As the first strains of Brymo’s ‘1 Pound’ filtered through Terrakulture on Saturday, the audience went mad.
Without a shirt, with a band, he sang one of his career’s highlights, more members of the audience standing to dance to the man’s music. He walked the stage, to one end and then back to the centre, microphone in hand.
So far, he had gone through songs from his last album, Oso, as well as his older ones, Merchant, Dealers and Slaves, Klitoris and Tabula Rasa among them. ‘1 Pound’, from Tabula Rasa, which has long attracted critical favour, proved to be a crowd favourite as well.
Not like it was the only one. Songs like ‘Entropy’ and ‘Olanrewaju’ received a loud reception, reminding me that Brymo, among his generation of Nigerian singers, is one of a short list of performers who have found both critical acclaim and popular status. The list is even shorter if only non-mainstream artists are considered.
Following his performance of ‘One Pound’, Brymo asked a question to which he clearly knew the answer, his excellent backing band having produced instrumentation on the level of his studio releases.
“Are you having fun?”
Nobody was in the mood to lie, so yeah, the crowd hollered “Yeah!” and then got excited all over again as the sound of the vulgar and philosophical tune ‘Prick No Get Shoulder’ filled the air. He sang a bit and left his band to carry some of the song. When he returned to singing, he took the hook. At that moment, it seemed every member of the audience — man, woman, insect — filled the Terrakulture venue with those now notorious pidgin words: “Prick e no get shoulder/You put head/The rest enter”.
Brymo laughed at his own cheek: he had succeeded in getting perhaps decent people to shout words they’d never repeat to their pastors, parents or children. He would sing other songs, including ‘Ara’, the song that introduced him to a large audience all those years ago. Many songs from that long ago work with the listener’s nostalgia. ‘Ara’ has its own nostalgic qualities but as I listened to it played live, I realised that it has retained some of the immediacy it had back then.
“There’s more music,” he said after a while. “But not much.”
He was right. He played ‘Banuso’ and ‘Heya’, the elegiac note of the latter suggesting we were at an end. And so it was. He ceded his position to a horn player and said his farewell.
His audience might have said thank you in response but he was gone. It was indeed a good night but a superb performance was over.