Almost two weeks later, the city is still buzzing with talk of Mr. Eazi’s epic Toronto show. There are a few video clips floating online that might approximate the experience but it was certainly one of those “you had to be there” moments. By the time his 16 song run of back to back hits had concluded, the rising Afrobeats star had made it clear that if his time had not already arrived before, it had certainly arrived NOW. Shedding off his usually laid-back stage demeanour, Mr. Eazi energetically attacked his performance like a man possessed with purpose. He utilized every inch of the massive stage at Rebel, at times walking on the thin side walls separating the VIP section and then finally wading through the almost 1500 strong crowd just to “feel what the vibe felt like in the middle”.
Backed by a DJ, a 6 -piece band and a trio of dancers, Mr. Eazi commanded the crowd like a seasoned veteran. At times it was easy to forget that the “Skintight” single that catapulted him onto the radar of the burgeoning Afrobeats scene (in Nigeria/Ghana/UK) was only released in 2015. How many times have you seen a performance with a relatively new artist where every single song in his set gets the full “sing along” from the crowd? Despite his somewhat defensive insistence that he was not a “singer”, Mr. Eazi has nothing to worry about his vocal performance going forward if his shows remain at this high energy level where he sounds best. This was not his first live show of this magnitude but it was certainly one of his top ones. The Toronto performance seemed to mark a turning point from being reluctantly thrust into the spotlight to boldly and believably owning every second of the moment. The concert concluded with a long awaited performance of his summer smash “Leg Over” and then quickly pivoted into a big after-party in the nightclub upstairs. With Mr. Eazi staying on as the party’s host and hype man, the night ended on a euphoric high note long after the 2am last call had been announced. Toronto’s “Summer of Afrobeats” had found its crowning moment.
Mr. Eazi’s morning the day of the show had started out on a low key note. When we met up with the artist at his suite in the King Edward Hotel to take him out for an exclusive photoshoot, we found him sitting on the carpeted floor, slouched against the wall, trying to stave off the jet lag and tour exhaustion with a tall cup of coffee. We had expected to find him in a celebratory mood. Just two days prior, he had been announced as Apple’s coveted “Up Next” artist of the month. His image was already gracing Apple billboards around the world and he had just performed on the Late Late Show with James Corden. After cornering the Afrobeats market as its second most streamed artist, Mr. Eazi was about to become known to an even wider demographic: potentially all 27 million subscribers of Apple Music. He had every good reason to pop champagne at 11am if he so desired but his mind was already elsewhere: two steps ahead plotting how to maximize the opportunity. We observed his pensive mood and decided to shoot him in that intimate moment rather than force our original vision.
As he tried on different outfits for the shoot, phone calls kept pouring in from friends calling to congratulate him on his moves: “Chale, I just dey watch your instagram and it’s like wow!”. There were also business calls. There seemed to be a lot of things in motion and Mr. Eazi was certainly hands on with his career. When the shoot was over, I had a chance to talk to him about his career and the future of Afrobeats: a genre whose DNA is already being grafted into songs on the pop-charts without the involvement of African artists themselves.He was appreciative of the attention his music was getting but was under no delusion nor apprehension about the hard work it would take to reach his full potential especially outside Africa. So why not just sign to a major label? Labels have been sniffing around almost since the beginning of his career but him and his team have a long term strategy. “The machine” still had it’s use but they have come so far without it, they had the liberty to pick and choose which cog of the machine they wanted working for them. It was refreshing to hear.
We strolled up Yonge St and made a detour through the Apple store so he could pick up a charger for his MacBook. Some of the blue-shirted staff stared at him as we walked around the store. We were both puzzled as to what was going until one of them pointed at one of the display iMacs which was a running a video loop of Apple “Up Next” artists. He explained that Mr. Eazi was featured as the default screen on devices across Apple’s 498 stores in 22 countries. Big! Before he was ferried off to his rehearsal for the night’s show, I remarked that 2017 had been his best year so far. He was quiet for a moment, perhaps weighing his present status against his vision for the future then he smiled and replied “Ehn? You think so? Just wait for 2018!”
Words/Styling/Direction: Chinedu Ukabam for SUPAFRIK Photography: SoTeeOh All clothing: Chinedesign (except artist’s own black pants) Accessories: Papaya & Co (Ankara Tie and pocket square), Bohten (all glasses)
Note: SUPAFRIK was a co-presenter for Mr. Eazi’s Toronto show “Life is Eazi”. More photos from the shoot can be found on the Chinedesign facebook page here: Also check out the official mixtape of Mr. Eazi’s Toronto stop. Compiled and mixed by DJ Revy B, The Eazi Motion Mixtape is a quick 25 minute intro the sounds of Mr. Eazi.
MONTREAL! Gumbo is back again by popular demand! Thank you for making our debut in Summer 16 a smash! Use code SUPAFRIK for $5 off here: http://GumboMTL.eventbrite.ca
We’re coming with a top DJ in the Afrobeats scene: Deemaks. He’ll be joined by Toronto vet DJ Sean Sax and MTL hometown heroes Mr. Toure (Qualite De Luxe) and Bonbon Kojak(Moonshine). Together they will chop it down and mash it up to create a very special edition of the Afro GUMBO mix. It’s carnival season from Brazil to New Orleans to Trinidad so get ready for bacchanal! Tell a friend to bring a friend to the most anticipated international party coming to Montreal! Brought to you in partnership with Fockus, CME and Oasis MTL.
