As with every Cobhams Asuquo produced event, I went to his debut album launch at the Civic Centre, filled with high expectations. And this is for many reasons – one of which is the fact that everywhere around the world, musical content has greatly depreciated. IK Osadiuwa rightly pointed this out in opening the night, and for a minute I could not help but appreciate the contrast in musical generations and note the prevailing “emptiness” of many songs by most contemporary artistes. When you think about the artiste Cobhams: his art; the niche he has finely carved out for himself in the industry, then the impact he already has made in this generation and will inevitably make in generations to come is clear to see. I make bold to say that many years from now when my unborn sons and daughters become adults, this is one artiste from my time in whose lyrics they would still find meaning – whose words reflect the love, hope and dreams I nurtured at this stage. I feel so proud that I can point to Cobhams and say to them: See, we weren’t all emptiness and loud noise and no depth.
The evening began with a dinner. And now, IK Osadiuwa teased: “Nobody does this; a free concert, with jollof rice! Cobhams is the future!” Beyond the jollof rice though, a second reason I was keen to attend the event is the quality of his live productions (for some reasons, Cobhams could still be found at the back, listening and checking with the sound engineers that every sound, every note was in place just before he got on stage). There is great instrumentation, the smoothness of the show and the synergy between the majesty of the guitars, the drums, the beauty of the piano; the saxophones; great backup singers and the superiority of Cobhams Asuquo’s voice. You can hear a full orchestra in the music. Memories from the 2015 edition of Hennessy Artistry (RnB) produced by him still shines in my mind.
However, the content of the album in itself was quite different from how I imagined it and I am sure I do not speak for myself alone. As though listening to my thoughts, Cobhams would later say (and I paraphrase): I am sure many of you are surprised by the kinds of songs you are hearing on this album judging by the fact that I produce all kinds of things.
To someone just walking into the venue, it could easily have been mistaken for a church gathering; not surprising as Cobhams would say of himself “I am a church boy”. The album is a collection of 14 “gospel songs” apart from his popular single, Ordinary People which occupies the 11th spot on the album. He features only 4 people in the entire album including Chocolate City’s Nosa. And three of the songs are covers of popular gospel songs: Sinach’s “More of You’” Hillsong Worship’s “Here I am to Worship” and the classic hymn “Praise to the Lord”.
Speaking on how this album describes his stance as an artiste during his interview with Adesuwa Onyenokwe midway through the evening, he pointed out “I am a Christian who does music.” And on why he waited so long to make this album now he says “It is now that I am vocal about who I am”. His opening performance and first track off the album is the solemn “Make our Hearts” a gentle beckon to the Lord to make our hearts his dwelling place and for some minutes, led by Cobhams thoughts were cast to our government, our leaders and ourselves; wondering how different we will all be if we made space for the Lord in our hearts. “Here it is” which is my favourite for the feeling it evokes, its rhythm and the general smoothness of it. Another favourite is ‘No one’ featuring Nosa.
Cobhams insisted that “The kingdom of God is right here on earth and it is in how we do things, how we live life”. Going by this assertion, I was in heaven that night. So when we beckoned on God in “Let your Kingdom come” I was a little surprised. Didn’t Cobhams know he already brought The Kingdom down to the earth by virtue of an evening so solemn and beautiful and surprisingly different? “We are the people who will do great things and triumph in these times”, he closes. “For You“; the song for which the album is named occupies the 7th place on the album and reminds us of our dark moments and those trying times when all we need is, God. It is same for Cobhams who disclosed that he wrote the song during a very trying period.
“When you are born blind in the 80’s the odds are already stacked against you. There was no blind Nigerian Music producer when I decided to be a music producer… I believe I was born to do great things, I have a lot of confidence in in what I do …I am full of love for myself…a lot of the things you think are your security are not your security…” Cobhams said of himself at different points in the evening while talking about family, growing up, love and great friendship and support that he has enjoyed over time from everyone around him. And it is of this people and love and guidance he sings of in the final track of the album, “Angels All Round”.
It was a smooth and solemn event with the only hiccups being the fund raising session – the stuff of traditional album launch events- anchored by the awesome Pastor Tony Rapu. And the reason is simple; it broke the flow of the entire event with that momentary rowdiness. Other than that, it was a great evening and despite the surprising turnout of the album, a large percentage of the guests held their sits till thank-yous were said at 10:41 PM.