Think of half-clad girls on stage with booties shaking with the ferocity of a wet dog whisking out water from its body; think of jumbo-sized ganja, some half the length of a man’s arm, emitting puffs large enough to form clouds; think of loud sounding music; think of legs tapping, heads nodding, bodies moving to the rhythm of afrobeats; think of multi-colored plastic tables and chairs dotted in front of the stage like hundreds of military tents guarding a general in a battle field, but instead of guns and weapons, you see beers and hot drinks; think of fancy stage lights flickering, saxophones blaring, mini suya spots selling and boys with sachets of weed hawking; then think of The New Afrika Shrine in memory of Nigeria’s afrobeats legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
Located in Ikeja Lagos, Nigeria, The New Afrika Shrine is one of the top tourist destinations in the country with thousands of people all over the world traveling down to Lagos to have a feel of the revolutionary music of Fela. Some of the visitors to the New Afrika Shrine include the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, as well as other notable public figures. After the original Shrine built by Fela himself in the early 70s was burnt down by the government of the time in 1977, the New Afrika Shrine was then rebuilt by Fela’s children to keep his legacy going.
So when I had a visitor come into Nigeria for the first time from Berlin, I mentioned to her about the New Afrika Shrine and she got excited. I hadn’t been to the Shrine myself, so I felt that was also a great opportunity to have a feel of the place that plays host to the popular annual music Festival, Felabration.
Together with four other friends, we found our way to the Afrika Shrine with Google Map as our guide, but first, we had to find a space to park our car. There were cars lined up from the gate of the Shrine up to the very next street. It was 9pm, but nothing about the street looked anything like it. One would think that all the fun was happening outside. It felt like a busy mini market selling anything from weed and drinks to shoes and books. A rough estimate of the people outside would be about a thousand.
When we got to the gate, we paid the N500 gate fee per person and then got our wrists stamped with the Afrika Shrine Logo. (It’s a stamp with an invisible ink that only gets visible under UV light and can last up to 24hours on the skin. It’s for sure a cool way of issuing tickets to a night event.)
We already knew that Femi Kuti, Fela’s first son plays every Thursday and Sunday night at the Shrine from 9pm, so we were there just in time for his performance.
As we entered the hall, we saw there was a gallery, so we went there to have a better feel of the space. I wasn’t surprised when I saw that a good number of guests at the Shrine were foreign nationals with their cameras clicking endlessly. The Shrine for sure, is a place to have a good feel of African music and culture in its raw form. Brenda, my German visitor, couldn’t sit down with us. She quickly made her way to the front of the stage where she danced her heart away. While she was dancing, we went down to a corner of the Shrine reserved for food to place our order for roasted chicken, suya and drinks.
I finally joined Brenda where she was, and I allowed myself to consciously focus on the lyrics of the song Femi Kuti was performing, and once again, I got angry in my spirit about the conditions of my country. You see, this is what Fela’s music does to you. It makes you realize that you must never get comfortable with mediocrity – that as citizens, we deserve better and we must demand for it. This, I believe, is what good music must achieve. It must go beyond the feel-good sentiments to something deeper – something more meaningful. I tell you, the energy on the stage was electric with Femi performing with so much passion and zeal. And the crowd? They sure were there to have fun.
After a while, we finished whatever that was left on our table, and began to find our way home.
The New Afrika Shrine for many, is a lifestyle. For me, it was an experience. For Brenda, we left too soon. Find out how I met Brenda here, and also some things to look out for before beginning your next trip within Africa.
If you enjoyed this article, please leave a comment for me below. I enjoy reading them.