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The YoMaps Concert: the song that changed everything – and what followed

By Sampa Kabwela

When YoMaps decided to have his now historic concert on May 27, I knew I would be there.

At Heroes, on May 27, the stadium was divided into several sections.

Inside the pitch, on the farthest north, was the gigantic dome-shaped wonder of a stage with its back against Kabwe. Its full beauty came alive at sunset when the dazzling lights, a show in themselves, lit up. I have been to concerts, home and away, but that thing blew me away.

A few meters from the stage was a section cordoned off for God’s children, the VVIPs, complete with chairs and tables. Right behind them were their cousins, the VIPs.

Out of the pitch, on the west and east terraces on blue seats were the distant relatives and holders of the ordinary tickets.

Then on the farthest south and farthest from the stage, on the orange seats, were children of a lesser god in possession of the cheapest tickets – mostly unemployed youth and youngsters from Matero and Mandevu constituencies and surrounds.

Hundreds of people were trooping into the stadium, with many hundreds more outside in long queues, others locked in traffic, as we were, for two hours, before abandoning our car and walking to the stadium instead. There were hundreds more outside without tickets, hanging by the gates, hoping to get in.

Inside, the atmosphere was ecstatic with collective energy and contagious good vibes and powerful music as YoMaps, and his line up of some of the country’s top artists, sang hit after hit.

The perking order and designated seating arrangement had largely been adhered to.

YoMaps sang the song SAMSONI from his latest album, Try Again.

Everything changed.

When the beat of SAMSONI belted out of those powerful speakers, the stadium, by my estimate, 30,000 people at that point, went into a frenzy.

When he delivered the first line – Unani promisa/Samsoni unanisiya na phoni/waninama boza unipasa na story – scores of fans, led by the orange section, started jumping into the pitch heading north.

Then YoMaps delivered his bewitching falsetto in that song, arousing the collective raw emotions of the audience.

The stadium went wild.

As if being pulled and propelled by something gravitational, those who initially resisted the powerful and striking vocals couldn’t contain it any longer. They started jumping into the pitch, running towards the stage to see and hear YoMaps up close and personal.

Initially, the police reacted and tried to stop the orange-blue mass migration into the pitch. Then, using that instinct that only the police have of knowing when their power ends and the people assume it, they retreated.

As if SAMSONI was not enough, YoMaps went for the ultimate killer, KONDWA – Nakulila mubwafya nensoni/ munilekeleko nikondweleko pangono chabe

By the time SAMSONI and KONDWA, whose beats borrow from the danceable Amapiano, were over, the masses were eating cake at the very front. The artificial class structures were dismantled, and everyone became God’s children to the irritation of the bourgeoise, who shamelessly believe that are entitled to get the best of everything, and not others.

Few things in life can rival the life-changing experience of a good concert.

My first ever concert was in London. I was 22 years old and freshly arrived from Lilanda. That experience impacted my life in ways I will never fully understand. The music, the multitudes, the physical closeness, the oneness, and the collective energy, shifted something in me permanently. I knew there and then that I would take every opportunity in my life to see as many concerts and live music events as possible.

My second concert was Lucky Dube’s at Independence Stadium. I can’t remember the year, but the sound of that afternoon still beats in my chest even though the concert was abruptly cut short by the artist after a sudden and heavy downpour. The following day, The Post Newspaper led with the headline; LUCKY DUBE STOPS REGGAE, a pun on his hit song, NOBODY CAN STOP REGGAE.

My most memorable and life-altering concerts were by Oliver Mutukudzi, Isaiah Walker, Salif Keita, The Sakala Brothers (Born in Matero launch), Hugh Masekela, The London Gospel Choir, UB40, Ron Kenoly, Africa Day Concert in Tokyo and most definitely, my crush and love, Lucky Dube.

Back to the YoMaps concert and its aftermath.

A few things struck me.

The organizers, Kwetu FM, did a stellar job and spared nothing to bring us a world-class and historic concert. I was most impressed by the attention to the smallest detail, such as covering the entire pitch with a massive green tent with the dual purpose of protecting the grass and for revelers to sit on for what was a 13-hour-long show.

In contrast, the inflamed sense of entitlement of the so-called VVIPs was astounding.

The very idea that some bunch of people believe themselves as very, very important people is shameful. The ability to afford priced tickets doesn’t make anyone more important than others.

You should have seen the tantrums thrown by VVIPs who fashion themselves as God’s children and the rest as those of a lesser god when the barriers were broken.

Yes, concert tickets usually have different prices, with the most expensive being closest to the stage and the cheapest farthest.

However, the vast empty spaces between the different ticket tiers are unnecessary. Right behind the VIPs should have been the next tier, followed by the next, until the maximum and allowable number is achieved in the pitch – and the rest in the terraces.

A handful of middle-class shouldn’t have the whole pitch and close view to themselves while the rest are tucked away in seats closer to Matero where the stage is farthest and the sound weakest.

A concert is as much about the music as it is about the people being close together. A concert is not an exclusive gala dinner; it is a public musical event with people in close proximity with only enough room to dance. That’s the magic and power of a concert – strangers packed closely and physically together, making instant friendships, merrying, screaming, overcome with love at the sight of favourite singers, and singing away to the lyrics that lifted then when they were down.

There should be no room for tables and sofas at a concert. Those who take themselves too seriously – bashimuchindikwa – and can’t dance in public or are unfit to stand should sit on terraces or at the back, better still, stay at home.

In a world stratified by class and inequality, the concert is the one place, the last bastion, where we must coexist and mingle as equals, freed from the burden of our positions, possessions and poverty.

The YoMaps concert was an unforgettable shared experience.

I would pay anything for the opportunity to watch YoMaps again and listen to that falsetto in SAMSONI.

As the lines in KONDWA – So munilekeleko / nikondweleko pangono chabe.

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