The Truth Bar in Lagos is where Mr. Etuk Ubong on the 9th of December played Jazz. The show was to start at 9 pm but my friend and I got there some minutes past ten. Truth is a small bar at 112, Akerele road Surulere. We actually got lost because a party was being held and their canopies covered the entrance. I call jazz ‘the music of the spirits’ and the dark corridor leading into the bar helped settle this idea that we were part of an initiation with intense jazz blaring, surrounding the walls and floor. I think an artiste is as important as their setup.
Mr. Etuk’s setup was a small intimate stage completely plunged in darkness. I think this setup lets you focus more on the music. You aren’t distracted by the artiste’s movements or things around you. Your mind is fully focused on processing the sounds you hear. That’s what we did. We tried to figure out Mr. Etuk’s sound. Was it pure jazz/afro beats heavily centered on jazz/ Highlife? It was a serious dilemma trying to figure it out because of how it was arranged and also how in some sense there was also a calmness to it but as soon as I heard a bit of electronic music in it, I was certain it was his own fusion music; wherever the heart leads.
My friend calls his sound ‘earth music’ and I guess that’s appropriate. Something about jazz and afro beats is how it begs soul and searching for answers so I guess what was bothering Mr. Etuk’s soul was the politics of his ancestors during pre and post colonialism era. He focused on politicians and the operations of Africa. The theme for the show was THE ROAD TO AFRICA and it was split into two parts in compression. The road he takes mentally to an old Africa and it’s fascination with the coming of the colonial masters, he talks about how naïve he thinks they were and in some sense, he processes this through ‘earth music‘ with his backup dancers dressed in traditional attire and body paint. He also speaks of a new Africa where the coming generation isn’t as naïve and doesn’t bother or focus on religion and their main focus is on themselves.
I think this setup is appropriate for this discussion because he plays like it is an intimate discussion between friends over beer in a dimly lit bar on plastic chairs and tables covered in random logos. When Mr. Etuk finally lets us see his face, the stage is covered in green lights. There is also a change in his sound. It has gone from the deep soul searching to upbeat music, still with the same message but a lighthearted feel easing into the atmosphere. He doesn’t sing a lot but when he does, it blends into the music, low and raspy [which he later clarifies that he’s lost his voice] but I guess art is best left to the consumer. I already interpreted it as passion or anger or a break from playing the trumpet too long. The stage has 8 people in total on it. A man on the keyboard, one on the drums [who I think was amazing], two on the trumpets, one on the saxophone and the two dancers. At a point during his set, there is a conversation, each person playing a wind instrument takes turns in proving their points on whatever topic they are having. Each solo plays till there is a break and then they are all in agreement again.
Mr. Etuk seems like a simple man. He is dressed in a Jalamia. He seems like a quiet soul but I might be wrong. I think my favorite part is watching the music control his body, moving side to side with intense notes. The girls dance in line to every note. They don’t stop dancing except the whole crew is on a break. They are in their own corner of the stage, their own world dancing away to whatever tune the musician decides to play.
After the show, he invites all of us to see more of his shows. On the 14th of December [10 pm], the other on the 16th at [7 pm]. I bought his album ‘Tales of life’ and he assured me there’s a lot more of it available digitally on platforms like Apple music and Youtube.
Feature Image by Ojooluwatide Ojo