan and always has his songs on repeat so I knew what he sounded like. But this, this was on a whole new level. It was like original honey pouring out of a bottle: a smooth flow. 'In the City' (soundtrack to a short film by Udoka Oyeka) gave me the feels. Oh oh brother, I know you'll remember, no good turn in the city.
The mark of a truly good musician is that he can hold an audience with a song they have never heard before, and the audience at the concert was held. It was like jazz. Nobody moved, until he ended the song and it felt like everyone breathed out at once, one collective sigh of satisfaction and one or two teardrops standing in the corner of my eyes.
There is something about having a music concert in a proper hall. The chairs are arranged like stadium seats and there's little room to throw away home training and komole but we made do because by the time Brymo got to Ara, there was nothing left to do but stand up and shake whatever you could.
Brymo's jazz was powered by a jazz band. Before he came on stage they did a couple of tunes and I would have been happy to listen to them without a vocalist. The guy on the saxophone was a dream, at some points it felt as if he was having a private conversation with his instrument.
This however is not just about Brymo. It is also about the four women who performed before him and the one before them.
I first saw Adunni & Nefretiti perform at Afropolitan Vibes:
for when the breathing stops
with white boubous trailing the floor and tall head wraps, and multicoloured beads of different shapes and sizes around their neck; they reminded me of worshippers.
At Ake, the four-woman band performed in Yoruba, Igbo, Efik, Bini, Urhobo, Ekiti (I had no idea Ekiti people spoke a different Yoruba) and Hausa. Each time they started a new song, you could hear someone in the audience who understood the language give a small shriek of joy. But their joy was all of our joys because music transcends language.
Adunni & Nefretiti tapped into something evocative and spiritual that almost everyone in the audience responded to.
By the time they left the stage, I wished I was close enough to grab the hem of a boubou and say, 'take me with you to wherever the music comes from.' But, alas, I was in a proper hall and my home training restrained me.
The other woman was Falana, and boy can she sing. She drew the music out of her soul and poured it out through her mouth. Accompanied by a bass guitar and later a calhoun, she did original songs, a cover of a Cuban artist in Spanish and something with ‘My Favourite Things’ from Sound of Music that made the song entirely hers.
There was this moment when all the performers came on stage. Brymo with his jazz, Adunni Nefrititi with their two drummers who now became dancers, Falana with her calhoun; one insanely perfect moment where I thought they were going to perform a song together.
They didn't. They joined the end of Ara, took a bow and left the stage.