It is interesting how the human will shapes and bends itself to accommodate a new way; especially when there is an expected benefit to be gained at the end of the day.
The rest of the crew had been very co-operative when he delivered the message from Kenni. He had only given them the general idea of what Kenni had said, but all had agreed to stay off the drugs and weed. It was a remarkable feat for a group of young people who liked to shoot themselves up once in a while. But, then again, they weren’t addicted or anything. They only use for the kick. Just before the start of shows and for when they want to entertain themselves and guests. It was all for fun and the feel good factor.
It was remarkable however how fast they’d all decided to behave themselves -the prize was greater and the collective desire was to gain that prize.
It was in this state of cleanliness that they arrived at the Sherbro International Airport in Bonthe three days later. It was a dusty town just staggering back into consciousness after the bitter war. Even from the airport, the tell-tale signs of its effect were evident – shot up windows at the airport terminal, the near empty arrival lounge filled mostly by military people, mixed with a sprinkling of loiterers and airport staff, the utter lifelessness around the airport itself; moving out into town, the evidence were even more stark. There were entire stretches of road where there was not even a standing building. The streets were scanty and there were several pockmarked portions of road littered with trenches big enough to swallow an elephant. The heavy presence of stern looking UN military police toting bad ass guns ensured there was uneasy calm around the town.
If there was anything near being a ghost town, this was it. They had been driven from the airport in a heavily guarded convoy to Medora in Freetown. It was here in the heart of Freetown, that the entire tour contingent were to be housed. It was also the safest place at the moment. Heavily cordoned off – what is called a Green Zone. The headquarters of the UN peace monitoring team was also housed here.
The Eskimos had been ushered on arrival into a building on Lightfoot Boston Street, a broken down church whose bullet ridden sign still defiantly proclaimed it as the St. George’s Cathedral of Lightfoot, Freetown. An entire section of it was covered with thick canvass, the wall having been blown off in an apparent mortar attack. However, inside was neat and the rooms commodious enough. The building wasn’t far from the Watpuppa pond, which they got a glimpse of on their way in. The surface of the water shimmered in the blistering afternoon sunshine as they drove along the only bridge in the town, an unexpected calm in the midst of the chaos and turbulence. The rest of the acts for the tour were quartered in buildings in different states of devastation scattered along the heavily guarded street. It was from here that they would be transported, under guard again, to the stadium later in the evening for the concert. The plan was to play every night for a week and thereafter, they will be taken round other towns on humanitarian duties. It was risky but it was something that would put the Eskimos on the world map.
Doobi Loo opted to nap while the rest of the band took a stroll around. He was trying to get the image of the girl he had met at The Cave out of his mind. He knew he would have to see her again. His mind had been preoccupied with her ever since that fortuitous meeting. She was beautiful, no doubt about that. But, beyond the beauty was the boldness with which she had walked up to him at The Cave. It was like a challenge. A challenge from a prey to the predator to come after the quarry….she had stirred something in him, and with him, the pain won’t go away until he had finally sated his hunger.
But for now, even this particular hunger will have to wait.
His heart swelled with pride as he watched the Eskimos stride onto the stage in their wine velvet tuxedos. He couldn’t have been more proud of how far this group of young boys he had spotted at the University of Benin during a talent hunt show six years earlier had come. Back then their music was very raw and still very much unknown.
Now, just look at them.
At the time, no one had wanted to touch them; not even with a long spoon. But, as a man of instinct, he had followed his guts. It had always been how he ran his business – not by any particular skill or talent, just old-fashioned gut feeling. He had liked what he heard that afternoon, and his instincts had told him to sign up the group. At the time, it was a group of six –five boys and a girl. Somewhere along the long, hard road to musical relevance the girl had dropped off and one of the boys had also decided to branch off into hip hop. According to him, it was more lucrative. Last Kenni heard of the chap, he was working in a law firm. Music was a long-forgotten dream.
Here on the stage, under the bright lights and sharing the glory of the night with internationally acclaimed superstars like Akon and Tuface, the last remaining four were doing him and their world a lot of good. It was clearly evident they had brought their best game to the table tonight. Their rendition of slow, sorrowful jazz was sweeping the mammoth crowd. He could see shiny faces, some even weeping copiously, as the Eskimos took them away from their pain and sorrow and placed them in a place of joy and hope. From the back row, he could see thousands and thousands of candle lights swaying in the night. It was the undulating motion of a body channeling their collective energies towards seeking happiness and an enduring peace.
His pride was doubled a million fold when Kenny G stepped onto the stage to join the group to further serenade the crowd.
It was a clear testament of whom the night’s stars had been.
Kenni stepped further back and walked away into the darkness of the night, hiding the tears that had welled up in his own eyes.
This was a watershed moment for the Eskimos.