On Saturday night I went to the closing ceremony of a Music Competition organised to promote HIV-AIDS awareness and prevention. This is the 5th time this has been held – what is called here the fifth edition, and I cannot just now think what the English equivalent wording would be. The original competitions were organised by the Association where I work, and we are still a partner in the event.
So that’s good news, because it means we turn up, walk right in, and get given good seats. Not the best seats, which are reserved for the patron, and the ‘marrains’ – godmothers/sponsors. The best seats are upholstered armchairs, which to my eye look a little out of context in the middle of a bare earth courtyard, but this is typical hospitality for the great and the good here (they also get a bottle of chilled water each). The next best seats are cushioned chairs which look like they have been borrowed from a reception area (probably the case). We are allocated the slatted wooden chairs, with arms, such as might be seen around a swimming pool, about 3 rows back, with a clear view of the stage. Not bad. Behind us are several rows of people on the spectacularly uncomfortable metal chairs which are common in, for example, cyber cafes, here. And behind them, loads of people standing, squatting or sitting on the ground.
The Patron is the Minister for Public Administration and the Reform of the State who I seem to be coming across quite regularly these days - could this be anything to do with a looming election? We have timed our arrival quite well; nothing can start until he arrives, which is quite soon (in a convoy of 4x4s). So not even much waiting around.
The competition has been going on for several days, with some 20 entrants singing, dancing and playing music, and a jury to score the candidates. The finalists battled it out Saturday afternoon, and the grand finale evening is for each of them to play in turn, and also for some well known artistes (some of whom are success stories from earlier competitions) to sing and dance too. And of course speeches, prize-giving and masses of handshaking. The prizes are ‘enveloppes’ – that is, money – and a huge box (dare I say family size?) of condoms each. Also they get publicity, and I think perhaps studio recording opportunities for the winner.
It was a beautiful evening, warm but not hot, calm, virtually wind-free, with a starry sky. The compères were excellent, and so was most of the music. The theme tune, as everywhere for everything this year, was the World Cup anthem ‘Wavin’ Flag’ and there were splendid fanfares for the all the prize winners and those thanked. The sound system and the lights, mostly hand-held, worked without a glitch. The organisers, another Association, certainly know how to put on a show.