By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
It was a sight to behold as the folk music maestro Gerald Eze took his rootsy Uwa Mgbede concert from Awka, Anambra State to the celebrated Bubbles Cubana Pool Bar in Grand Cubana Hotel, Abuja. Chief Amobi Tobechukwu Ogum had the great honour of being the esteemed host.
Gerald Eze’s cultured ensemble, made up of performers of Igbo and Western musical instruments, shook up the Federal Capital Territory with a fusion offering the young people a progressive and dynamic experience of Igbo musical heritage.
The accomplished musical players of the ensemble include Macpherson Muoka (Xylophone), Chiedozie Onuora-Oguno (violin), Dieudonne Ezeanyim (trumpet), Victor Ikenna (Oja and Trumpet), Silver Momah (Ubo-aka & Backup voice), Bruno Okafor (Ubo-aka & Ogene), Somto Paul (Bass guitar). Somto Onyejekwe (Percussions), and David Chiedozie (Drums & Ogene).
According to Gerald Eze, “True to the lesson of Uwa Mgbede, I used the pavilion in the compound where I live to organize a concert in Awka. Sometimes, in a system that is not supporting, one has to clean up his little corner of the world and let his light shine. And so we held the first Uwa Mgbede concert in August. Later, someone read the publication of the story on Thisday and contacted me through WhatsApp.”
Here are the words of this new fan: “I spent 2 hours watching all your Instagram videos”.
The use to which he puts the social media is explained by the personable Gerald Eze thusly: “Well, those videos were really kept there so that people will discover the richness and dynamics of the Igbo culture through my musical performances from time to time. So I was glad someone spent two hours viewing them. Later, I was seated in a bar with a friend, when I got a call from a man who then introduced himself as Chief Amobi Ogum. Right there, Cubana was proposed and sealed. So the Uwa Mgbede in Awka opened grounds for the Uwa Mgbede export to the wider shore.”
“We played Igbo folk songs, old-time highlife classics, Nigerian pop music,” Gerald said. The audience called for encores, especially for a report of Onye Omar Zoro. They did not get enough of it the first time. I almost ran out of the stage when they asked for more performances after about 3 hours performance. But this shows they were thoroughly entertained.”
It was an audience of class, and Gerald Eze particularly paid tribute to Prof. Joseph Ahaneku, the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. He told the audience the story of how Prof Ahaneku made sure Eze did not go to any other university to work as the then VC once told the award-winning musician: “Unizik is the best for you”.
As vice-chancellor Prof Ahaneku ensured that the University offered employment not just to Gerald Eze but to all the best graduating students, a culture that was not vibrant in Unizik at the time.
In the words of Gerald Eze, “I pray that every diligent young Nigeria should meet such men who in positions of power seek out the services of the best.”
Then the song “Aruo N’anwu, E Rie Na Ndo” (if one works under the sun, he shall reap under the shade) by Goddy Ezike was performed as GeraldEze felt it was the best his ensemble could use to capture that particular moment.
“Thus with my Ubo and the accompaniment of my ensemble, I performed it for the former Vice Chancellor,” a happy Gerald Eze said, smiling. “Such was the Uwa Mgbede experience. We utilized music to tell stories, connecting music with real life experiences.”
A major highlight was the landmark presence of Dike Chukwumerije who gave a performance enlightening and entertaining the audience in the medium of spoken word poetry.
“It was an honour to have Dike Chukwumerije,” Gerald Eze concludes.
*Uzor Maxim Uzoatu is a journalist, poet and public affairs analyst