When I got to Freedom Park at 8pm on Friday night, the band was warming up. There was a handful of people standing around the edges of the main stage. I looked over at the food court, it didn’t seem as full as it usually was at that time on a usual Afropolitan Vibes night.
I wasn’t surprised. When the flyers for the May show was released, it had something new: a N1500 gate fee. For as long as I have attended Afropolitan Vibes, it’s always been a N500 Freedom Park entrance fee so the show itself was free.
Think about this. Afropolitan Vibes has been operating for three years, putting together 36 shows in that time. Seun Kuti, MI, Burna Boy, Jesse Jagz, Beautiful Nubia, Sir Shina Peters, Ras Kimono, Majek Fashek, Nneka, Brymo, Waje, Show Dem Camp and Patrice are a few of the amazing musicians that have graced the Afropolitan Vibes stage. At what cost to management, we may not know, but the show has been consistent, every third Friday of the month like clockwork.
The show did not stay empty for long. Skales had a large audience to Shake Body with him and by the time the final act for the night, Mike Okri came on stage, he had a crowd singing along to Time, cheering at his dance moves on stage, with a number queuing up to dance with him.
Consistency is the name of the game. Ade Bantu, Abby Ogunsanya and their team have proven again and again that they can deliver and that has won them the loyalty of hundreds of people.
It is not necessarily about the guests artistes. The Agbero Crew has its fans, I know, I am one of them. If no one else was performing I will still go for the show, if only to listen to Wura Samba sing Nibolade and do the Lagos Jump. I know a number of people who don’t check who’s coming to perform, they are fans of the show itself, the regulars.
The regulars are people who have attended Afropolitan Vibes from when it was just a jam session till it grew to where it is now. For many of them Afropolitan Vibes is where they go to play catch up. In a place like Lagos where you can go two years without running into certain people it is a way for friends and acquaintances to stay in touch.
Ade Bantu often refers to attendees as ‘agberos’ and ‘agberesses’, everyone leaves their aje butter at the gate, there is no class stratification, no VIP, no airs. Everyone comes to have fun at Afropolitan Vibes. Especially foreigners.
There seems there is a handbook for the Lagos expat that has something like ‘Afropolitan Vibes is a part of the cultural experience of Lagos, miss it and you can’t really say you have been to Lagos’. You are sure to run into people of different nationalities at Afropolitan Vibes.
There were some grumbles that came with the new gate fee, whispers of a boycott. In a country where people pay N5000 to go to shows where they can barely see the stage, shows that begin hours after the advertised time and more often than not leave an unsatisfied taste in the mouth of attendees, it is sad that a show that has consistently delivered on quality live performances will be at the receiving end of such bile.
At the very least, this change will weed out the people who were coming just because the show was free, who probably would always find something to grouse no matter how well things go. Because say what you will, Afropolitan Vibes is here to stay and will thrive for a long time to come.