AN AFRICAN PARTY

Taking a break from my series ‘What I Miss About London and What I Love About Aberdeen’ (which will continue soon).

I want to digress to a topic that is very social – An African Party! (…and how about one in Aberdeen? Well read on. Erm Aberdonians – please don’t forget…it’s TRENDY FRIDAY on the 14th of March 2014!)

Africans love to party! Religious or not, socially, we are ‘genetically structured’ to celebrate a milestone or the other. However our parties are like no other and for non-Africans, it is a ‘must’ to attend at least one party in order to experience a typical African social gathering and to understand how we party or play. Our milestone events like weddings, baby dedications, birthdays, anniversaries, house-warming, even funeral are filled with vibrant colours, rich food, drinks , playful banter and more, what’s not to like?

(To dismiss some generalised scepticism – not every party or social gathering is ‘booze-centred’ and we still party/socialise without alcohol!)

I am a Nigerian and since Nigeria is still an African country (Giant of Africa for that matter! Erm – did someone sneeze? Duh!) I will drill home to Nigeria to highlight a typical ‘African-Nigerian’ party. If you are particularly from the socially acclaimed region in Southern Nigeria known as Ijebu, then it is by default that you were born to be an’ ‘event organiser’ or  ‘party planner’. How the other fellow Nigerians can believe an Ijebu person (or Ijebusite lol) to be stingy  I can never understand  because they spend a lot on planning and hosting the most glamorous parties! Anyway me think say na jealousy jealousy jare!

OK – back to an African Party. At a glance, an outsider might consider it to be ‘chaos’! With all the array of event decor,  bottles of drinks, food buffet, live-band/DJ, colourful attires and the ‘designers sun-glasses-in-a-room’ worn by the guests, and their endless chatter on their latest Blackberry, IPhone, Samsung, and other gadgets, it is no wonder anyone will be amazed BUT – give it another 5 minutes to take it all in, let the music come on and presto! You will see how a party really comes to life!!!

STRUCTURE:

By tradition and the way our celebrations or events are structured, the typical African-Nigerian party is typically lengthy – with food and music being the highlights (and most recently – ‘selfies’).

TIMING:

Do not quote me on this as Nigerians are professionally changing their attitude. However, historically when a party is tagged to start at 6PM, it is best to arrive at 7PM or later. I don’t know why this is so but it is what it is. I will leave it at that.

FOOD:

Pardon me, I am writing from the perspective of an Ijebusite therefore, on the food, the pride of a Nigerian host reflects on his or her party food buffet which usually include  jollof-rice, fried-rice, moin-moin, ayamase stew, pounded yam, amala, eba, tuwo, ewedu, efo-ririo (vegetable stew) or if extending to our Eastern audience, nkwobi, peppersoup, isi-ewu and other variety never seen on the list of menu of any European hotel/venue. There are caterers specialised in this varieties and can extend the list!

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FASHION/ATTIRE:

I was particularly impressed when I came across an academic journal highlighting some historical aspects of ‘Aso-Ebi’

What is Aso-Ebi? Pronounced ASHO EYBEE  translated to English means family cloth. These are Nigerian outfits made from matching fabric to be worn by a group of people to a party, wedding, or naming ceremonies. Asoebi is a phenomenon seen at Nigerian events  to indicate the close relationship of the guests or group of people to the celebrants or the host.

I needed to explain the phenomenon that has escaped the shores of the original owners of Aso-Ebi (Yorubas in Nigeria) to the other parts of Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Uganda and other African nations.  Aso-Ebis can be very colourful and so trendy. As with all other social phenomenon, it can be worn moderately and with class or overdone which can make it look tacky.

With me, it is a love-hate relationship. I can buy and wear it however, I developed a mental ‘sieve’ for it whilst living in London. As beautiful as ‘togetherness’ may sound, if you ever have to buy ‘every’ family, friends, frenemy, and acquitance’s aso-ebi to ‘show your close relationship’ in London – you will end up being financially broke and ultimately a hoarder. Parties in London starts from Wednesday through Sunday. So much so that there is a ‘village’ in South London where warehouses have been turned to event venues! These venues are all very flexible to accommodate the requirements for any type of party or occasion being celebrated (I can only describe this fully in a future post!) Soooooooo, I have carefully invested in some gorgeous dresses that can yet be ‘accepted’ at my Nigerian parties. Even though most of the time I stick out like a sore thumb, (and I have an Aunt that passionately dislikes this part of me) I am never alone in that ‘group’ at any celebration. {Na wetin! I got bills to pay abegeee}

