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At festival in Lagos, Nigerianised Indian boy steals the thunder

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Chariot Carnival procession into Tafawa Balewa Square, venue of the fair and show

Chariot Carnival procession into Tafawa Balewa Square, venue of the fair and show

The Indians, like most of their far eastern neighbours, live in a closed-knit community in foreign lands, with interactions with their host communities largely limited to business. On a few occasions, charity is thrown in the mix. This has made it possible for their young ones to be easily assimilated into their native cultures, even when they live far away. They establish their own schools, where their languages and ways of life are generally taught. The Indian community in Nigeria is no different, although the commonality of the legacy of colonialism of inherited English language being the exception.

It was, therefore, no small surprise last Saturday, August 13, when an Indian boy, Vihangam Pandey, took the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS), Onikan, Lagos, stage by storm and showed how culturally assimilated his is into his Nigerian host community. He performed live many of the wave-making songs by Nigeria’s music stars from Don Jazzy to the smallest. In fact, he turned out the star act of the evening that was suffused with a display of Indian cultural life that ranged from food, fashion, medicine, books and lots more. When he was introduced by radio presenter, Mr. Dan Foster and his Indian lady co-compere, there was the usual, ‘ok, let’s wait and see what he’s got!’ It wasn’t helped by the failure of the band to strike up the right tune; that glitch lasted some three unnerving minutes that would have taxed the patience of many an experienced performer.

But not so for the Indian boy, who confessed his love for Nigerian music, and went on to boldly give vocal and performance credence to it. Indeed, his performance would put some of the original owners of the songs to shame. He did not mime to the songs, as is often the case with most of these Nigerian musicians, who can’t perform their own songs without miming to a CD; he performed them live, with the band on stage giving him the right instrumental feel that lent him his cue. Again, the sound equipment failed Pandey, as he could not get the right accompaniment from his two young, Nigerian female chorus. In spite of these setbacks, however, Pandey carried on unperturbed.

He was further energised by the warm response his Nigerian audience gave him. Obviously awed by the Indian wonder boy who could easily have passed for a Davido, who failed to turn up for the show anyway, or Don Jazzy, or D’Banj or Kiss Daniel or 2face, the audience rewarded him with equal dance zeal and appreciation, as it rocked away to an Indian boy, who was clearly more Nigerian than would have been expected.

The wild cheer that greeted his performance, when it ended, was deafening, and he further rewarded the audience with a passing shot and wink, ‘I told you!’ to indicate that his confessed love for Nigerian music was for real. Pandey lives his love for Nigerian music.

Festival of India-Lagos, made possible by Mr. Bolaji Rosiji-inspired Gaurapad Charities and other supporting brands that have Indian imprint, was a success. It showcased the large gathering of Indian community in the country in one colourful banner.

Earlier in the day, a procession of three Carnival of Chariots made its way from CMS to TBS, venue of the show; it had thousands of people in tow. And when the festival started late in the afternoon, Indian performers, mostly children and women, took to the stage and entertained the audience with the various musical and performance styles of the different regions of the largest democracy in the world.

And there were music and performances from Bengali, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh to Rajasthan. The dances ranged from traditional to classical and were typical of Indian dances. The main dance motifs were the hand gestures in their various manipulations that ended with the fingers seeming to weave invisible threads in the air; there were also the waist twists, the hand-clapping, the back and forth circular dances, the back and forth leg thrusts and heads nodding in particular directions that the Indian compere swooned over as ‘very charming and exciting,’ which they were in their own fashion.

But there was really little or no variation from one region to another in the dances as would be expected from such a large country, and as one would experience among the various Nigerian regions. Dances that range from, say, atilogwu, egwu amara, nmanwu, opiri, bata, owhigiri, swange, etc, from Igbo, Ndokwa, Isoko, Yoruba, Ijaw, Tiv and many more. There is a sort of certain uniformity in the Indian dances that almost erase any hint of diversity in that vast sub-continent.

In all, it was a great outing for the maiden Festival of Indian-Lagos that also served as a mini-fair for the display of Indian commercial success in the country. Indians in Nigeria now have a moment in the cultural calendar to look forward to when they would celebrate themselves as they have been celebrating in London, New York and Durban, South Africa.


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