It was all colours, music and sensual appeal at the Shell Hall of the MUSON Centre, Onikan on July 27, when Brazilian Samba paid homage to Lagos, a city that shares a bit of its culture and language. Titled ‘Por- Ai!', the event was jointly organised by the Brazilian Consulate-General and the Musical Society of Nigeria (MUSON).
Preceding the performance was an alfresco cocktail for guests who had braved the city's notorious traffic to enjoy an evening of fun and relaxation. The hall was filled to capacity, and had the event held the previous weekend, as earlier scheduled, it could not have recorded better attendance.
Femi Adeniyi-Williams, Chairman MUSON, welcoming the audience before the concert, said that the concert was organised to enable Nigerians enjoy themselves and recognise that "MUSON is not all about classical music but music in all its forms."
Co-organiser was the Brazilian Consul-General, Cesario Alejandro, who spoke on the need to bring such a concert to Nigeria. In his words, "Samba along with its rhythm has its roots in Africa. It started in Brazil about 200 years ago and has become the most important cultural expression of the country, the very symbol of Brazil."
Mathew Holmes, the event anchor, announced that the concert is part of ongoing efforts by Brazil to promote its culture across the globe. "Everyone has a soft spot in their hearts for Brazil," he declared, proudly enumerating some of the many attractions of the former Portuguese colony: "Its Samba, beaches, football, women, carnivals and cultural diversity"
The six member band from Rio de Janeiro came on stage with two female dancers, who were garbed in skimpy Brazilian attires of short ruffled skirts and tops with bared midriff. The band captured the mixed Nigerian and foreign crowd with music from its drums, guitars and native tambourines, creating sounds reminiscent of Afrobeat and calypso.
While the lead vocalist's performance was not entirely deserving of rave reviews, the audience was quickly infected with the performers' enthusiasm and excitement as members were cajoled off their seats by the dancers who strolled into the audience to pick out audience members, who joined them in the dance.
A la Brazilian carnivals, the dancers retreated quickly for a break and emerged bedecked in carnival attires with elaborate head gears with plumage and colourful bikinis. Then into the audience again they went to treat some of the male audience to shocking lap dances - a decidedly raunchy performance for an event which had communicated no age restrictions and which had children in attendance.
Though the event employed the universal language of music and incorporated a short interlude of Nigerian choreography (Performed by the Nitche dance group) accompanied by a medley of Nigerian and Brazilian sounds, the unfamiliarity of the language might have prevented members of the audience from joining the band in song as they were repeatedly urged.
The event, though it promised a variety of samba such as the classic samba, the Brazilian Percussion (Pandeiro), the fast paced Samba, and the carnival Samba, was not well structured, nor was it translated to enable the audience, who were disadvantaged by the language barrier to be successfully acquainted with the Samba as was expected. Thankfully, the performance was not drawn out, enabling participants to commend it for providing relaxation in less than a couple of hours.
Speaking with attendees after the event, it was surprising that many thought the concert was well worth the N3000 naira ticket price. They expressed no reservation about how the salacious dances of the scantily clad dancers seemed to have been employed as a replacement for what the performance lacked in variety of content.
Actress Dakore Egbuson, who revealed that she was presently studying Samba, praised the concert, "I thought it was fun and am glad I was able to come and get a few tips from this. I have always admired Brazil and its people and I see a similarity with the Nigerian culture."
Screenwriter and Director, Seke Somolu, encouraged the introduction of entertainment from other cultures to the Nigerian entertainment scene, while also expressing hope that more effort will be put into organising such concerts. "We need more of this; though think it could have been better in terms of musicianship as the lead vocalist was not on top of his game." His wife Omonor, one of the actresses featured in the stage performance of V monologues agreed. "It was just OK. I expected more Samba dances but they kept performing the same dance steps. But then, I guess achieving the kind of performance I had hoped for would require a lot more money than this (concert) did."
Edosa Eghobanieio, owner of Alalo and one of the organisations supporting the concert revealed the difficulty in planning the concert, "It's not easy to plan an event across two continents as we had to do. But I do think at the end of the day, that it was a good concert."
Lawyer and elocution expert Tita Young also expressed hopes that the concert spirit will catch on, observing that publicity for many such concerts is dismal and limited to the upper class, excluding the average individual who has an appreciation for such art events. "Nigerians need relaxing events like this, she concluded, "rather than for them to go to Owambes where mosquitoes will bite them."
While the Brazilian concert may be a novel and laudable initiative, it is high time organising societies such as the MUSON ratified the standard of the performances being staged. Nigeria may not often get enough of the international dance and music culture, but the calibre of arts enthusiasts attracted by such events, might be of the mind (and rightly so) that the beauty of concerts such as the Brazilian Samba, is better portrayed not in performances which incorporate immodesty, but in well executed depictions of the better aspects of the music and dance culture