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MUSIC:

Depends if it will be a live band or a high-flyer DJ.  The music has got to be on-point. Otherwise the guests will throw suggestions at the live band or DJ in encouragement or annoyance. Afro-beat has taken over the music scene globally and needs no introduction but the older generations still prefers their classic slow-beat from Sunny Ade, Commander Obey, Ayinde Barrister, Oliver de Coque, and others. However, there are some talented new breed of musicians and DJs that have found a way to blend both the old and new and call it whatever you like, even a granny can now dance Azonto!

DANCE:

Similar to the TV advert for the Irish Cider – the Magner; ‘There is a method’ to dancing to a Nigerian Music. Either you get it or you don’t! And there is no longer any excuse acceptable in the whole wide world that is accepted for not knowing how to ‘dig it’ With the numerous youtube clips showing our Western/European friends/spouses dancing ‘Azonto’ or to ‘Whizkid’ or ‘Davido’ it will be disastrous to be seen on the dance floor dancing like a string drawn puppet!

I will leave out the ‘money spraying bit’ common at a Nigerian party to the imagination of my fellow Nigerians.

A very funny Nigerian Comedian described a typical ‘Yoruba Woman’ dance close to this:

1. She gorgeously make her way to the dance floor following the rhythm of the music.
2. When she has chosen a spot that all eyes can see, she forms a pinch with her fore -finger and thumb and pulls the left edge of the blouse at the shoulder.
3. She ‘scatters’ her face into a frown yet looking gorgeous then….
4. She slowly gravitate her waist all the way to the floor looking for an ‘unseen’ jewelery! Yet making it all very classy and effortless.

Phew!!! I bet some of you tried it!!! Yes that description is tempting.

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[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcVdoLIBCA0&w=560&h=315])

AFRICAN PARTIES IN ABERDEEN:

Now in Aberdeen, some of the typical African party requirements are not really accommodated.

Venue Hire: To hire a venue, it has to be from a scheduled time X and finish at a scheduled time Y. AH!

Music: The music – now that is the real deal! Depending on the host (background or faith) , the music is rich and deep. You cannot attend an African party with music in full swing and not participate. The music is too tempting. Of course not everyone dances the ‘Atingo or Azonto’ and the other youthful exuberance/infused steps,  but music really takes us ‘home’. If a live band is in attendance – oh boy!!! But we don’t have any here in Aberdeen – luckily we do settle for the experienced DJ.

Food: In addition to the limitations on the schedules for the venue hire, the restriction on the food which you would love to bring to the venue ‘kills’ the party spirit in Aberdeen. What exactly can you do to make sausages, black pudding and eggs so special that can be compared to a typical ‘mama put’ amala and ewedu? or ‘Ghana High Jollof Rice’? (Only readers that knows this ‘Mama Put’s place on Lagos Island can appreciate that rice’ Oh boy!)

The scene is altogether different in London where Nigerian DJs and Event managers have met with luxury hotel managers, private/exclusive venue owners and town halls to explain the uniqueness and dynamics of an African wedding. Initially, the venue/hotel venues were reluctant however, when they gave it a chance, it became a different story. Today, these hotel and venue managers have no regrets. Because economically, it made sense! Rather than having an empty unused space every weekend, some agreements were made (give and take) and now almost every hotel is busy at weekends in London. In addition, new businesses has sprung up to meet the demands that such a breakthrough can bring with it (party caterers, venue decorators, make up artists etc. Check them out on my wedding website http://www.weddingtrendy.com).

I took up this challenge and visited a few venues in Aberdeen and can proudly say, 4 are willing to accommodate our requirements ! Whilst we can make this happen and bring some inward and influx of economy into Aberdeen, there is obviously some terms to be met and depending on your budget and preferences I am very happy to work with anyone that might be interested in this.

My name is Timi and I promote Africa/Nigeria in Aberdeen.

BTW: Here is a clip of a Nigerian wedding from Youtube (Courtesy, Memsdan): ENJOY!!!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al5lb2zAHnA&w=560&h=315])

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