Monday, May 15, 2006

Jazz 38 - Lagos, Nigeria

I scanned in some pictures form one of my favorite places while I was in Lagos a few days ago, posted on my flickr account. To the right is a scan of my original ticket, from my first visit to the club. Jazz 38 became a regular and common refuge from the insanity of trying to run a 24/7 computer room in Lagos, Nigeria. The N50 price was less than $1US, and once inside the club, local beer could also be had for even less.

After my first time there, I wrote down some thoughts in my journal, and I thought I'd transcribe them here, now.

Jazz 38, Awolowo Road
Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria
July 31, 1993

I finally got out to see some of the 'real' Lagos. I was itching to go out and have a few beer; not at the Eko, but someplace new and different. I asked around, and Jazz 38 was suggested.

Physically, the place is a hole. A ramshackle tin roof is held up by makeshift bamboo poles - It looks as though is could collapse at any moment. The tables are a standard wooden card table covered in yellow plastic tablecloths, and the chairs are simply plastic lawn chairs. It all sits on a bare concrete floor.

Like most everywhere else in Lagos, the club has no walls. A gentle breeze flows through, aided by several ceiling fans, to cool the customers and performers. The stage is little more than a hastily thrown together set of wooden planks.

But as bad as the place might be in the physical sense, its atmosphere is beyond compare, in a spiritual and musical sense. The staff is very friendly, and the beer is cheap (N30 for Star compared to N50 at the Eko). Three dogs roam the club at will, more part of the family than pets or protectors.

The house band, Fran and Tunde Kuboye and the Extended Family Band are, in a word, superb. Fran's voice is a masterful instrument, as comfortable with the softest ballad as that hardest blues. Her husband Tunde is an equally versatile bass player, and the whole band seemed very fine musicians, comfortable with a range of African tunes, through their own versions of rock classics. Fran does a haunting version of Moondance, only to belt out a version of Respect that would likely draw it from Aretha herself.

In short, it was an amazing experience, one that I intend to repeat.
It was an experience I repeated throughout my years in Lagos. I own a copy of their album Jisting, a full 10 original tunes, purchased at a VERY reasonable N500 on CD. I even recall a wonderful night spent socializing with the family after the club closed.

Sadly, Fran died suddenly in 1997, bringing to an end her singing. More than that, though, she was a well known youth leader in the area and a Dentist. From what I have heard, Tunde still runs the club ... and operates it partly as a youth centre. I also know he opened another youth centre in Fran's honour after her death.

I do know they represent one of the true highlights of m time in Lagos. More than just one night, Fran and Tunde, and their club, gave me hours of fun, of wonderful music to escape an insane work environment, especially in my early years in Lagos. I still find myself loving their music ... its currently on my iPod, and likely always will be. Definitely a highlight from Lagos, but one that, sadly, will never be the same. You truly can't go home again.


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