Sunday, 15 March 2009

The Saxophonist

He was tall and dark. And he was very handsome. And it was to him that my eyes were instantly drawn the minute the band started playing that sultry night all those years ago at the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti's night club, known as the Shrine in Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria. The attraction was magnetic. I'm not sure that I remember which of his songs Fela sang that night, or how lasciviously Fela's female dancers gyrated their nearly naked bodies, or how amazingly the musicians played Fela's mind-blowing music. It was him, just him for that night.

The Shrine would on a normal night have a crowd of revellers something approximating 500, all of whom were dancing, singing, drinking and smoking, cigarettes and weed. This place was a haven for smokers of marijuana, which was illegal outside the walls of the club, but perfectly permissible inside. Indeed if you didn't indulge, you were considered freakish. The crowd typically would consist of a large contingent of university students, (I was one at the time), several European embassy types who were exploiting the opportunity to see Fela in his full glory, for a pittance, as compared to what they would have had to pay to see him perform in Bonn or Amsterdam; it was also an opportunity for them to let their hair down and smoke a few joints openly, without fear or shame. Then there would be members of the general public, the atmosphere buzzing with an electric anticipation until Fela started his performance. Then everyone would be drawn in by Fela's magic and the wild party would begin.

This was my first time at the Shrine, but I liked the atmosphere. The energy, the excitement of everyone around me was contagious and I got caught up in it. And so the band started playing and the crowd went wild, but through all of this my eyes fell upon this magnificent specimen of the African male, in the far left corner at the back of the stage. I don't recall how it was that I was able to make my way from the back of the crowd where I had been standing when the music began, to a position beside the left side of the stage, close to where this man was playing his saxophone so beautifully. I guess I just needed to be closer to this man, even if only to take a better look. From the moment I saw him I had not moved my eyes from him even for one second. It was as if a spell had been cast upon me and I was in a trance. I did not realise that he too had picked me out from the hundreds of people in the crowd. But just then, our eyes met while he was still on stage. And I knew. I just knew.

Typically, Fela's performance at the Shrine would last for several hours and it was normal that halfway through the night there would be a break, as this was a live performance. At break time, the musicians would mingle with members of the crowd, and this was the chance that we had to make first contact. I'm usually a bit shy and reserved, but on occasion I can surprise even myself by how bold I can be. Not that I needed to be too bold this time, because he too seemed keen to meet me. His gaze never left me after the music stopped, as I stood rooted to the spot, being unsure what to do next. To my great surprise and pleasure, this man put away his saxophone, came off the stage and walked towards me, staring at me. And without flinching I moved towards him too. In no time, we were standing very close to each other, facing each other our chests almost touching, seemingly relying on the pretext that the crowd surrounding us provided us little room to manoeuvre our bodies. He towered above me and I felt his warm breath on my face as he looked down into my eyes. He too must have seen in my eyes how totally mesmerised I was, because without saying a word, he put is arm around my shoulders and with his eyes signalled that we should proceed outside. I was completely overpowered by the raw masculinity and strength of this man and I melted against his body as he shepherded me to the exit and then outside to the street, where several others had made their way, presumably for some respite from all that smoke inside the club.

After the introductions, we were both pretty sure we were unto something. He couldn't keep his hands off my body and we stared and smiled into each other's eyes as we exchanged stories, still standing very close to each other out there in the open. It is not unusual in most of Africa for male friends to hold hands or embrace in public. I told him I loved the way he had played with the band, although this was not entirely true since I had been focused on him personally rather than on the music. As a member of Fela's band, he had been privileged to travel all over the world with Fela and I had just recently returned from a holiday in Brazil, something which I'd had to scrimp and save for, for years. Anyway, it gave us something to talk about since he too had once been to Brazil with Fela and we found quite a lot to talk about in those few minutes that we were together. Our first meeting lasted for less than half an hour, because he had to go back inside to join the band. But for the rest of that night I was on a high. I returned to my position close to the stage and danced and sang to Fela's music, knowing that this wonderful man was watching me and enjoying it too. I was dancing for him, perhaps a bit provocatively when I think about it now, but as far as I was concerned, he was blowing his saxophone just for me. He was watching me dance and I loved the fact that he was taking it all in.

When the show ended, I could see that he was unable to separate himself from his duties with the band. So I left, knowing that I would be back on Friday.


DL boy said...

Anengiyefa,you do know you're going to have to finish this scintillating story you've just started don't you? :)

Anengiyefa said...

@DL boy, thanks for visiting. I'll try not to disappoint. :)


Nice, Anengiyefa.

I almost felt like I was at the Shrine myself. Will there be a conclusion? Do say 'yes'.