Ever so often despite all the awesome things one enjoys being abroad, something makes you homesick, makes you want to spend your last dollar on a plane ticket and get back to Naija. Be it wanting to just walk down the street and buy Suya, buying Agege bread in front of your house, or having a REAL bowl of goat head peppersoup (not the fake ones that most caterers here offer), or missing the ever present street wahala that one witnesses daily on the streets of Eko and elsewhere.
Then there are those good ole owambe parties. I am not talking about the extravagant showcases that have apparently taken over the county when one acting big man goes against anoda acting big man or woman, I am talking about those good ole real, solid and extremely fun owambe we all attended as kids and young adults, where we simple had what seemed like endless hours of fun, be it for Uncle Ola's 50th birthday, or Baba and Mama Gorimakpa's 70th anniversary or when Cousin Ajay finally got married, there was always an owambe to attend almost every weekend in those days in Lagos and that continues to date.
Those good ole owambe parties, raw, live musical performances by Naija musicians. Initially an owambe was more or less an exclusive feature of the Yoruba and South West Nigeria, but it has since been exported to the rest of the County with others putting their own "spin" on the ever evolving owambe theme. And the more extravagant they have become, the more the original owambe was left behind, hence my thanks to Broda Shaggi and Gbedu.
For the uninitiated, an owambe is a tad bit hard to describe as you would assume an owambe is just a party, oh no, you would be terribly mistaken. An owambe, yes it is a party, but not an ordinary party. It is a Naija party that must have some key ingredients for it to be considered a true owambe party. First, plenty of food and drink. A true owambe has food and drink flowing for as long as the party lasts. There is no 1st, 2nd of 3rd course, just an endless cycle of various foods for all to eat and enjoy. Note the word "various" An owambe must have Jollof rice and his close cousin fried rice, with assorted meats, but there must also be a starch tightly wrapped hot and seeking the attention of a soup going straight to the men's beer belle's (and the women too), so there must be pounded yam, amala, fufu or eba accompanied by Egusi or bitter leaf soup. (Ewedu and Okra and not great candidates for an owambe as they can easily mess up your over the top outfit). As the party grinds on, small "chops" take over as people ease more into drinking and dancing. The drinks MUST account for all and sundry, various forms of alcohol as well as non-alcoholic drinks. Beer, liquor and spirits are necessities!
Second, an owambe must have the celebrants dressed to kill (okay or give life you choose). For an real owambe, you DO NOT wear any cloth you have worn before, the celebrants outfits must be freshly tailor and seamstress made. You cannot shop in Macy's Woolworths or even Neiman Marcus. You must be wearing something fresh from a Naija designer and tailored just for you. There must also be Aso-ebi (the celebratory outfit) worn by friends and family (the more I write this the more I think I need to work on another article that explores the life and times of the owambe party!). An owambe is always a spectacle of color to behold, and this rule on outfits goes for both the rich and the not so rich alike.
The third, and the last and most important ingredient is there must be a LIVE BAND, as there will be dancing and serious merry making to the wee hours of the next morning, bringing me back to Broda Shaggi's Gbedu. A live band is the key and the crux of every owambe party, this is because the musicians perform sets of covers of popular songs but there are always a host of songs specifically designed to heap praise on the celebrants and those celebrating with them. Also its a free flowing lyrical and musical masterpiece that takes everything that is happening around the musicians and the party into account. An owambe live band is NEVER authentic if they DO NOT TEST THE MICROPHONE prior to starting their session! Testing the microphone... 1...2... 1...2 1...2... have you noticed they NEVER test to 3? It is only and always tested between 1 and 2, but that testing 1 & 2 is of different variations. It's like testing 1 and 2 have the hidden keys to musical success! One of the jobs of the lead singer and the band is also functioning as the announcer for the owambe. The moment in Shaggi's performance that had it for me was when he speaks to his back up guy, takes his cell phone and proceed to say...
...Sorry break in transmission, if you are the owner of this car with the plate number...
I just about fell outta my seat! Of course with such great and beautiful music must be great spraying. Sadly I am of two minds on spraying now as in my opinion it is mostly being abused and is no longer what it was really meant to showcase. Spraying was never about displaying wealth but showing appreciation for the celebrant monetarily... but I digress.
Gbedu by Shaggi is a great nod and appreciation to the thousands of owambe live bands out there. Most will never release an album, most will never become celebrity artists, but there is not doubt they are the glue to most weekend enjoyment for many Nigerians both at home and abroad. They are the ones that continue to make Lagos and elsewhere jump weekend after weekend and I thank Broda Shaggi for reminding us those of us outside Naija how sweet having and owambe band can be. Enjoy!