Forget the Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village, the Kigali Convention Centre, or the outside marquee at the Kigali Serena Hotel.
The ‘Burna Boy Xperience’ at the Intare Conference Arena in Rusororo over the weekend made one bold statement: No venue is too far off to host a good show. With that statement, the mega conference and events facility could have officially joined the ranks of Kigali’s A-list concert venues.
The ‘Burna Boy Xperience’ was a concert of many firsts: It was the Nigerian Afro fusion star’s maiden concert in the country. It was also the Intare Conference Arena’s first major music concert involving an international act, close to two years after the facility was launched.
The concert was organised by Entertainment Factory Ltd, perhaps the newest events company in town, so in a way this was its acid test –an acid test it passed well. The Rwanda Development Board, through its Visit Rwanda campaign, partnered with organisers to stage the show, with a view to giving foreigners and tourists more reason to visit the country.
A visibly pleased Sunny Ntayombya, Head of Communications and Marketing at RDB, dismissed the claim that the venue is too far out of town, asserting that “even if this concert had been taken to Nyagatare, still people would have come”.
Like many others at the show, heseemed rather surprised by the enthusiasm with which young urban Kigalians took to the show.
As darkness fell over the serene and leafy Rusosoro hill, it became evident that all roads in Kigali led in that direction.
As owners of private cars snaked their way to the venue, organisers also ferried in concert-goers by the busload from the designated pick-up point at the Amahoro Stadium main entrance.
With his mostly party-oriented repertoire of hits, Burna Boy enjoys a cult-like following of mostly the youthful millennial crowd, a crowd that he shares with fellow countrymen like Tekno and Mr. Eazy, both of who have staged massively successful concerts in Kigali in the past.
The evening opened to marathon DJ mixes, who were complimented on the turn tables by disc spinners like Pius, Toxxyck, k'ru, Kiss and Fem Deejay.
As Burna Boy’s show time drew closer, local R&B new kid on the block Amalon took to the stage for his five minutes of fame, but amidst a chaotic sound that left many revelers only guessing who it was on stage. He was the lone curtain-raising act.
At a concert where almost everything else was on point, the sound and lighting turned out to be sub-par, especially considering the caliber of artiste people paid to watch, and the venue.
But thanks to the youthful energy in the crowd, it was not a time to whine, but to simply dance, and vigorously so.
Packed like sardines
With the DJs dropping just the right hits, the conference arena turned into one big noisy carnival, as the millennials in the crowd raved along to popular tunes.
Away from the dancing, it was all push and shove at the two beer points, as getting a drink became a matter of survival for the fittest.
Heineken Rwanda, one of the show sponsors, did an excellent branding job, draping the venue in its trademark green, using tear drops and banners. However, their performance was wanting when it came to what mattered the most –selling beer.
The two beer points in the ordinary section were simply too stretched by the beer-guzzling crowd, and it called for extraordinary patience for one to wait it out in the long and aggressive queues. The beers kept running out after every few minutes, at which times people would switch to Uganda Waragi, Jameson, or a fruit cocktail laced with whisky.
Burna Boy’s backup band eventually marched on stage at about 11:20pm, and in ten minutes, was joined by the ‘On The Low’ hitmaker. The deafening applause from the crowd almost drowned his voice out, and it was pretty much that way throughout his set. He sang live where other Nigerian artistes have previously disappointed with playback.
Burna Boy takes knee during his performance.
His performance was as energetic as the dance moves of his adoring, mostly female fans, and the bouncers had a field day restraining the crowds that were tagging at his shoes and pants.
Talking of pants, (and on a lighter note), Burna Boy survived embarrassment when his trousers went rip just below the fly, as the singer executed one of his high energy dance moves. He had to halt his performance and head backstage, where his crew erected a human wall around him, before finding another pair of pants and matching shoes for him. Luckily for him, the crowd hardly noticed anything.