The 2007 edition of the Nigerian Entertainment Awards, held on Saturday at NYU's Skirball Center, began in a manner that seems to be the only way to start a Nigerian event -- extremely late. Hoping to stifle the hereditary virus we all know as "African time" organizers of the NEA advertised the event with a 5 pm start time with intentions of beginning at 6 pm. To some degree, their plan worked since the bulk of the guests didn't gather until the predicted time. Too bad nobody told the organizers to give themselves a few extra hours.
As several well dressed Nigerians stood waiting in front of the venue for over two hours, news swirled about guest stars that canceled at the last minute (no surprise there). Among the no-shows were TuFace Idibia and one of the hosts for the night, Stella Demasus-Aboderin. Special guests that were in attendance included CNN Entertainment Reporter, Lola Ogunnaike; Essence Magazine Editor, Nana Eyeson; supermodel Oluchi; and former Ms. World winner, Agbani Darego.
The event's remaining MC, comedian Julius Agwu, allegedly pulled a diva move by going out for a last minute primp that cost the event some very precious hours--that must have been some haircut!
Upon his fashionably late arrival, Agwu stepped out of a stretch limo with his entourage in tow. Thereafter, almost every guest -- famous or not -- lined up to walk down the red carpet for photo ops. No one was willing to give up their 10 seconds of fame, even as it delayed the show even further. Eventually, an NYU usher grew irritated by the congregating in the lobby. "The show will look a lot better when you're inside the arena," he yelled.
As guests poured into the arena, the opening act had already begun. What started out as a treat -- a traditional Yoruba dancer gyrating to the sound of drumming and chanting -- sent the crowd into complete oblivion after several minutes of the same monotonous song and dance. This act should have been cut in half to make up for lost time.
Once Julius Agwu, was introduced, the crowd applauded cheerfully. Those of us who held a grudge for his tardiness immediately forgave the funny man after the crack of his first joke. "Nigerians are the only people that will go to church and give testimony for getting a visa to leave their own country," he said. Then with an authentic impersonation of a Naija church woman, he pushed the punch line even further. "Praise God! Hallelujah, my daugta has received visa to travel to Gabon." During each intermission, Agwu continued to tickle the crowd with his superb comedic material. "Every Nollywood actor now has an album coming out; have you heard Ramsey Noah's album?" "Everyone in Lagos wants to be a rapper;" and "A Yoruba man can borrow money to spray." Truth be told, our "diva" host was a hit!
Among the winners were Mic Tunes, who took home an award for Best International Producers of the year; Nigerian Fabrics and Fashions for Best Designers; Femi Kuti for Neo Afrobeat Artist of the year; Big Moose Entertainment for Promoters of the Year; and the host for the night, Julius Agwu, for Best Comedian. Perhaps the most astonishing honor was given to DJ Zimo -- one of the NEA producers -- who took home the award for Battle of US based DJs. Shouldn't it have been against the rules for him to even be nominated? This award raised questions about the show's integrity among some attendees.
Stand out performances of the night included afro-pop singer, Tolumide, who was full of energy, and Gbenga Wise, who got the crowd lifted with a heartening gospel tune. But nobody did it like Banky W. The singing heart-throb, showed off his suave dance moves along side a B-Boy dancer as he crooned his hit song, "Capable." During the performance of his Naija version of Rihanna's chart topping hit, "Umbrella," the crowd chanted in unison, "From Ebute Metta, Metta, Metta, eh, eh, eh." It was by far one of the best moments of the night. He later took home a well- deserved award for Best International Singer of the Year.
Later, saxophonist Mike Aremu had the crowd a bit apprehensive during what felt like a 10 minute long blow into his golden instrument. It was impressive at first, but after a few agonizing moments, people were just plain-old concerned that he would pop a few eardrums. When he finally decided to take a breath and join the band in playing their arrangement, a beautiful melody filled the room. It was exquisite.
Black Jesus, who's infamous for flooding the internet with YouTube clips of himself singing African renditions of popular American hip hop songs, performed his version of Rich Boy's "Throw Some Ds on It." Let's just say, some things are only meant for YouTube.
Overall, the show turned out to be quite entertaining, but nothing was more shocking than the finale. Sammie Okposo took center stage and began belting out one of his celebrated gospel numbers. Less than a minute into his set, the stage crew turned on the lights in the auditorium, but Mr. Okposo still didn't see what was to come. His microphone was shut off mid song! The crowd was stunned. Five other performers and several other award categories were still on the itinerary, but NYU had had enough. NEA organizers were (allegedly) only able to cough up an extra thousand dollars to extend the show for just one hour after starting two hours late. Luckily for them, they had honored Mr. Okposo with the Best Gospel Artist award several minutes before. But at this point, the only real way for the NEA to save face is by starting ON TIME next year.
Pictured: Model Oluchi with Ms. World 2006, Agbani Darego
Photo Credit: Olayinka Fadahunsi