Vocal Slender to Perform at Indigo 02, London
With almost 16 million inhabitants Lagos is the second most populous city in Africa, and every day more people arrive in search of a better life (it is the seventh fastest growing city in the world). While Lagos may be Nigeria's most prosperous city, it is a city of vast contrasts. In areas such as Victoria Island you can find glitzy shopping centres, expensive residential properties, beach resorts, luxury hotels, banks, swanky nightclubs and so on. The three-part BBC documentary Welcome To Lagos, produced by KEO Films, shed light on the other side of this megacity, including places such as Olusosun, a rubbish dump where about 1000 scavengers work and live.
One of these scavengers is Eric Obuh aka Vocal Slender, 28, who was followed in the first episode, broadcast by BBC 2 on 15 April. Eric who grew up on the streets is also an aspiring rap artist; he is as he puts it ”working hard to become somebody,” collecting scrap from the dump and selling it in order to make money to record and promote his music. Not an easy task because whilst Nigeria's music industry of today is bursting with homegrown talent and the biggest stars can afford to live in luxury, the competition is immense. When he is not working and living on the dump, Eric stays in Ajegunle, Lagos' biggest ghetto where the careers of many big names including Daddy Showkey and African China started. In Ajegunle Eric struggles to make a name for himself as Vocal Slender performing at outdoor parties and trying to promote his music.
The Independent newspaper said “watching Eric slogging his guts out as a scavenger on the Olusosun rubbish dump in order to fund his music career couldn't be anything but inspiring.” The Times agreed saying that “the lives followed were inspirational, not least because these poorest of the poor saw only opportunity,” and they continue to say: ”Remember the name: Vocal Slender. There won't be a story to match it on tomorrow's Britain's Got Talent.” The Guardian remarked that Welcome To Lagos was a “celebration of Lagosians' resourcefulness” while the New Statesman called it ”one of the most moving, interesting and uplifting programmes in years.”
Vocal Slender's story fascinated many viewers, including many Nigerians in the UK who were inspired and touched by him and the other people featured. One of London's biggest Nigerian promoters decided that he wanted to help Vocal Slender get the break he so deserved. So he made contact with him, flew to Lagos and offered to book him for an upcoming show: the Cokobar Music Festival, to be held at London's indigO2 on bank holiday Monday, 31 May. The event already had a star-studded line-up, and now Vocal Slender had been added to this bill as a special guest. Eric was issued his first passport, the visa was arranged, the flights booked and Eric can now look forward to this amazing opportunity. Not only will it be his first performance abroad, he would also be sharing the stage with the highest calibre of Nigerian acts – from Lagos Wande Coal (“Bumper 2 Bumper”, “You Bad”), Dr Sid (“Something About You”), Bracket (“Yori Yori”) and DJ Zeez (“Fokasibe”), plus London-based JJC (“We Are Africans”) and Tilla Man (“Pu'Yanga”); not the sort of bill you could expect to see him on in Lagos at present. Whilst in London a professional music video for his single “Owo Yapa” is to be shot as well, (kindly financed by Cokobar) as having a good video is paramount in Nigeria's music industry, and it will help him establish his name when he returns to Lagos.
Right now Eric still works on the Olusosun rubbish dumb but this could be his chance to turn his dream of making it in the music industry into reality - and to become the Nigerian Slumdog Millionaire.