STORIES BY CHUKS NWANNE
UNLIKE the previous days, everybody hurried to the stadium on time, the Cultural Centre and Millennium Park were scanty that evening.
You ask why? Well, that was Wyclef Jean’s night at the recently concluded Calabar Christmas Carnival.
One after the other, people began to troop into the venue and before long, UJ Esuene Stadium Complex was jam-packed with fun lovers, who left their homes that night to watch the preacher’s son. He had flown in from the United States to perform on their soil.
Though some Nigerian acts such as Biggiano, Weird MC, Sound Sultan and D’Banj were also on the bill, Wyclef was the main attraction that night. Everyone wanted to see his usual energetic performance.
The VIP section of the stadium was filled to the brims, with the Cross River State governor, Liyel Imoke, and wife, Obioma, leading other dignitaries.
Also in the VIP stand was former Super Eagles defender and one time Chelsea FC man, Celestine Babayaro and friends, including top Cross River State officials, who turned out in their number with their family members to see Wyclef; who no like beta tin?
Oh year, comedian Julius Agwu was at his very best that night, reeling out jokes like never before.
Anyway, the Rivers State native must have been paid handsomely, so, he did everything possible to justify his pay.
In fact, the petit comedian ensured he made his way into the VIP section after his performance to account for his stewardship; for sure, the Imokes were impressed.
Immediately the koko master, D’Banj, stepped out of the stage after his live performance that came to many as a surprise, Julius, who co-anchored the concert, called Wyclef’s band to duty.
The crowd roared in excitement as the five-man band mounted the stage, within few minutes, they were ready to roll; there was no ‘yea, yea…testing, testing the microphone.’
TO the sound of Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry, Wyclef made his way into the well-designed stage.
Attired in a typical African outfit, with a cap to match, the crowd was let loose in excitement.
While some kept jumping from one corner to the other, others joined him, singing along the popular tune; some were just dumbfounded, with their eyes fixed on the stage.
“When I was about coming to Nigeria, America asked me, ‘are you not scared of Nigeria?’ I told America, ‘Al Queda can’t do me anything.’ We don’t have terrorists here, what we have in Nigeria are happy people,” Wyclef sings to the admiration of the teeming crowd.
From all indications, the American government actually tried stopping Wyclef from performing in Nigeria due to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s incident, but the Haitian national insisted that one man’s sin shouldn’t be put on millions of other well-meaning Nigerians; as a regular visitor to the country, Wyclef understands the people very well.
The artiste took the crowd back to the days of Fugees, a group he formed alongside Michel Pras and Lauren Hills, who is now married to one of late Bob Marley’s son, Rohan; tracks such as Killing Me Softly and Fu-Ge-La still sounded very fresh. Good production!
Michel Pras, his former band member, was actually in Calabar that night, but as a filmmaker not a musician; we caught up with him earlier in the day, filming the carnival.
Wyclef raised the tempo with the track, 911, which saw many chorusing along. You need to see his guitar tricks on stage that night; the music producer played the guitar with almost all parts of his body, before narrating his experience as a young black chap, seeking greener pastures in the US.
“I came to America at the age of 10 and I remember some Americans telling me to go back to my country. Luckily, I got a job at 13. I was 19 when we started Fugees and I worked so hard in the studio to make the best out of my life. Today, I drive around in the US with my latest BMW car. Black people have no reason not to achieve,” he sings.
The preacher’s son soon switched to Two Wrongs, a track featuring Claudette Ortiz, before paying tribute to Bob Marley with Buffalo Soldier; the song was actually played by the DJ upon Wyclef’s request.
AFTER the break, the once dreadlock-wearing artiste reappeared on stage in a jeans and black long sleeve polo shirt.
“When I’m in the US, I see you wear designer outfits such as Timberland…your culture is very important, that was why I came out with the first attire. Your culture is your power,” he says.
Ready Or Not rented the air at once, followed by Gone Till November and then Diallo, a track he rendered passionately, striking his guitar with dexterity; the atmosphere was fully charged, coupled with comments from Wyclef that held the crowd spellbound.
“Don’t let them stop you Nigeria,” he says, repeatedly. “If you want to represent Diallo, raise your hands up.”
Then he turned to Governor Imoke, “Your Excellency and your beautiful wife, you have a big fan base. If you want me to increase my fan base, when I say hands up, you raise your hands.”
Just like he pleaded, Imoke, his wife and all the VIP guests complied wholeheartedly.
In appreciation, Wyclef made his way to the VIP section through the large crowd; the bodyguards, whom he instructed not to maltreat any single member of the audience, aided him.
Gradually and gently, he moved to the VIP, acknowledging cheers from the crowd. He shook hands with the dignitaries, but to Imoke, he gave a warm embrace.
“If there’s the United States of America and the European Union, then there should be the United States of Africa. If they ask you whom you look like, tell them you look like Wyclef. If any international artistes comes to Nigeria and refuses to mix up with the people, Nigeria, don’t accept him,” he says.
Returning back to the stage, Wyclef changed his outfit for the third time; this time, he wore a red T-shirt with Nigerian map, which reads ‘Proudly Nigerian.’
At that point, Sweetest Girl, a track he did with Akon and Lil Wayne, came on.
Just few minutes into the song, Wyclef stopped the band.
“I don’t want to do this song on stage anymore, unless I see D’Banj and my cousin Sound Sultan on stage. Where are you my brothers men, where are my African brothers men,” his said repeatedly.
Within seconds, D’Banj and Sound Sultan appeared on stage and gave the visitor a warm embrace, with microphone already clutched in their hands. He held their hand and lifted them up and the track came on afresh.
“These guys are the real stars,” he says referring to D’banj and Sound Sultan.
“I’m a true African and I’m here to represent Africa; when you come to Africa, you have to represent African artistes.”
That performance was greeted with thunderous rounds of applause from the excited crowd.
For hours, Wyclef rocked the stadium till the early hours of the following day. But for the intervention of his management team, he would have played till the next day.
Notwithstanding, he continued with the instrumentals as the large crowd departed the stadium at about 3am, with most people trekking home; okada is no, no in Calabar!
LEAD Fugees rapper and sometimes, guitarist, Wyclef Jean, was the first member of his group to embark on a solo career, and he proved even more ambitious and eclectic on his own.
As the Fugees hung in limbo, Wyclef also became hip-hop’s unofficial multicultural conscience; a seemingly omnipresent activist, he assembled or participated in numerous high-profile charity benefit shows for a variety of causes, including aid for his native Haiti.
The utopian one-world sensibility that fueled Wyclef’s political consciousness also informed his recordings, which fused hip-hop with as many different styles of music as he could get his hands on (though, given his Caribbean roots, reggae was a particular favorite).
In addition to his niche as hip-hop’s foremost global citizen, Clef was also a noted producer and remixer who worked with an impressive array of pop, R&B, and hip-hop talent, including Whitney Houston, Santana, and Destiny’s Child, among many others. In deed, Wyclef rocks!