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Afrobeats to the world: WizKid cements global status with Royal Albert Hall gig

International Business Times logo International Business Times 30/09/2017 Toyin Owoseje
Wizkid © Zebie Productions Wizkid

Sitting comfortably at the summit of his career, Afrobeats sensation Wizkid confirmed his status as Nigeria's biggest superstar last night (29 September) with yet another historic feat: becoming the first African artiste to headline London's iconic Royal Albert Hall.

Fans that have followed the 27-year-old singer's journey from toiling in the streets of Lagos trying get his music heard to collaborating with a slew of international stars including Drake and Chris Brown, realise the significance of what he has achieved in the last few years. It is safe to say that he now provokes the same level of hysteria as the late Fela and and his impact is undeniable.

WizKid at the Royal Albert Hall9 stars

UK rapper Yxng Bane was tasked with warming up the crowd, who had to wait almost two hours to see the man of the moment. He managed to do so with an energetic set that included his collaborations with Kojo Funds, his remix of Ed Sheeran's Shape Of You and his latest single, Rihanna.

When Wizkid - real name Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun - finally graced the stage, the naysayers that ever doubted his credibility as an artist were silenced. Kicking off the festivities with Sweet Love, from his 2017 album Sounds From The Other Side, he prepared to seduce concert goers with rapturous stage movements and sensual lyrics.

WizKid © RCA/Sony WizKid

Musicians of his calibre immediately earn bragging rights when a 5000-strong audience can sing their songs word for word. "You know what Wizkid's problem is? Too many hits," he told his adoring fans during almost every interlude before delving into another smash.

You got the sense that the charismatic entertainer was inspired by other rock stars that had paved the way when he threw his sweat-drenched towel into the crowd and watched elated fans scramble to own a memento from the special night. He seemed to relish his role as Africa's rock star as the crowd cheered in appreciation.

With a bulging catalogue of hits, he wasn't short of material. His setlist could not be faulted for offering something for everyone – upbeat classics including Don't dull, Pakurumo and even ballad I Love My Baby, all made the cut. Backed by his band, who paid homage to his Nigerian roots by preforming in native attire, he reminded the capacity crowd, as well as those tuning in via Facebook Live, just why he is one of Nigeria's biggest export.

Fans roared with excitement when he brought out his "brother" and former Mohits star Wande Coal for a surprise performance. The Iskaba hitmaker was the perfect person to keep the momentum at optimal levels as Wiz rushed backstage for an outfit change. Those that had paid for seats soon realized that they had no use for them as they lapped up the singer's energy and danced away the stress of the working week.

Injecting some humour into his show, Wizkid delivered his own impression of Roadman Shaq's parody Fire In The Booth session, leaving fans in stiches. It was particularly touching for comedian Michael Dapaah, who was at the show and celebrating the nonsensical rap entering the UK top 40.

WizKid © Zebie Productions WizKid

Wizkid couldn't hold back his emotion as he prepared to perform Ojuelegba, his career-defining track. The song, from his self-titled second album Ayo highlights his struggles as an underground artist who roamed the streets of Lagos. Performing it for a second time, he expressed his gratitude to fans that had supported his music from the very beginning and were now witnessing history.

The gig, which was part of the organization's Albert sessions, and sees him join the fray of music legends including the Beatles, Elton John and Adele, who have also given stellar live (and solo) performances at the prestigious venue. He put his all into the performance and it was evident that he had waited his entire life for an historic night such as this.

Having struck gold with his collaborations with Drake (One Dance earned him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Record and was the most streamed song on Spotify until 22 September), it was only right he performed their follow up Come Closer.

As he wrapped the show, Starboy revealed that he was determined to sell out the 20,000 capacity O2 Arena next year. But until then, fans can get a taste of what is to come when he joins Future when the Mask Off rapper brings the Future Hndrxx tour to the London venue on 23 October.

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