Coke Studio Africa made its return to TV screens across the continent on September 13 after a very successful first season late last year that captured audiences’ imaginations through unprecedented artist collaborations and live musical fusions, firmly placing itself at the top of every live musical performance series around. Right from the get go, the premiere episode of the new season made it immediately apparent that this second season is going to be a somewhat different affair, with some extra features and segments.
Changes! Changes? Changes…
Firstly, a live audience was on set jamming away as the featured artists performed, one of the most requested (and most baffling) additions to the show. The crowd was large enough to create a concert feel visually, but just small enough to be out of microphone range and therefore maintaining a ” closed studio” format, in other words trying to blend two different formats instead of just picking one and sticking with it like previous versions of the franchise in Brazil (concert style) and Pakistan (closed studio). What’s the need of a live audience if they can’t be properly heard? Why not save them and about four hundred more screamers for a mega concert during the finale, for example? Anyway…
That being said, there were a bunch of new features and segments that made much more sense and/or brought some extra entertainment value to the show. From the looks of it, everyone in the studio will be up to some form of fun, games and general goofing around this season. This episode had Olamide trying to get Fena on phone and having to get used to the “mteja hapatikani” snub message.
A new segment dubbed Open Up revealed the fact that Flavour knew quite a little about Victoria Kimani while Burna Boy and Vanessa Mdee were busy breaking down what super powers they thought the Unknown DJ Stylez had. It was also a pleasant surprise to see new faces on the featured BGVs and cameo backing vocals, including Mayonde and her crew from Isikuti Love as well as KIU’s Pauline just to mention a couple.
Unknown DJ could be DJ Stylez , he's the type to use performance pads and the like… #CokeStudioAfrica
Getting down to what mattered the most, the music, this episode provided just a taste of how Naija Music has come to completely dominate African dance floors and DJ sets with so much ease. The depth and variety of that industry shone through last Saturday’s lineup. We had a hip hop artist who has struck endorsement deals with Cîroc and Guiness, a multi-instrumentalist who got the word ashawo slipping out of everyone’s mouth, an Idols West Africa runner up who has risen higher up ever since, an artist redefining dancehall by mashing it up with his own Nigerian influences and the female voice behind Do Me, one of the tracks that first infected us with the Naija bug way nearly half a decade ago. And that was just a taste of what Naija music is made of today, good people. Just a taste.
As for the performances proper, Olamide teamed up with Kenya’s own Fena for a trumpeted up version of his massive banger Turn Upwhich can never disappoint whichever way it is served, and it was served well on the Coke Studio. Flavour’s wedding song Ada Adawas pleasantly much more livelier than the original version with the help of some great vocal work from Victoria Kimani and the BGVs, not to mention that the two were looking resplendent in matching Maasai shuka attires.
The performance of the night, however, came from Omawumi and Mozambique’s Valdemiro Jose who were challenged to come up with an acoustic rendition of Omawumi’s breakout hit In The Music. Omawumi basically knocked the challenge out of the park, choosing to mash it up with Oh Happy Day and a bunch of extra vocalists. The result was an amazing and sanctified ode to music that couldn’t have been performed better.
Something About Those Remixes…
It was hard to place the Unknown DJ Stylez‘s sped up and remixed version of Tonightas performed by Burna Boy and Vanessa Mdee, as well as Silvastone’s energetic version of Something About Youperformed by Navio and Waje at the end. They were performances to enjoy cautiously, especially after listening to the original tracks. Puns aside, there was something excessively busy about those two performances but perhaps they sounded sublime from the actual live audience’s point of listening. We will never know unless they tell us, right?
THE BOTTOM LINE
This was quite a Naija-fied way to open the new season of Coke Studio Africa, but there was nothing to complain about. This season will no doubt be a continuation of the excellent run this series enjoyed last year.