Gigging in local eateries

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It feels like almost a lifetime ago, when I returned to band leading after taking a break from it for nine years (2000-2009). Reconnecting with colleagues from my days as an emerging musician led to a process of playing songs in public from the wide repertoire of my output. We decided to perform residencies in small eateries, with the nucleus of what was to develop into a larger combo that would eventually move onwards to perform in mainstream venues.

There were several restaurants willing to take us on, and we performed on a regular basis in these venues, both north and south of the river. The restaurants specialized in serving Nigerian cuisine.

I am aware that the food of people of my heritage doesn’t always travel well outside of the boundaries of cultures with roots in Africa, so it made sense that our audiences were mainly of African descent or with an interest in that side of things.

My tastes and vocabulary as a creative musician are drawn from a vast range of experiences from all over the world, however. Being my authentic self in expressing ideas has never been limited to performing Palm Wine guitar music, or any of the obvious genres that many musicians of African heritage are known for.

On one occasion, a community organizer of Nigerian heritage invited a considerable number of his associates to performance of my group, as a way of celebrating his birthday. A good time seemed to be had by all at the event, but afterwards, I heard on the grapevine that there were complaints from the same organizer, that I don’t play “proper African music”.  Maybe the music didn’t feel congruent with the Nigerian food, but we can only live and learn from these experiences.

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