‘Rare’ Live Concert: Odunsi The Engine brings Alte into the light
Tickets to Odunsi The Engine’s ‘rare” Live concert were sold out. It was the singer’s first headline show in his home city, Lagos, and all the tickets on offer were finished. Inside the venue, where people were crammed in, struggling to be a part of this history, purple lights bounced around, bathing everyone and everything in its glow. The record here is that Odunsi had sold out Hardrock, a rare feat for a rising artist, making music that isn’t from the pop side of town. He isn’t making mainstream music. Instead, Alté is his home. An Alté artist had sold out the venue. I have seen mainstream artists struggle to pack this place. But here it was, done by a man from a sub-genre who is regarded as “fringe avid hobbyist.” It was a show promoted and organised by Eclipse Live Africa.
The Alté crowd came out in their numbers. Young men, women and children who were a part of the culture, trooped like a cavalry into the venue. Many were the annual holidaymakers who make the trip from bases in the US and parts of Europe to the city. Odunsi was high up on their list of attractions, and boy they did show up. Multiple accents lined the show. You could be conversing with your guy in pidgin, and you could overhear two siblings quietly arguing in Ebonics. While behind you, a Briton would be having a jolly good laugh, mate. Odunsi influences across the spectrum of lifestyles and location. His people came through for him.
Every year there’s an event that brings these Alté people out. Last year, they had three options; they packed out Mayorkun, flooded Nonso Amadi, and made Maleek Berry feel the love at their concerts. This year, it was unanimous support for The Engine.
It made Odunsi emotional. This was the cap on what has been a phenomenal year for him. From hit singles to a full-length album, he’s surprised his worst critics and led the Alté movement from the front. To see the result of all that hard work, and the resultant love was overpowering. He wept on stage. After his opening song, he addressed the crowd. “I love you guys,” he declared. It was the start of a long list of “I love yous.” He walked across the stage, spreading back the love. “I’m trying my best not to cry,” he stuttered, before turning his back and dealing with the tears. The crowd cheered back with happiness. He cried for them. This Alté Jesus.
It set the mood for what was an emotional evening. Choosing songs off his album, he shared stories about them. His mother, a huge support system in his life, was in the crowd. “When I was growing up, I never had any practice where she came to see me,” he explained.
Dancing through his sets, Odunsi demanded from the crowd as they made their demands. “Perform Star signs!” They screamed at him. “I don’t want no mediocre energy,” he stated.
That energy hit new levels with the guests. Mr Eazi surprised the crowd with a special cameo, which saw him start out covered in a Kaftan and according to him, “looking like a Daddy.” But when he hugged Odunsi and walked offstage, he was bare chested and covered in sweat. Nonso Amadi showed up with a tempered performance of ‘No crime’ and ‘Tonight’. Olu Maintain took the crowd back, past a decade to a time when they were younger, and the music felt sweeter. “Naughty Naughty Naughty,” the hall rang out, in tandem with the veteran. Elsewhere, Ajebuttter22, BOJ, and Teezee kept the vibe going with independent songs, as well as tunes from their DRB Lasgidi days.
But the real magic was reserved for the appearance of Santi. A close friend and constant creative co-conspirator with Odunsi, he was electric. As they performed ‘Alté cruise’, one of the biggest records off “rare.” and ‘Rapid fire’, everywhere broke. The stage was flooded with the full creative members of the Alté ecosystem. Singers hugged photographers, producers danced in step with songwriters, mics moved between performers and revellers. It was an instant family celebration, where everyone screamed louder and moved faster than the next guy. Water was poured into the crowd, people raised hands and personalised the lyrics. This was everyone’s success. This was the moment of the year.
Media mogul and entertainment businessman, Ayeni Adekunle saw a snippet of this madness. And it was enough for him to tweet: “Interesting demography at Odunsi’s rare concert tonight. These kids are up to something really remarkable. It’s in our interest to pay attention. Media, brands, government, etc.”Odunsi had done it. Alté had done it. People were taking note of it and the culture was better for it!