Friday, June 6, 2008

The Grandest Finale of All

TV - Reality - The Gist

All photos courtesy of the Star Quest site

Located somewhere in Lagos is an event venue that will go down in history as the one place that has been a cradle for a new bevy of stars. That place is the Ocean View Restaurant.

The Expo Hall of the Ocean View Restaurant was the cradle, 10:05 pm on Saturday, 10th May, 2008 was the Estimated Date of Delivery and the Star Quest Grand Finale was the birth event.

The thrilling star-studded event - anchored by Gbenga Adeyinka The First - kicked off with a mini-documentary called “The Journey so far” chronicling how 36 talented musicians who were chosen out of the multitude that applied for auditions formed 6 great bands and were later whittled down to just 3. For the 3 remaining bands, Expozee, The Diamonds and Da Heritage, this was their night of glory as the finals of Star Quest 2008 were broadcast live on the NTA.

Next on the programme after “The Journey So Far” were stage performances from each of the 3 finalist bands doing two of their originally composed and produced tracks. First up on stage were The Diamonds who got to strut their stuff with two locally-flavoured, energy-filled dance performances. Despite their obviously well-rehearsed pieces and being spurred on by their huge fan base, the performances looked a tad weak compared to their Fameland average. Their choice of Afro-rhythmic dance tunes: “This Life Wey We Dey (Face Reality)” and “Ju’di” (roughly translated to mean dance in the Yoruba language) delivered a relatively weak punch and left beautiful Ajumoke Nweze, best vocalist that she is, conceding most of the vocals and stage presence to pot-bellied band leader, Anthony Iwediunor.

The fine boys and lovely sisi of Da Heritage were next. The purpose of this band as revealed by band leader and lead male vocalist Chukwudi Ubido, in the mini-documentary that preceded their performance was to fuse Western and local influences into their music. As female vocalist Glory Odey was also apt to point out, this group didn’t have the best in the vocal department and their first song, “Why You Go?” a love ballad imploring a runaway heartthrob to return, did bring this vocal flaw to the fore. Adding to their troubles was the clash of musical instruments which drowned the vocals at certain times during the performance. “Why You Go” was a very sentimental track with its slow beginning, touching lyrics and crescendo ending but Da Heritage just didn’t seem to carry the stage well not unlike their Diamonds predecessors.

“Jisi Ike”, their second track which was a sort of clarion call did far better than the love song. The motivational/solidarity anthem with a catchy hook encouraging the struggling peoples to “Jisi Ike” (Hold On) and be strong no matter the hardships they face was very sing-a-long-ish, reminiscent of Styl-Plus’ “Stay Alive”. Da Heritage did their crescendo bit at the end again which seemed to work well for them.

And then it was the turn of Expozee… Trust me, it’s hard to take back all the bad things that have been said previously about this group because tonight of all nights they seemed to finally realize what they came there for. And it wasn’t passive bandleader, 25-year old Emmanuel Aika or the dance seductress, Nnedi Ezirim who held the magic wand either. It was lead guitarist turned male lead vocalist, Seun Adegboye who blew the crowd away!

Taking off straight from the launch pad, all boosters firing, the group led off with “Jaiye”, a song extolling the uniqueness of Life and celebrating living fully in the moment. Seun, in a style which called to mind the likes of King Sunny Ade, led the group in the rendition of this piece which predictably got everyone off their seats and gyrating to the soulful tunes of Highlife. There wasn’t a single soul, African or expatriate, that wasn’t moved by that song! And boy! Did they dance…?

Omale Sunday, probably a little bit conscious of the spell Seun had placed on that crowd then took up the spotlight tearing everything lyrically apart as he took it on down, way down to the Ghetto. And Expozee showed everyone that when it gets down to the streets, they too can play dirty. The track title, “This Gbedu Na We Own” was self-explanatory. Whether it was galala, konto, makossa, whatever, Nnedi laid it down on that dance floor and Seun once again threw the lyrical mud all over the place with his Yoruba rap. It was a no-contest. If Star Quest was to be won solely on that night’s performances, then Expozee were the clear-cut winners: this Gbedu was definitely theirs.

The Music Videos

After the live performances, it was time again for the bands to try and impress second time around but this time in celluloid as their debut music videos were unveiled to the public. The Diamonds cleverly decided to do a switch, this time screening a music video called “Tempted” which showcased Blessed Edewor’s singing abilities. When the video ended, I couldn’t help but wonder why he had been content to stay behind all this while. Da Heritage, on the other hand chose not to change a winning formula as “Jisi Ike” came on once again. Expozee, also following the same pattern, stuck to the “Jaiye” song for their video maybe hoping lightning would strike twice.

In all fairness, all three videos were wonderful in showcasing the cinematic skills of the TV production company, though Heritage’s video was the champion here. The transition of the video from its Black & White intro till the screen burst forth in living colours towards the start of the chorus was visually gratifying.

But all these last minute climatic bursts of brilliance weren’t going to determine who would carry the day. After all it was the votes would count…

And the Winners were…

Their name was The Diamonds and that night was their time to shine. Parading arguably the best female vocalist, talented instrumentalists and a cool-headed band leader, The Diamonds wooed their audiences with their harmonious teamwork and hassle-free performances. While their stage work wasn’t always top-notch and their musical choices weren’t the best, they were guaranteed to deliver anytime unlike their rivals Expozee who sadly left everything till late and Da Heritage who maybe narrowly missed the winning formula.

Maybe in the end it boiled down to taking chances and the winning band continuously showed versatility in every task they had been given. The opportunities the music videos gave to showcase yet another of their songs was their trump card and The Diamonds fully grasped it with arms wide open. Apart from some hue and cry over the initial Eviction, this time a lot of Reality TV viewers went to bed satisfied that the REAL WINNERS had emerged.

And so the party wound to an end, the champagne was popped and The Diamonds got their ticket to stardom as they lofted high their cheque while the other groups felicitated with them and looked on in envy. Another era on the Nigerian musical landscape had come to a close with Diamonds becoming the official winners of Star Quest 2008.

It was a journey that had started weeks ago with a dream, a hope, a struggle, an online entry, a chance for an audition, cracked vocal chords, numb fingers, frustrations and evictions. It was a tough shot for stardom and they all won.

But for now The Diamonds shine with the stars…

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