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December And Homecoming Music Concerts

By Patrick Ezeama
04 December 2022   |   5:15 am
December is unequivocally the most festive period of the year. The fortuitousness of having Christmas, the biggest celebration for christains take place only a week before the new year grants an edge of merriment that is grossly unmatched by any other time from the rest of the year. Religious festivities to mark the birth of…

December is unequivocally the most festive period of the year. The fortuitousness of having Christmas, the biggest celebration for christains take place only a week before the new year grants an edge of merriment that is grossly unmatched by any other time from the rest of the year. Religious festivities to mark the birth of a saviour roll into general celebrations for seeing the end of a year, ensuring that this mood of gaiety eating, drinking and making merry as enshrined in the bible can go on without pause. In many countries the period of Christmas is synonymous with themes of family and thanksgiving, and a time to remember and draw closer to loved ones.

For Nigerians, the happiest people in the world even in the face of ever-worsening economic challenges and a government that is either unaware of this or simply uncaring, the festivities that come in December carry an added weight. Equally important is the feeling of homecoming. The Nigerian spirit is a hustling one, and no distance is too large to scare a Nigerian from a potential source of income, be it the journey from the remotest village to Lagos, or from there to the farthest corners of the world. The December period thus presents an opportunity to reunite families, and it is not uncommon for interstate roads to get overwhelmed in the Christmas period, chock full of returning passengers seeking to end the year in the arms of family.

As a consequence of the japa movement, December represents a time of homecoming for Nigerians scattered around the world, a time to achieve a synchrony of return, so everyone else is home. This is a thought process shared by Nigerian artists, who in their own way have sought foreign markets as a place of their greener pasture, where relative economic friendliness soften the burden of ticket prices and streaming subscriptions the people in these countries are better placed to spend money in appreciation of the music they love.

And as Nigeria’s economic conditions and by effect, the spending power of its citizens decline even further in comparison to the rest of the world, Burna’s musings on this subject become ever more relevant. The singer had taken to his twitter account mid last year for an interesting claim that he was making no money from Nigeria’s music market and all his earnings were from beyond the Atlantic. While it was an unnecessarily provocative and ill-advised tweet that has since been deleted, no one could fault its logic. Nigeria may be the springboard for its artists, but with an audience base consisting of people that have not completely embraced music streaming over piracy, and many too poor to afford music concert tickets if converted from it’s value in dollars, what a Nigerian audience basically guarantee their artist is plenty of love and not enough money to support it. Cute, but not enough to feed the artist, and the labels and corporations backing them.

The December homecoming is a brilliant way to make Nigerian music concerts work with a little compromise from both sides. With the themes of return and homecoming hanging over the period, there is one more topic that is associated with the festive period spending. Even with the relative expenditure downsizing that the past few years of economic decline has forced on households, there is still an air around the crossover period that is associated with a willingness to spend more. People take loans, while the financially smarter ones crack open savings accounts that have been rolling since the start of the year.

Benevolent state governors offer a 13th month salary to civil servants, commendable in a country where your own salary is not really a guaranteed visitor at the end of the month, and where state governors are commended for doing the bare minimum in paying workers their earned income. As Nigerians spending power experiences a pseudo rise at this time usually to be compensated for by a long and dry January, there would not be a better time to plan music concerts, and event promoters are well aware. Suddenly, paying 30k for a standing ticket does not appear all that bad it is afterall a ‘detty’ December and you only live once. Even with Asake’s tickets, which drew negative attention for its 70k starting price that is out of reach to the majority of Nigerians, it would be naive to think this social media outrage would translate to a lack of sales. It may influence a slight downward review of pricing, but organizers already know that cost is not a real deterrent for fun seeking music lovers who want to be outside in December.

So it’s also no surprise to see Nigeria’s biggest fintech companies wanting to plug into the lucrative music ecosystem. Flutterwave, Nigeria’s unicorn is affiliated with Flytime fest, the company behind Asake’s Mr. Money With The Vibe concert from earlier, and a Wizkid concert that is scheduled for the next day. This is not to be confused with the iconic Vibes On The Beach Concert With Big Wiz, for it is backed by another fintech giant in Abeg through its affiliation with Toro Entertainment Company.

Setting aside the commercial narrative, and the many promotion companies and sponsors oiling the gears behind the scenes, the December music culture is not as important to anyone as to the artists themselves. At a time when chart positions can putatively be faked with streaming farms, and social engagement bought and paid for, there really is no truer test of an artist’s star power than their performance in December. For artists not yet a fixture to the limelight, this period becomes a report card. Sure, the acts that make up the traditional ‘Big 3′, as well as artists that have made undeniable statements in a year (eg Asake in 2022), will be the first names on any major concert’s roster, but other artists will approach this period more tensely. Will I get called up to headline? Were my efforts this year actually recognised? In what font size will my name appear on the poster?

In 2021, acts like Lojay, BNXN, Ayra Starr and Ruger were the biggest winners from this bunch, as their strong showings in the year made them recurring cast members of the Lagos nightlife. But more than their overall performance through the year, each act needed (and had) one major hit song on everyone’s lips, if possible released in the last quarter of the year to still be in their memory. Therefore if you had pockets deep enough to attend multiple concerts last year, tracks like “Bounce”, “Monalisa”, “Bloody Samaritan” and “Outside”, etc would have hardly left your ears.

And this year, familiar faces return to a familiar strategy. Lojay has already logged in “Canada”, an excellent track in every single respect, with catchy lyrics laced on dance-stirring production that draws from Amapiano. Ruger doubled his chances with the duo of “Red Flags” and “Asiwaju”, with the latter leading the pack as he searches for a song to perform this year in addition to “Girlfriend” from the deluxe of The Second Wave. Bnxn released his 7 track Bad Since ’97 in August, a genre blending effort, and a second successful EP in as many years. For December, however, he would need something faster, more beat heavy and more appealing to the clubbing spirit of Lagos’ nightlife, so in comes “Traboski”, a song about getting pasty faced on a wild night, and with another release apparently on its way already.

Even acts not known for pop music take the genre for a spin in the ember months. The early hours of October 21st saw Fave and Liya, female singers as different from each other as they are from Nigerian popular Nigerian music, feel the magnetic pull of party music, with the resulting tracks “Scatta Scatta” and “Izz Going” released by the respective artists. Neither was the most cohesive track, being so far outside their natural inclinations, but they should function just fine in the task for which they were released giving their creators a chance to star in this year’s December frenzy.

As we prepare for what will no doubt be another set of thrilling music performances to close the year, it is time to ignore the voice of reason and loosen purse strings for one of the few things that help us keep sane in a country that is everything but – our music. Congratulations to every artist that will spend the month shuttling between venues, please remember to arrive on time to all of them. For those who will not be permitted by their budgets to partake in this culture, do well to get familiar with Snapchat live, for it is a poor man’s VVIP table, and you could even make the argument that the ability to enjoy an entire concert from the comfort of your bed makes it the superior option. Most importantly, though, on whatever side of the screen and stage you will participate from, remember that the crucial themes of this period are of family and homecoming, and make sure to hug loved ones even tighter this month of December.