Naira Marley, “Mr YanYaYan” himself, languidly walks on stage and the crowd form huddles, reminiscent of a church group all coming in for their pastor’s prayer. Marley’s earlier namesake, Bob, was seen as a leader to a whole generation of people. Naira Marley will have to do a lot to reach that status, but in this moment the messiah had stepped on stage and the audience are ready for his sermons.
A show that was as much about the audience as the people performing carried tangible energy throughout. The night started off with performances by GB who played his famous hit “Under Lover”, Moelogo then came and graced us with the stage playing short but energetic set. Once SK joined the stage with Sona though, the audience became lively, the Shaku’s were starting to carry more ginger in their step as Sona with his infamous tagline “it’s your boys Sona yeahhh” had the crowd singing and snapping frantically.
After a Shaku Shaku challenge that contained flying flannels and moves that mirrored possession to the underworld, it was time. Naira Marley stepped on to stage in his black velour tracksuit slightly open showing his bare body, he was ready. Back to back he performed his hits from the singalong tracks of “Fly Away” and “Marry Juwana”, the infamous freestyle “Final”, to the certified hits of “Japa” and “Issa Goal”. For someone who always looks like he is one song away from saying “I am tired sha” Marley is effortlessly able to flow through his songs, keeping the crowds energy up with his own questionable moves.
With guest performances by Omofrenchie, DamiiBliz, Serafu and then seemingly everyone in Marley’s final moments, it was a show that Naira should be proud of. Another example of Afrobeats, Afroswing, Afrop… Whatever you call it, growing in London. With such diversity in his tracks and charisma that you can only warm to in time, Marley may just be heading to a status like “Bob” after all.
Words and images by Timothy Ogu.