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Hammond… Celebrating 15 years of Rhythm Unplugged

Cecil Hammond of Rhythm Unplugged and wife

He might not be the guy on your face every day, but if it’s about the Nigerian entertainment industry, Cecil Hammond is a top player. Aside from helping young music talents find their rhythm, the renowned show promoter has been responsible for helping returnee artistes settle down here in Nigeria. The success story of the likes of Tiwa Savage, Seyi Shay and the rest won’t be complete without Mr. Hammond.

In the last 15 years, Hammond, through his outfit Flytime Promotions, has been in the forefront of exciting the showbiz industry through his popular concert, Rhythm Unplugged, a meeting point for musicians and comedians.

The concert, which has become an epitome of musical evolution in Nigeria, will this year celebrates the successes of Nigerian artistes such as Tiwa Savage, Simi, Mayorkun, Davido, Olamide, Small doctor, Boyz II Men, others at an event billed 20 to 25 December 2019, in commemoration of its 15th anniversary. The show, which will parade some of the best in the industry, will be staged at the Eko Convention Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Reflecting on the journey in the last 15 years, the President, Flytime Group, Cecil Hammond, said one of the biggest challenges of the music festival is sponsorship, as artistes fees increase drastically every year.

“An artiste you pay N3Million last year is now N10Million. Some people think that these artistes perform for free, which is not the case; we actually pay for every single performance we have on stage. Another big problem we have is venue. Right now, the biggest venue we have is Eko Convention, but I believe if the state build somewhere bigger for us, it will be better. With a bigger venue, we can charge less for ticket fee.”

According to hammond, the only reason event organisers sell tables is to meet up with cost for producing a show.

“Not that we want to charge those fees or segregate, that’s not the case; it’s because we have to pay for our costs. However, irrespective of these challenges, we have forged ahead with each show turning better than the previous. There is absolutely no giving up because if other countries could do it, then we can in Nigeria too.”

To the show promoter, many didn’t actually believe that Nigeria music could evolve immensely.

“Because of my passion for music, I knew we would get there even though we run losses sometimes. Still, we have been soaring higher. The truth is, artistes, make the money; we just try and break-even, which is why the only thing that has seen Rhythm Unplugged through all these years is the passion I have for music. I have lost a lot of money to music shows, but I kept on going without backing down. A person without passion would have given up. However, our saving grace is being surrounded by people who believe in the brand,” he said.

Hammond further said Nigeria music in years to come will get even better than it already, with the likes of Burna Boy, Wizkid, Davido, Tiwa Savage and others making big moves in the United States and United Kingdom.

On the ideology behind Flytime Music Festival tagged Rhythm Unplugged, he said, “I used to go for some small events back then in 2003, I believe it could be better. I listen to the radio a lot and I love Nigerian music. However, because Ben Bruce is my uncle, I’ve always been in the entertainment space. So, I decided to bring the best of Nigerian music and comedy on stage. Then, I started talking to my uncle, a lot of others in the entertainment industries, artistes like Tuface Idibia, Style Plus, African China and others about my idea and they all supported me. We didn’t have any sponsorship then because it was the first of its kind; nobody was ready to bring out that kind of cash to sponsor the show. So, everything was out of trust with the artistes,” he recalled.

The first edition of the show was in 2004 at FantasyLand, Ikoyi.

“As at then, I never really understood the mindset of Nigerians with keeping to time, because by 7 pm, we sold only 100 tickets. Because it was my first show, I was almost giving up; I went somewhere to calm my nerves. I was somewhat frustrated, I didn’t understand how I could have the top artistes and comedians on one show and only 100 tickets have been sold. I came back after 2 hours, around 9 pm, surprisingly there were so many people outside Fantasyland; it felt like I was in a different place, I could not believe that so many people were there.”

He continued: “I entered inside and the place was filled to capacity with so many people still outside. That was when I knew that Nigerians were last-minute people; the show was very successful. We then decided to do the next show a few months later; we took it to Port Harcourt, Benin, Jos, Abuja. However, the shows outside Lagos were not really profit-making because you charge a lot less for a ticket. We also had logistics issues and other difficulties, but we needed to take the show to other states too. However, all the artistes were very supportive because they did not charge as much as they would in Lagos,” he revealed.

Giving insight on the forthcoming 5-days back-to-back Rhythm Unplugged in December, he said, “This year’s concert is the biggest show ever. We’d be featuring Tiwa Savage, Boyz II Men, Megan The Stalion, Mase, Kofee, and others. This is a way of giving women a chance to keeping soaring. Tiwa is hard working and willing to go all out, which is why we are supporting female artists. So, for our line ups, day-1 of the concert which is on 20, December 2019, Rhythm Unplugged will kick-start with the hottest Nigerian artistes and upcoming acts.”

Also, American rapper and songwriter, Mase and Jamaican Reggae singer, songwriter and rapper, Koffee, and several other surprise acts will grace the stage to thrill attendees.

“Day-2, which is December 21, will have attendees traveling down memory lane with American R&B and hip-hop vocal group Boyz II Men. Concert goers will remember last year when RBRM with Bobby Brown and Bel Biv DeVoe shut down the stage. Boyz II Men will also be as mesmerising as they perform End of the Road, I’ll Make Love to You and many more. We have always been proud to launch upcoming Nigerian artistes to stardom from the Flytime stage. So, 2019 is no different as we introduce a new concert franchise, an alternative style night. This is the focus of Day-3, December 22, which will showcase Nigeria’s new unique sound with artists that are showcasing their musical freedom.”

The newest franchise to the Flytime Festival lineup will also star the hottest girl of the summer, American rapper, singer and songwriter, Megan Thee Stallion.

“As the celebration of 15 years, the show will play host to two headliner acts over two days. So, day- 4, two headliner has been released for December 23, 2019, which is Everything Savage with African Bad Gyal, Tiwa Savage. The Christmas day show-stopper will end the festivals 2019 run on day-5 December 25, 2019. The festival’s last day will not shut down until the evening holds one of the biggest headlining concerts Lagos has ever seen with a world-renowned. So, it’s going to be a mind-blowing concert and we implore everyone to get the tickets,” he enthused.

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