A 2-man play
Location: The New Africa Shrine
When: Some time in the past
Man 1: What do you think of the music, hehn? It's great, isn't it?
MAN 2: The man is playing rubbish, but I can understand what's happening here. When there's so much weed in the air, all noise will sound like music.
I smoked Cannabis yesterday.
And the last smoking substances I remember putting to mouth were the regular cigarettes we experimented with as 17 year olds.
Yesterday, September 23, I didn't walk away from life-long abstinence. I just happened to be sitting in the midst of thousands of weed smokers and became the ultimate passive smoker unable to avoid inhaling no matter where I turned . It wasn't a grass-grower's convention, it was a musical concert.
I'd been invited to Africa Unite, a concert in honour of Fela Anikulapo Kuti (the Abami Eda) and since the tickets which read V.I.P. admitted two, I chose Music over the Man United v. Reading F.C. Match, picked a friend and went to the New Africa Shrine for the first time.
V.I.P. meant I got a nice spot to park in, not afraid some deranged person would smash my windows and make off with my steering column. It also meant my friend and I got to sit upstairs at a vantage point, looking down at the extra-ordinary and scantily dressed dancing girls placed in strategic positions designed to take the mind off weightier matters. For the Africans who complain about the undressed women on MTV, they haven't been to the shrine.
As we entered, guided by witchdoctor/babalawo types dressed to fit the image of a shrine, they sprinkled water from raffia sponges as if on sacrifices. I ducked behind my friend, Kenneth, just in case I was being marked as a meal for some deity. There were great pictures on the way in, of a much younger Fela, who was actually dressed in clothes and not just his underwear.
Femi, Fela's son didn't play, but there were Yinka Davies, Alariwo, Sound Sultan, D' Banj, D.J. Shina and the comedian, Basket Mouth to enjoy. The singers all did Fela songs spicing them up a little with their variations.
The quality of the sound from the microphones was terrible (I was reliably informed that when Femi plays it is crystal clear) and the MCs were equally ghastly but there were many extraordinary moments like the performances of the Sound Sultan, Yinka Davies and D' Banj particularly, who worked the crowd well.
A friend I met there asked: "laspapi, how do you feel in this crowd?". I thought a bit, and he went on, saying: "For me, this feels like church". I admitted to being a little on edge in the midst of so much illegal smoke. No, I didn't feel like I was in church. Only Jamaicans smoke weed in church. And I'm not being silly, some Jamaican churches use the weed as Holy Communion. Really.
All in all, it was a good concert, the dazed 'high' look on the faces of a number of punters there ensuring I remained just slightly uneasy for the duration. A bit like when you enter a mental hospital for the first time and think someone is going to lunge at your neck and take a chunk out of it. But it was fun. Expatriates (white men can't dance...and white women too) mingled freely.
The event was sponsored by HARP beer, produced by Laface.
Would I go to the Shrine again? Maybe.