Plaza. D’Banj, the Nigerian pop star who was headlining the show,
boasted, “I have too many kokolets around the world.” Later on he
wondered, “Can I get two kokolets that can dance better than my
quickest-rising stars in Africa, has a one-track mind – kokolets, in his
lingo, are beautiful women – that wasn’t far from the truth. As a
style, his was as monomaniacal in focus as Miami bass, one lusty come-on
after the next.
style loosely called Afrobeats by some, a mélange of hip-hop, R&B
and other traditionally urban sounds with elements that hark back to
older African styles.
meant was that D’Banj, backed by
a live band, was a thoroughly
accessible pop star. He emerged in a gold-sequined dinner jacket and
began the night with a harmonica solo of “My Love Is Your Love,” the
austere Whitney Houston hit. Before long he was undulating around the
stage, his microphone at his crotch when it wasn’t at his mouth.
back and forth between singing and rapping, primarily in English,
D’Banj was never less than enthusiastic, an entertainer above all, and
one used to much larger stages than this one.
the show had the feeling of a significant event. The crowd was slickly
dressed, skewing young and African. Outside before the show a
correspondent for the Lagos radio station Cool 96.9 FM was recording a
report on the scene.
D’Banj recently signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label, a rare
example of a mainstream contemporary African star being given an
opportunity to work with an American record label. Mr. West recently
performed with D’Banj in London.
step in an evolution that’s been unfolding for some time. Mo’ Hits
Records, D’Banj’s home label, has a range of young talent, and during
this show several label mates shared the stage with him: Don Jazzy, the
brawny crooner Wande Coal, the limber dancer Dr. Sid (who came onstage
to Dr. Dre’s “I Need a Doctor”), the quick-spitting rapper Ikechukwu,
the deeply charismatic D’Prince, and more.
the main attraction, but there was plenty of stage sharing among the
crew. Wande Coal was particularly impressive, sometimes attacking a song
with force, other times caressing it with a soft coo. D’Banj was maybe
less nuanced, but that was very much the point. After one song that
sounded like what would have happened if Michael Jackson had recorded a
Nigerian highlife record, he shrugged and said, “It’s not my fault that