By Anote Ajeluorou
MANY musical concerts have been serenading all over cities across Nigeria to herald this year’s Christmas. And audiences are being enchanted by the magic of the season as they celebrate in honour of the Saviour Jesus Christ. One such yearly concert is Ajumogobia Science Foundation concert that clocked 10 and was celebrated last Tuesday at MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos. Sadly, hints of resting the concert for logistics reasons trailed what has become a concert to look forward to in the city’s classical and Afro-centric music tradition.
As Mr. Soboma Ajumogobia noted, the Ajumogobia clan is now so far-flung around the world that gathering them together for a yearly concert presents a peculiar challenge of its own. A sizeable number of them were absent on account of travel-related issues. Perhaps, he stated, the grandchildren will have to grow up fast to pick up the concert trail from where the pioneers are now constrained to leave it off.
Nevertheless, this year’s concert, like the others before it, was a perfect way to get the audience in a ready mood for the Christmas. Held as a fundraiser for the Ajumogobia Science Foundation (ASF) to support the work of Science Teachers Association of Nigeria (STAN) to further the vision of the late head of the Ajumogobia clan in deepening the country’s science and technological quest, the concert has been a success story since inception. And, Tuesday night was no exception to a sterling night of performances moderated by Mr. Yinka Akinkugbe, another music family.
Kaline’s ‘Bring them home’ by Green Wood Band consisting of drums, saxophone, horn and piano kicked off the show before Dr. Emi Renner, on the grand piano with Julius Nglass on tenor, rendered ‘It Came upon a Midnight Clear’. It had Nglass’ marvelous tenor soaring deep into the night. It was also sung in remembrance of the senior Ajumogobia clan who started it all. This was followed by Yinka Akinkugbe’s rendering of ‘Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town’ in a jazzy, bluesy feel reminiscent of the negro spirituals of Harlem.
Then Feni Ajumogobia, a lawyer who came in from the U.K., took to the grand piano to perform ‘Widmung, S. 566’ by Franz Liszt and Robert Schumann. He played the piano with a warm virtuoso, with the notes rising and falling in equal cadences. He earned the admiration of the audience that warmly applauded him.
Boluwatide Osinowo rendered ‘I look to you’ with Nimi Akinkugbe on the piano while Awune and Toki Ajumogobia did ‘Mary, Did you know’ admirably and complete with a young, female ballet dancer who wooed the audience with her elfin, thin-ice, expressive dance steps. Dolapo Akinkugbe performed ‘Prelude to C minor’ by Sergei Rachmaninoff rendered in fast-paced, light notes.
This was followed by Soboma Ajumogobia performing ‘I’ll Make It Up As I Go’, in the accompaniment of Girls Rule Band consisting of sax, horns, drums, bass and regular guitars and piano. It was a moving performance made all the more charming by an all-female essemble. Another charming performance, ‘Christmas Medley’ by Philip Uzo on guitar and Chioma Dimiri on flute followed before the Steve Rhodes-Nash-led Orchestra led by Gloria Rhodes performed ‘I love the Lord.’ All through Merry Makers Choir was on hand and it made all the difference with its backup performance.
But by far the most innovative of the performances was Bobby Benson’s ‘Taxi driver’ rearranged for two pianos by Seun Awoaje; it had Nimi Akinkugbe and Ibiai Ani on pianos one and two. The introduction of pianos and horns added something special to the performance and transformed the music from its regular highlife standard and gave it a jazzy, pleasing feel. Both the pianos and horns lengthened and stretched the central theme of taxi driver. A male and female ballet dancers also gave the music another, exquisite feel. The proper rearrangement of ‘Taxi driver’ gave indication of the infinite possibilities inherent in any piece of music composition if given the expert, professional touch.
Bez’s ‘There’s a Fire’ introduced a funk-paced rhythm to the concert. It was vintage Bez on his guitar alongside a drummer that told the story of a fire that water cannot quench. His performance signaled the interval to the concert as well.
WELCOMING the audience back from the break was Tunde Sosan on the piano until ‘I’ll give Him My Heart’ performed by four children – two girls, two boys. Their story was unique and moving, as it awakened the audience members to the many ways they, too, could praise and worship God through their diverse talents. The youngest of the girls (about six years old) showed her dexterity on the piano to stun the audience; it was her way of giving praise to God until the two boys joined in, with the little one giving his heart in praise of his maker.
A procession of other youngsters, clad in white and bearing candles, came to also lend a halloo to the performance. It was an emotional performance complete with all the innocence of children seeping through to challenge probable adult laziness. It was followed by ‘O Come, All ye faithful’ that had the audience singing along.
With Nimi Akinkugbe on the piano, Yinka Davies took ‘O Holy Night’ to the audience and made a few members sing it, with some croaking it. It energised the audience in its sheer hilarity and novelty. Thereafter, the duo of Dein and Awuneba Ajumogobia, husband and wife, intensified the concert offering, as they sang ‘Holy is the Lamb,’ with Dein on the piano. It was sheer spectacle watching the pair perform.
Then svelt Kaline (Akinkugbe), with her fluffy mane that framed her petite face, came from among the audience and sang ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ up to the dais. Thereafter she sat down to the piano and performed her now famous track ‘Bring them home’ in honour and solidarity with the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls. With the song, she said, she wished to raise awareness about the plight of the girls to the wider world so they are not forgotten. Described as having “a fresh, bold, soulful, funky sound, she writes with purpose in the hope of empowering anyone that listens to her music,” Kaline’s music has power to move listeners to deep wells of emotions.
With ‘Amin Jesu Olugbala’ and ‘Me, I Love My Country’ by Wole Soyinka, rendered by the Merrymaker Choir in African traditional notes. It came with youngsters also displaying various Nigerian ethnic dances. Also, the ASF divas, Yinka Davies, Faith Igwe and Kaline performed ‘Silver Bells’ and ‘Little Drummer Boy’ before Kenneth Ogbeiwi did ‘Gbo Ohun,’ with the audience singing along. ‘O happy Day’ also had the audience singing along in participatory, jolly mood.
Soboma Ajumogobia gave the vote of thanks before all the performers came on stage to perform ‘All You Need Is Love,’ as a fitting finale to an evening of enchanting performance. They then bowed out after what was, unarguably, a memorable concert that will trend for a long time.