I attended the musical extravaganza that was the Celtel (now Zain) Concert at the National Stadium last Saturday. Fellow colleagues at Awoko told me about this concert about a month ago, so I had been anxiously anticipating the hyped-up event.
Although the event was scheduled to start at 6 p.m., my friend, Tori, and Awoko colleague, Ophaniel Gooding, and I didn’t get to the stadium until about 11 p.m. That turned out to be just fine, because the headlining group, Nigerian R&B duo P-Square, didn’t begin their set until after 2 a.m. (Go figure)
In the meantime, the three of us enjoyed an impressive show at the packed National Stadium. The weather held up – although it did shower lightly at times – and I got to see many Sierra Leonean artists whose music I’ve repeatedly heard on the radio and at nightclubs.
I’ve been a P-Square fan ever since Ishmael Bayoh showed me some of their music videos at the Awoko office almost two months ago, so I was naturally looking forward to their performance. True to form, the seasoned vets of touring and performing didn’t disappoint. They energized the seemingly restless crowd with eye-popping dance moves and even made at least one girl faint with their voice and charm – that girl, by the way, somehow later found her way onto the stage and got hugs from the heartthrob twins.
Despite all of these eventful shenanigans, though, P-Square wasn’t the most memorable performance of the night for me.
The ‘star’ of the night, for me, was Sierra Leonean female rapper, Star Zero. When she came onto the stage, the crowd was clearly getting sick and tired of waiting for P-Square. But somehow she got nearly every single body in the stadium up out of their seats with her high-energy performance. I’ll never forget how the stadium simply erupted during and after her performance of her hit single, “Lighter” (the melody of the song is still stuck in my head today).
What can I say? I was ‘star-struck,’ for lack of a better term, and I became a big Star Zero fan overnight.
Other memorable performances include those of Famous, DJ Lulu, Nanamenta and Shadrack & Ragga Spice. Each time these artists performed their most popular songs, I turned to Tori and Ophaniel and gleefully shouted, “Hey, I know this song!”
I think one of the highlights of the night was when Paul and Peter of P-Square urged the crowd to support their Sierra Leonean musicians, because they knew what local support can do for an artist trying to make it big.
“Before P-Square, I was a nobody; Paul was a nobody,” Peter said. “But we got tremendous support from our fans and Nigeria and we want you to support your local artists.”
“If you want them to be as big as P-Square,” Peter followed, “if you want them to be BIGGER than P-Square, you’ve got to give them the same kind of support that Nigerians gave us.”
I hope those words resonated with the huge crowd at the National Stadium, because I completely agree.
There’s tremendous talent here in Sierra Leone. And I’m no expert of the entertainment world, but if some of these artists can refine their performance skills and start touring abroad to show off their skills, I can imagine the Sierra Leone music industry booming – even in the states – within a few years. And when – not if, WHEN – it does, I will pound my chest and proudly proclaim that I saw these guys (live) just before they became superstars.
By Yu Nakayama