9 December 2012

Nigeria: Latin American Strings, African Drums Mash-up at Operaabuja 2012

A rare combination of Peruvian and Nigerian musicians dazzled the audience at the 2012 edition of the Abuja Opera, held at the congress hall of the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, on Saturday December 1.

Organized by Maria Cecilia Toledo, wife of the former German ambassador to Nigeria, and founder of the Abuja Metropolitan Music Society (AMEMUSO the event had the theme 'Africa's Legacy' and was attended by over a thousand people.

Even though Nigerian-born classical opera singer, Omo Bello was missing this year, the audience was thrilled by songs from Nigeria's own Onyeka Onwenu and two-time Grammy award winner and former Minister of Culture of Peru, Mrs Susana Baca alongisde famous Peruvian tenor based in Germany, Mr. Rafael Cavero.

The excitement in the hall was palpable, the stage primed with colorful lights and musical instruments increased the anticipation; African konga drums, violins, piano, guitars and a talking drum, promised a night of musical enjoyment.

The master of ceremony and popular Nigerian movies actor, Bob Manual, in grey suit and dark glasses, started things off by inviting the AMEMUSO choir on stage to open the show with a glorious rendition of the Nigerian national anthem that evoked a moment of pride for the Nigerians in the hall.

Next were welcome songs from the children section of the Choir, the AMEMUSITO, entertaining the audience with their poise and harmony of beautiful voices.

Senor Rafael Cavaro's, a bit plus sized and at about six feet tall, was dressed in black suit and instantly blew the minds of the audience with the strength of his voice, in a sublime solo performance.

It was storytelling in song, the undulating vocal range he blared easily evoked moments of sadness and Joy, Cavaro's performance was enchanting, reminiscent of the late popular Italian Opera tenor, Luciano Pavarotti.

Although the lyrics of the songs performed were mostly in Spanish, it seemed the audience enjoyed the music nonetheless.

Maria Cecilia Toledo's solo performance was as brilliant as it was passionate. Adorned in a white flowing dress, she mesmerized the audience with her passion and gait around the stage, her singing was uplifting.

The AMEMUSO choir returned to the stage and entertained the audience with a variety of songs that exemplified the best blend of voices at different level of pitches, it was reverberating.

With a choirmaster/ musical conductor the music displayed a harmony of voices rising at a moment to a crescendo and suddenly dropping to almost a whisper, the audience appeared truly delighted.

When concert was in full swing, after Maria and Rafael's duet, with the AMEMUSO singing back up, the star of the event Susana Baca glided on stage and captivated the audience, not only with her elegance, but the smoothness of her soulful singing.

While singing a variety of Latin American songs, the AMEMUSO remained on stage and sang back up to these Latin songs, in a show of musical brilliance that enthralled the audience, the hall at times was filled with a happy energy that was almost tangible.

As Susana sang, choreographed dance in a variety of traditional steps by some choir members added flavour to the show, the Tiv Swange dance, and the contemporary Azonto dance steps were easily recognized to the delight of the audience.

The crew of instrumentalist showed a mastery of their art during the entire concert; Maria Elena Pacheco was amazing on the violin, Hugo Bravo, Oscar Guaranga were both brilliant on guitars.

Ohimah Igbuan and Nnamy Nwaeze were working the piano, with Leo Benjamin on the konga drum, Ayonsola Bukky on the talking drum and Alex Ibuaca mastering the violin.

Toping-up the enjoyment was the surprise appearance on stage of Nigerian songstress Onyeka Onwenu, performing a duet with Susana Baca, they had the audience hooting with joy at moments when Susana belted out some lyrics in Igbo language.

Earlier, the FCT Minister Bala Mohammed gave a welcome address, and spoke glowingly of the cultural enhancement the opera brings to Abuja, highlighting the city as a global destination.

Also, the first lady of Nigeria, Dame Patience Jonathan who was represented by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs, Mrs. Precious Kalamba, reading from a prepared speech, talked of the sublimity of music, quoting from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night said, "If music be the food of love, play on."

Maria Cecilia Toledo also made a compassionate plea to the FCT minister to assist in completing the building of a state of the art acoustic AMEMUSO Performing Arts Centre and Music School for Children (APAC), which she said would serve as a training and performance centre for classical music enthusiast in Nigeria.

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