In the mid-2000s, my family relocated from Lagos to Port Harcourt after my dad secured a gig with the popular oil and gas giant, Total Petroleum. One had to start afresh as a new reality had set in – a new neighbourhood, an unfamiliar culture, had to make new friends and of course, enrol in a new school.
Weeks after we moved, my parents had reached a decision on what school we were going to attend. A new year had just kicked off so we were commencing from the second term.
Let’s Get To It
On my first day at the new school, I wrote a love letter addressed to a classmate who coincidentally, is the daughter of the school proprietor (her dad owns the school).
I was ushered into the classroom by the school cashier who doubled as a human resource person of sorts. She introduced me to the class and offered me a sit somewhere in the second row. As I attempted to settle in and prepare for what would be my first lecture, the most beautiful girl I had ever seen walked in and glory to God, she wasn’t visiting – “meet Nsisan our class captain”, the teacher mentioned pointing to the damsel who responded with an infectious smile.
Long story short, on that same day, I wrote her a letter that sadly got exposed by a
very unfortunate bloke in my class who was seemingly threatened by my gut. The nosy lad whom I later learned has had a crush on the same girl had seen me penning the note so he snuck into my locker and stole the piece while I was on lunch break and read it out to the entire class. I instantly became an outcast… and it was absolutely okay.
I gave that account to say this; I have never been anything less than confident. I never had second thoughts when it comes to pursuing what I wanted or standing up for what I believed in even at the expense of public acceptance. This has in fact been my superpower. Confidence was the steam that powered my dreams until May 13, 2018.
I became subject to social media and real-life backlash after my interview with pop star, Skales went viral. The singer made an abrupt exit from my set after an exchange that spanned nearly 10 minutes. The interview was released on the 12th day in the month of May 2018 and caught an uproar twenty four hours later. My phone was buzzing non-stop as a result of social media notifications and as you’ve rightly guessed, they were mostly vicious remarks.
Why did it affect me?
Given my history of being one who is too purposefully rebellious to conform, social media backlash especially born out of a remark I made out of absolute conviction shouldn’t move my fingers. “You should be immune to rejection”, I kept on saying to myself as I attempted to figure out why I was so affected. It took me weeks to tape another episode of the show because my confidence had been stripped away.
You see, prior to the release of the Skales interview, I was decorated with an overwhelming degree of positive remarks whenever I put out a new episode of the show. People would tweet at me and send DMs to tell me how brilliant and coherent my thoughts and views on music and pop culture are. I had become so used to praise that it became my propellant. I abandoned my confidence and relied on the feedback of the public to fuel my journey – the result was damaging.
“I thought these people said they love me? I thought they said my views are brilliant? But these people said they had so much respect for me? So why am I being insulted? Why am I being threatened by these same people?”, these were some of the questions I posed to myself in the wake of the incident.
A part of me thought to apologise – I was going to apologise for speaking my truth! Also somewhere on the inside, I felt a mild resent towards the world for rejecting me, and towards myself for giving the world that much power. Even though I had moved on from the situation, my spirit remained disconnected, I decided to repress much of my informed views and convictions especially when it is to do with music and overall, taping the show became a struggle so I had made a resolve to announce its stoppage on the 29th of December exactly five days before Odunsi the Engine’s headline show at Hardrock Cafe on Victoria Island, Lagos.
“Hi Victor, we’ll like to cordially invite you to Odunsi the Engine’s rare. Live concert. The show holds today… We’d really love to have you there, sorry for the late invite…”, read a series of DM from Eclipse Live, organizers of the said function. “Thank you for inviting me, I will be there”, read my response which in retrospect is an anomaly because I had been avoiding every opportunity to attend any music-related event this season. Why? Like I stated earlier, disconnected and uninterested.
However, I kept my word and showed up to the venue. At nine-fifteen, the show kicked off with an opening performance by Tems. The singer delivered a reluctantly powerful rendition of her single, Mr Rebel. She was followed by other brilliant singers including SOLIS and Lady Donli who performed a slew of impressive records including an extended version of Lagos Gyration off Mr Eazi’s recently-released “Lagos To London” album.
Finally, the man of the night, Odunsi the Engine took the stage donned in a blue leather pant and rainbow coloured sweatshirt and opened with an emotionally-charged performance of Outcast the fourth track on his debut LP, Rare. “Remember being kicked out of high school, up to no good, never righteous, looking for a place I could run to, mehn my whole life was a jungle, remember all the nights that my mama cried…” Odunsi sang with teary eyes overwhelmed by the number of people that came to see the show. “My mom is in the building and it means so much to me. All of you that came out to see me tonight, it means so much to me”, he said mid-way through the performance as he held himself back from bursting in tears.
I stood in the gallery right behind an elderly lady who happened to be the singer’s mom and tried to wrap my head around all the pushbacks that Odunsi and his likes have had to battle before he could enjoy the luxury of sharing such a compelling testimony that birthed tears of joy. You see Odunsi is part of the league of artistes who are referred to as alté – a variation of the English word, alternative.
An Urban Dictionary definition describes the term alté as; “A bunch of Lagos kids who wear ugly glasses and oversized jeans with ugly ass t-shirts all in the name of being different… They listen to weird music in the name of being edgy but in reality, they are all stupid...” and this definition astutely captures the stigma that trails the alte music movement. They are deemed excessively edgy and phoney by the larger populace because their music and fashion do not align with the stereotype. But last night, Odunsi who has now become an effective leader/face of the movement through consistency and perseverance against the odds and dismissive antics of non-fans recorded a milestone by holding his first ever headline show.
He performed with a bright smile knowing all that mattered was staying true to himself and by extension satisfying those who have paid to see him advance in real-time. Depending on who you ask, it wasn’t a night that is without fault – there were some glitches with the sound system, there weren’t sufficient seats in the VIP wing – but none of the imperfections could outweigh the significance of the night. As I watched him jump hysterically on the stage as fans sang back, track after track, I asked myself, “Victor what exactly is the truth? Are you walking away because you are truly uninterested, or you just don’t want to be judged? Are you repressing your convictions because you do not want to be rejected?”.
I looked at Odunsi’s mom, the hundreds of happy people in the auditorium which for the record, included a number of persons who had openly dismissed his music, and smiled as I gave myself an answer to the aforementioned questions. I couldn’t wait till the end of the show because I wanted to quickly get home, pen this piece, and let everyone know that I feel like a superhero again, thanks to Odunsi the Engine.
If I ever decide to walk away from music journalism, it’ll have nothing to do with fear.
The post Odunsi The Engine’s “Rare Concert”, And My Journey To Regaining Confidence appeared first on Nigerian Entertainment Today.