Here’s a flashback to our first time in Montreal (Gumbo 5) with DJ Camron, Sean Sax, Mr. Toure and Don Barbarino. Pure vibes! If you were there you already know. If you were not, come see for yourself at the next one! We are looking forward to rocking with the MTL fam again!
*Toronto* We’re kicking off 2017 with another “Back to Back” edition of GUMBO (2 events in 1 night). This time last year we took you from FNLROM at Royal Ontario Museum to Tattoo on Queen West. This year the party starts at 7pm on the ice rink at Harbourfront(25 Queen’s Quay) for a GUMBOfied DJ Skate Night featuring DJ Revy B and at 11pm it moves over to The Vault, a few minutes away, for a Masquerade Jam. Masks are mandatory at the jam until 1am. Style code: Have fun with your outfit. Swanky. Dapper. Daring. Funky. Festive. Whatever floats your boat.
#WeAreGumbo is about connecting the musical dots widely and authentically. February is carnival time from Trinidad to Brazil and it’s also Mardi Gras season in New Orleans where our special guest DJ RQAway calls home. Last time we were in his city for GUMBO 3, he lit up the dancefloor with the energetic hometown sounds of Nola Bounce and Second Line brass band music and now we will give you a taste of New Orleans in Toronto! S-Quire will hold it down with the Soca and Revy B will keep the Afrobeats flowing. A carnivalesque Afro-diasporic journey into sound taking place inside a transformed bank vault? You don’t want to miss!
We hope your 2016 ring-in was filled with love, laughter, and lots of Afrobeats. On our end, we’ve been quietly working towards getting ready to kick in SUPAFRIK’s 2016 debut, and it’s looking to be a great. We have linked up with some of the marquee institutions in Toronto, and we’re planning on sprinkling contemporary Africana fairy-dust everywhere we go. Keep reading to find out more!
January 21-24 | Gladstone Hotel | 1214 Queen St. W, Toronto | ‘Style & Profile’ at Come Up to My Room
SUPAFRIK Founder Chinedu Ukabam has been selected as a featured artist at “Come Up to My Room” at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen St W). In case you aren’t familiar, it’s the biggest alternative design festival in Toronto. The hotel invites artists and designers to transform rooms and spaces into a world of their own. Chinedu’s installation, “Style and Profile”, is an ode to Afro-Pop-Art. It is inspired by African barbershops and explores notions of identity in all its seriousness and absurdity. He will be creating original prints and mixed media artwork, and collaborating on some furniture designs with his old friend and man of many woods Gregorio Jimenez. We’re inviting you all to come up to HIS room. PS: The big reception party is on the Saturday 23rd.
Exhibition Admission: $10| General admission (per day) $25 | School groups book tours with firstname.lastname@example.org. $5| Student day on Jan 22 (with student id)
February 5 | Royal Ontario Museum | Water Carry Me Go @ Royal Ontario Museum Friday Night Live and Kuumba
This one, we’re super excited about! Water Carry Me Go is a fashion-art exhibition featuring seven African and Afro-diasporic designers from Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria, UK and of course, Canada. Each designer is creating an avant-garde garment for the show. The unique exhibit will centre on the theme of water, an element that connects Africa and its Diasporas in a multitude of ways—as a passage, a cause of displacement and the origin of mythology. The show aims to dismantle artificial distinctions between fashion and art. We could not have done this without the support of TD Bank,Seven Continents, and Honour Carpentry. “Water Carry Me Go” will first debut as a performance art piece with “live” mannequins during the Royal Ontario Museum’s Friday Night Live, before being permanently installed at the Harbourfront Centre’s Architectural Gallery from February 6-12 for their Kuumba festival. Learn more about the artists here!
Exhibition Admission: ROM Friday Night Live| Tickets can be purchased at this link Kuumba @ Harbourfront Centre| Admission is free for everyone.
February 5 | Royal Ontario Museum | GUMBO #4 @FNLROM + Tattoo
GUMBO is back, this time at 2 locations! The ROM will be hosting the 4th edition of the popular GUMBO music series that Chinedu and Wan Luv started last summer. The first party was at Caribana. The last party took us to New Orleans. This time, we’re pulling out all the stops for Carnival time. First, it’ll start it off as a public dance class with renowned choreographers Esie Mensah and Pulga Cesar Muchochoma with music by DJ Revy B to get you up to speed with all the latest dances from Africa and the Caribbean. Then, it’ll morph into an intense Afrobeats/Afrohouse Soca Reggae dance party with Deemaks, Sean Sax, and Donet at Tattoo (567 Queen Street West).
Moments captured by Taiwo Bah Words by Chinedu Ukabam
“Yesterday was the hottest day of the Toronto summer so far. Humidity so thick, the city issued a heat warning that sent people scampering to the nearest air conditioned enclosure. It was the type of heat that would make someone want to throw a trash can through the front window of a pizza parlor. Continue reading →