By Charles Kumolu
The Experience Lagos, now in its 12th edition, plays host to the most internationally and locally renowned award-winning artists on the African continent and all over the world – albeit in the gospel genre. While most music concerts are lauded for bringing in a single A-lister, this concert brings in an average of 10, with at least half of that number being international artistes, who are used to the glitz, the glamour and the grandeur of some of the biggest stages in the world and they have openly compared their experience with The Experience Lagos as being comparable to the best they have known anywhere else in the world.
It would, therefore, be fair to say that for internationally acclaimed, Grammy-award winning artistes such as Kirk Franklin, CeceWinans, Donnie McClurkin, Don Moen to name a few, to choose to return repeatedly to Nigeria and continue to speak in positive terms of the world-class standards of The Experience Lagos has attained; this is a testament to the reputation the concert and its organisers have established for themselves.
To further underscore how The Experience Lagos has forged a trans-continental appeal and a sense of how Africa has gained notoriety in the Western hemisphere, the America states of Georgia and South Carolina respectively, conferred on the Metropolitan and Senior Pastor of all House On The Rock churches and Convener of The Experience Lagos 2017, Paul Adefarasin with the Honorary Citizenship.
This was done in recognition of the stellar leadership and commitment to the ministry is known for throughout the world.
For others, the reach of The Experience is quite unprecedented. With its track record of maxing out its current venue, the TafawaBalewa Square, Lagos (a venue structured to take a modest estimation of about half a million people; making this one of the biggest concerts not just in Africa but the world) as well as live-streaming the broadcast to countries, it is evident that this platform has the ability to reach millions of people in every continent around the globe.
A final point would be that the music concert’s use of the universal language of music, a common denominator that cuts across tribes, races and the many languages of the people of the world. Music is a great unifier and its appeal is unequalled. This would explain why the unique hashtags generated by The Experience Lagos has trended number one on social media globally two years in a row.
It is unlikely that any one of the millions of people across the world, watching their favourite gospel artiste sing on the massive stage or any analysts studying these statistics objectively, will be able to think of Nigeria or Africa only in terms of its negatives nor will the compounded impact of the concert allow them relegate the continent to the uncharted back waters of the world as it is only logical for them to conclude that any concert, city, country or continent that can play host to such a line-up of artistes, and has the resources to live stream it, cannot possibly be as decrepit as the media makes them out to be.
Therefore, rather than constitute the committees to explore the ways and means of changing the perspective the rest of the world has of Africa, it would be wise to quietly invite Adefarasin and find out how he and his lieutenants are able to host a world-class mega event like The Experience year after year.
Sadly, the most widely spread stories of Africa are those of humanitarian conflicts; creating the myopic and misconstrued view that the continent is only about an unending spiral of genocides, human rights violations, coups, civil unrest and other unspeakable atrocities.
With the barrage of viral editorials on slavery, poverty, hunger, corruption, underdeveloped cities plagued with various social ills, how is it possible for most people outside Africa to see this continent for what it truly is?
That has sadly never been the case with Africa.
This kind of weighted reporting, while good for the media’s ratings, is insidious and pervading such that even those within the African continent itself have bought into this one-sided worldview of the continent, which would explain the desperation of those risking life and limb to leave in search of greener pastures. One of Africa’s foremost novelist and stellar writers, Chimamanda Adichie calls it “The Single Story.”
While it would be easy to dig into the various academic reasons being proffered for this biased view of the African continent; densely populated by large numbers of uneducated people living in squalor and decrepit conditions – a better approach would be to determine how best to change the perceptions of Africa to the rest of the world. It would be easy to assert that the reasons for these unfair perspectives are many including the fact that the mainstream media houses broadcasting these sensational reports are doing so for the ratings they create or to protect and promote their own vested interests and those of their allies.
However, a more balanced viewpoint would be to approach this the same way we do other situations in our everyday lives. For instance, we are taught that we are responsible for how other people perceive us to be and so we learn how to dress appropriately for job interviews or social occasions. We practice and improve on the way we talk, walk, network, make friends and influence people by putting out best foot forward and showing them the most favourable sides of ourselves.
Why then can we not apply that same logic to changing the perception of our nation and our continent?
It is fool-hardy to rely on the Western media to report on African fairly. It would be tantamount to expecting a prospective employer in a corporate setting to look beyond the unkempt clothes, filthy hygiene and bad English of a potential company executive and view him as educated, well-spoken and a good fit to represent the company. If that much is easy to understand then we must also understand that the onus is on us, Africans, to change the way the world sees us.
For years, we have been at a disadvantage without the media training, equipment, platform and reach to showcase ourselves to the world as we choose to. However, with the advent of the internet and social media, there is a more level playing field and it is time to get creative and use the tools are at our disposal to achieve our goals.
To do this, we must have the right means and medium to pass across the right message, create lasting impact and cause real influence. Instead of simply falling back on ineffective processes such as assembling an officially mandated “exploratory committee” costing an arm and a leg to constitute, only for it to arrive at untried, untested and eventually un-implementable conclusions; it would be more judicious to look out for case studies of existing models within the African continent that have not only succeeded in achieving the desired goals but has thrived through perfection and simply emulate them.
One cultural phenomenon that could be used as such a case study would be the recently concluded annual music concert tagged ‘The Experience Lagos’ organised every year by Pastor Paul Adefarasin and his indefatigable team.