Bringing the Music to Nigeria

A recent groundbreaking festival in Nigeria celebrating the country’s 46th anniversary of independence was deemed a success, and organizers are aiming for a repeat performance of the event next year.

ThisDay Festival, founded by a newspaper of the same name, brought big-name acts to Lagos, Nigeria’s Polo Club October 7-8, for concerts that proved to be a demanding but worthwhile venture.

Booking headliners Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Ciara, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, Mary J. Blige, and En Vogue was difficult enough, not to mention a handful of African artists.

Joe Fletcher, executive talent buyer for ThisDay, told Pollstar many artists were reluctant at first to play the Nigerian show.

“Booking the artists for the show was fairly difficult as most of the acts had some reservations about going to Nigeria,” he said.

Fortunately, artists agreed after organizers explained the nature of the event and made some guarantees about its quality and security.

But putting on the show wasn’t just about the talent. There was a great amount of infrastructure that needed to be present for the festival to go on, and that infrastructure wasn’t just sitting around in Nigeria.

William Hammond of Hammond Entertainment, who co-produced with Barrett LaRoda of the LaRoda Group, told Pollstar that because of the size and location of the concert, he had initial concerns about its feasibility.

“I knew Nigeria would be a major undertaking just because of the infrastructure,” Hammond said. “Really, this was one of the biggest concerts – period – on the continent.

“In the past, the major concern with the American artist is safety, security, a secure infrastructure, numbers of people and equipment. The biggest thing for me to take on the project was making sure I could get the equipment to Nigeria.”

After flying to the country, meeting with LaRoda and the chairman of ThisDay and choosing a location, Hammond jumped on board.

Equipment for the festival had to be shipped from South Africa, New York City and Los Angeles, and Hammond said a core team was brought in from the U.S., South Africa and London to bring it all together.

The festival went off without a hitch, and Hammond and Fletcher agreed that the concert not only provided a great celebration for the country, but proved that the region is alive, well and capable of drawing big-name acts.

“So much of the American and international press focuses on the problems of Africa,” Fletcher said. “It is hard to get tourists or much needed investment if no one tells the positive side of the story.”

The festival’s success has spawned talks of a repeat, and Hammond said other regions in the area are being scoped out for festivals as well.

“When something hasn’t been done, and you have A-level artists, you want to protect them at all costs,” Hammond said. “This was really a milestone and groundbreaking to show everybody it can be done and it can work.”

– Dana Parker-McClain