One of the hot spots and tourist destinations for music lovers in Nigeria is the New Afrika Shrine. The place, located within the Central Business District (CBD) of Ikeja in Lagos State, usually attracts the young and old on weekdays and on Sundays. That is because, Femi Kuti and his Afrobeat music band, named The Positive Force, regularly perform there. And if you are a motorist or passer-by on those days, you will always be bemused by the crowd outside and the captivating music that blares loudly from the speakers from the New Afrika Shrine.
The surroundings and NERDC Road, leading to the New Afrika Shrine, is filled with food and drink vendors who make the place a lively place bursting with men and women. Indeed, this is characteristically the Lagos night life where music and food get people- top businessmen, young adults and also women of easy virtue in need for a man for the night meet and indulge in their passion.
For a first timer visiting the city of Lagos, the adage ‘Eko For Show’, shows itself at night in the city as there is a buzzing life at every major street caused by food and drink vendors where customers, majorly men enjoying one another’s company, are engaged in discussions and feasting. This begins from 7pm till around 2am, depending on the security situation of the area.
At the New Afrika Shrine, there are men dressed in orange and yellow T-shirts, who protect the venue, both inside and outside, from miscreants or men who may want to foment trouble, attracting the Nigeria Police Force.
Our correspondent was at the New Afrika Shrine, positioned to replace Fela’s Kalakuta Shrine of the 70s and 80s last Sunday, and it was a beehive of activities. The place welcomed guests for the album performance of Femi Kuti. LEADERSHIP photo journalist, ordinarily would have been at the event because of his love for music, Afrobeat music in particular, but the cannabis smoking and all sorts somewhat discouraged him from coming aside the fear that his camera might be stolen as the event wore late into the night.
Kola Aliu’s fear is not misplaced as this is one of the reasons many turn away from enjoying great music of infectious Afrobeat genre. Despite Femi Kuti’s ban of drugs usage and heavy smoking in and around the New Afrika Shrine for years, young men and women and captains of industries, sometimes find the New Afrika Shrine the right place to indulge in heavy smoking and taking of drugs publicly.
As our correspondent sauntered into the Shrine, having been checked by security officials, a new atmosphere filled with music, booze and smoking of different things, welcomed him as Femi Kuti and his band, the Positive Force, were about to begin their album performance to herald the tenth album titled, One People, One World. With songs like Democracy, a religion-theme song and others, the event attracted hundreds of music lovers within the venue as the 14-man band, including four dancers and back-up singers, serenaded all that came. The beauty and uniqueness of Femi Kuti is the passion that goes from him to his band, even as the five-brass instrumentalists- (two saxophonists, one trombonist and two trumpeters) played beautifully to the different songs on display. One of the side attractions was two Afrobeat dancers doing their thing in a caged place, each at the opposite corners just after the space made after the stage. The two women danced rhythmically to the music, ‘Bang Bang Bang’ and ‘Day By Day’ off Femi’s previous album. All that came really enjoyed the music and you could indulge if you desired to.
Indeed, the fear of the Afrika Shrine, especially late into the night, is the fear of being welcomed by pick pockets, social miscreants, riffraff who have seen the Shrine within or without, as their haven to do business despite the security officials on ground. It is a known fact that the intellectual, as well as the illiterate looking people and secret cult boys, revel at the atmosphere in the Yeni Kuti-inspired facility, which is the only lounge or event centre where undiluted Afro beat music reigns. For Grammy award-nominee musician, Femi Kuti, the burden of being Abami Eda- Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s first son, has driven him to continue the legacy of one of the greatest music export and activist from Africa and also carve a niche for himself.
At the New Africa Shrine, the warning by Federal Ministry of Health that Smokers Are Liable To Die Young is just a saying and not a thing to be taken seriously.