Notes on The Experience 11

On Saturday morning, at about 11, Afam called me. Our conversation went a little like this.

Afam: Dude! Experience was lit!

Troam team: Really?

Afam: I swear. I was lost in the damn sauce.

Troam team: Aren’t you the same person that called me yesterday and whined about how you didn’t want to go?

Afam: I know! But I can’t deny it. I had the best time.

Troam team: So you’ll write about it right? The blog only got 479 views yesterday. I know that isn’t bad but it’s below target.

Afam: Yeah sure thing. I’ll start working on it.

He went about trying to write the article, but he never seemed to be able to finish it. At one point there were over a thousand words, but there was a problem. All of them were about how he didn’t like talking about his faith publicly, and how annoying he finds it when strangers try to force him to. Conversations that begin with, “Are you Christian?” never get very far at all. In fact, I guarantee that he won’t remember your name or face when you’re done.

Those thousand words never made it in. He deleted them a couple of hours later. Seeing how hard he was struggling with the whole affair, I decided to help him out a bit. So in this article I’m going to ask Afam everything about the latest edition of The Experience.

The Experience is an interdenominational (cough... Pentecostal) Christian concert hosted by Pastor Paul Adefarasin held yearly in Lagos that features some of the best gospel musicians of our time.

Why didn’t you want to go to The Experience 11?

This one is simple. The Experience is the most stressful enterprise. It’s free so everybody and their mother goes. So it’s crowded, the logistics are a nightmare, and you have to go through all the stress stone cold sober.

Stone cold sober means that you’re tired and bored at 2 and sleeping somewhere in the back at 3. Of course, you try to make the nap look like you’re having an intimate conversation with the Holy Spirit, but still it’s a lot to go through for an uncomfortable nap in a white plastic chair.

So why did you go?

Because Mama Afam asked. She does so much and asks for so little that I think I owe it to her to show up for her every once in a while. And I keep hoping for a moving moment with God. You know? I keep longing for that transformational moment when God appears to you and you get your happily ever after. I admire people with faith because I find it so difficult to have hope all the time, and they don’t. The people who are truly Christian really do believe that tomorrow will be better because God’s got everything under control. It’d be nice to feel that, even if it’s only for a night.

Where do you sit when you go?

The bit for the VIPs. Mama Afam’s a Reverend, so it comes with some perks. If I had to sit with the masses in the trenches of Tafawa Balewa Square I think I would die.

What was different about this year? How is it that you enjoyed what sounds like your least favourite night of the year?

The last time I went was 2 years ago, in 2014. I’m not the same as I was then. I’m older and for the first time I feel a little bit wiser too. I’m more confident and I definitely have more self esteem. I don’t have to drink to dance, and I don’t feel so ashamed of myself all the time. Back then I would always wonder what so and so thought of me, and why they thought such and such. Now, I care a lot less. So, dancing in front of a over 700,000 people isn’t as daunting a prospect.

But isn’t Experience the one place where you should feel free? Shouldn't it be just you and God?

Technically, yes, but practically no. Nigerians are incredibly judgy and no one excels at this more than the Christians. And I have issues. But this isn't all that there is to it. I think that the idea of Experience is brilliant but the execution is more than a little bit problematic.

Why do you think the execution is wonky?

What’s up with VVIP and VIP? That’s a question that needs to be asked. Places of worship aren’t meant to be split according to how wealthy you are or how famous, or how important other people think you. Now, because I’m sitting there, up in the front, due to no achievements of my own, and I feel a little unworthy.

And the organisers make it worse. When anyone with any post in government shows up, the MC comes up and announces them, like they’re different in the eyes of God. What does God care that Minister such and such is here or that Governor who and who is here or that the Vice President is there? It’s even worse when you know that the people they’re calling your attention to have not done a good job. It says that even at The Experience, a place of worship, the only thing that counts is your pocket. And what’s more, The Experience is what I’d call a populist event. Everyone goes, from the filthy rich to the dirt poor. So, every time they announce one of the politicians I think, “Why should the Church celebrate the people keeping the poor in their terrible condition?” Even if you say that this government is good, then what of the last one, one of the most corrupt in living memory? This is something The Experience has done for years!

And the weirdness doesn’t stop there. They display celebrities in the middle of their worship on the television screens. I saw Toke Makinwa and Don Jazzy. I get that they’re famous but why the attention? I would excuse it if they only did it once but they did it over and over and over again. It makes the atmosphere of it odd. I believe that when most of us go to The Experience we don’t go for the who’s who. We go for the music and the spirituality of it.

From a business angle, I can see why House on the Rock would. I mean, it’s great press and it’s good for publicity, but from a spiritual angle I can’t reconcile their actions with the message of the concert. So it isn’t just you and God. It’s you, the Vice President, the Minister of Trade and Investment, and Don Jazzy, who are better than you, because they’re sitting in the front row and not because they came early.

All I’ll say is that in the world of The Experience there’s a VIP section in heaven.

But it couldn’t have been all that bad. I mean, we didn’t see your snapchats, but you sounded so pleased the morning after that you must have had a good time?

You didn’t see my snapchats because I’m no longer on snapchat. I deleted it the other day. And even if I hadn’t I wouldn’t have posted anything. My battery was dying, my power bank was dead, and there was no internet.

But I did have a good time. The music was fantastic. Travis Greene was a revelation. I literally danced the whole time. It was like that time I went to that festival in Brighton. At the festival I was drunker than a man should ever be, but here I was drunk on the Lord. I kept looking at myself and saying, “is this really you Afam? You’re smiling like a fucking Christian.”

How does a Christian smile?

Quite frankly, they smile like they’re retarded. Their eyes are somehow looking upwards even when they're looking right at you, and they don't stop. They smile like they literally give no ducks about anything happening in this realm.

And this is a good thing?

Yes! It's an amazing thing. It’s like you’re on drugs only that you're not. I mean can you imagine me singing something about there being enough blood on Jesus' cross for me? Dude, I was insane in the best way, and it hasn't worn off. I'm still singing about the blood of Jesus without an ounce of cynicism. I’m feeling very great and very good.

What were your most memorable moments of The Experience 11?

Well there was a joke about farting in the beginning. The comedian whose name I can’t remember said something about Benjamin’s mess being five times greater than anyone else’s and that being why he got blessed the most. It was a license to fart and I abused it.

Then one lady sang the second verse of the Nigerian National anthem and fainted right after. I mean, she dropped like a rock. But I didn’t blame her. Singing the second verse of the Nigerian national anthem isn’t an easy task. It asks God for a lot. It says, “O God of creation direct our noble cause. Guide our leaders right. Help our youth the truth to know.” Well first of all God would have to transform the Nigerian cause into a noble one, and that’s a hard ask. Then it’s asking God to guide our leaders right, and that’s a very difficult task. You see, if there’s one thing Nigerian Politicians have in common it’s how they seem to delight in making life more difficult for the common man. She had to get some backlash from a prayer like that.

There was this other time when the Pastor on the stage was saying pray for the country, and pray for the people, and I swear I think I might have heard a civilian scream, “PRAY FOR TOKE MAKINWA!” I had a very guilty laugh.

Lastly I think my most memorable moment came when Chioma Jesus was performing, and she started screaming, “GET RADICAL FOR JESUS!” And what did the Nigerians do? They lifted their chairs above their heads and danced with them. Mama Afam even joined them in the madness. I don’t think anyone can forget the image of their mother dancing with a white plastic chair raised high above her head.

Happy days,
Afam and thetroamteam.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I kept looking at myself and saying, “is this really you Afam? You’re smiling like a fucking Christian.” - Bless you.

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