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How Nagee, Joss Stone, others set Runway Jazz Fest 2017 alight

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By Benjamin Njoku

“Nigerians prefer jazz to classical or secular music.” That was how one of the patrons summed up his experience  as  the annual Runway Jazz festival, came to a rousing close last Sunday night in LagoIndeed, the patron was not wrong. This year’s jazz festival was an explicit proof that jazz music has come to stay in Nigeria, The quality audience  was both larger and more enthusiastic, which left an impression that the appreciation of this genre of music is growing in leaps and bounds in the country.

From the first performance  till the last, the sold-out Runway Jazz festival- a fusion of world class jazz performances and fashion rekindled  an old  passion that is peculiar with those that have been around in the 70s. Though devoid of  youthful audience whose idea of jazz incorporated dance, reggae, hip-hop and Afrobeat influences,the evening was a blend of jazz, fashion and style.

There was no dull moment throughout the night. Just as the patrons made up of the cream of the society were not in a hurry to leave the  Convention Centre,  Eko Hotel  and Suites, Lagos, venue of the night of jazz music.

Hosted by ace comedian Gbenga Adeyinka and the beautiful Ireti, the jazz festival which is unarguably the biggest music festival in the country coincided with the International Jazz Day themed “Promoting Peace, Unity and Dialogue through Art.” The event was also tagged a Special Edition celebrating the city of aquatic splendour at 50.

The night kicked off with a rousing performance by 6-year old Ajuoluwa who was on the piano  with 8-year old David Oke on the drums,  as they gave a beautiful rendition of Whitney Houston’s ‘Greatest Love.” Their performance drew a thunderous applause from the audience. Thereafter  Xerona Duke, daughter of former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke mounted the stage and serenade the audience with her solo performance of her song ‘Free Falling.”

Yinka Davies  also, gave a wonderful remix of Victor Uwaifo’s hit music ‘Guitar Boy’, specially dedicated to the executive governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode. Introducing her song, she informed the elated audience that she’s celebrating her 30 years on stage, just as Lagos is celebrating 50.

But the highpoint of the night was the unforgettable performance by two Grammy award winners, American saxophonist, Najee and UK singer and songwriter Joss Stone who headlined the event. The two heavyweight musicians  were not only fantastic  on stage, they equally gave energetic  performances that reaffirmed them as  masters of their crafts.

Joss Stone in her trademark barefoot, accompanied by Leon, gave wonderful renditions of her songs and got the audience on their feet dancing  to the rhythm of her music.  She rendered six songs including “ So much Love”, “ I will Up my Soul” among others. While performing her fourth song,  Joss  strayed into the audience and fished out the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed cajoling him to sing along with her.

Joss performance was greeted with a standing ovation just as the audience showed equal approbation when Nagee took the floor to thrill audience with an entertaining blast of drums, guitar, saxophone and flutes.

He took the patrons in a musical journey, performing some of hit songs,  like ‘Just an illusion’, ‘If it’s Magic’ and a nostalgic rendition of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Sweet Love’. Later, Quintessential Saxophonist, Yemi Oyelede joined Najee on stage to give a smooth Jazz rendition of the national anthem.

Afrobeat musician and protégé of Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Dede Mabiaku evoked the ghost of Fela  on stage, as he performed some of the evergreen songs of the music legend.

Other performers at the event  included Afrobeat saxophonist, Heavywind and Sweet Sound Band, host band, thrilling the audience to some afrobeat and jazz, Tosin Ajayi who performed some numbers. Made in Nigeria ‘Afrione’ phones were given to two lucky women from the audience.

Indeed it was an evening to remember, just as it  was a gathering of the crème de la crème, political big wigs, captain of industries and music revellers.

Earlier, Afolabi  Oke, founder of Runway Jazz, acknowledged Governor Ambode’s support in the area of promoting arts and culture in the state. The diversity of Lagos was in display as different cultural dances were performed.

There was a fashion show by Step Up Initiative, inspired by the wife of the Vice President, Her Excellency, Dolapo Osinbajo, who made a moving speech to promote   patronizing made in Nigeria goods. She further talked about her yarn and Ankara outfit which she bought for N1,800 and handmade herself.


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