Beyond the harvest of laurels and concerts at the 2013 Black Entertainment Television Awards in Los Angeles, USA, stakeholders in the global entertainment industry have a lot to learn from the event, writes AKEEM LASISI, who was there.
Scores of superstars virtually transformed Los Angeles into a planet of concerts over the weekend when the prestigious Black Entertainment Television Awards took place in the American city amid festivities. Winners in various categories, including Nigeria’s Ice Prince, who won an award in the Best International Act –Africa category, are the primary beneficiaries of the panorama established in 2001 by BET Network to “celebrate African Americans and other minorities in music, acting, sports, and other fields of entertainment.”
But lovers of good music, ranging from the secular to sacred, savoured top-rated performances in an ambiance that is comprehensively ready for such an elite fiesta.
Congratulating the organisers of the event, thanking the audience and promising to do more, American pop star, Beyonce, gave a stunning performance at the expansive Staples Centre on Friday.
Oozing elegance, crooning with panache and dancing with an incredible energy, she thrilled the audience endlessly to a rehash of her hit-songs in a manner that evoked nostalgic feelings.
The choreography that propelled the singer’s show was also phenomenal. This, coupled with her usually rapacious costume, which changed almost with the speed at which a chameleon changes its colour, further enshrined her in the hall of fame of quintessential show women. No wonder, the audience rewarded her with wild dancing and endless hooting that inspired her to sing more.
Beyonce said she was happy to be back on stage in Los Angeles and re-assured her fans that the duty of a musician is to make the people feel good.
While several other artistes performed all through the awards, the next big treat came on Saturday night when Snoop Dogg led other celebrities, such as Kendrick Lamar, Miguel and Schoolboy Q, in action. Unless you wanted Dogg to break into two – or more – you would not expect him to go into the kind of acrobatics that defined the acts of Beyonce and some of the other performers. Apart from the fact that Dogg harbours arresting acrobatics in his voice, he also demonstrated a good measure of theatrics in his own way of dancing.
Also, some female dancers occasionally enlivened the performance when they danced seductively round Dogg. Besides, the symphony between his performances and those of Lamar and others was positively felt by the audience. Dogg, indeed, demonstrated a remarkable sense of responsibility during the awards, as the same artiste that participated in the mentoring aspect of the festival, teaching aspiring artistes how to make it in the industry, was back on stage on Sunday when he performed alongside never-say-die Chirlie Wilson, winner of Lifetime Achievement Award.
And it is this type of fervour that the likes of Mike Epps, Janelle Monae, Erykhan Badu, The Roots and Friends, Nelly, MC Lyte, Too Short, Kirk Franklin, Chris Brown, R Kelly, New Edition and the Jacksons demonstrated while the festival lasted. In front of microphones and on instruments, the sense of professionalism they exhibited was phenomenal.
In the BET Awards slogan and tradition, anything can happen. But nothing happened by chance over the weekend. The system was quite ready to contain any unusual occurrence.
From the number of stars on queue to perform, new songs, films and the typical American ‘swag’ that travelled from mouth to mouth, you could not miss the fact that the BET Awards event is a huge festival of fun, what with the exhibition and sales of all kinds of food that came in dramatic packages.
In one of the food sheds, the otherwise thorny, conical body of a pineapple became a novel jug from which guys sipped creamy fluids with tempting ease. This would remind one of how Badagry people, in Lagos State, also cleverly twist the fate of virgin coconut shells, when they just open its top and turn it into a jug of a native drink. At the BET arena, even anything could so much happen that the corn, chicken, turkey, pork, salt and pepper you used to know would, in now unfamiliar forms, beckon at you from equally new pots.
Yet, the observant soul would resist getting totally carried away by the fanfare. It is a difficult task to remain your passionate or impassionate journalist here, really. The rate at which music blasted and the stages rumbled beneath the artistes’ vocal chords, which constantly jammed with the audience’s roars, could easily ensnare the reporter, who could get carried away by the spectacle.
But dotting the canvas of the festive sky, which, being summer, radiated a sun with sometimes overzealous rays, was the message that after all said and done, entertainment is a serious business. There is the message that entertainment, as the BET rolled out, does not happen by chance; and it does not exist in a vacuum. It is a product of well-thought-out plans and synergy, with almost every other segment of the influential society.
For instance, enlightened and genuine corporate support is key. Apart from the fact that the various businesses and other organisations that support the BET Awards responded as due in the course of planning, the zeal that they demonstrated during the festival, pampering guests and audience in general with a taste of their products – the beverages companies endlessly competed for the participants’ tummies – contributed to its success.
Next is the issue of security. As expansive as the awards programmes were, and as widespread and sophisticated as the venues were, there were security men and women – police and civil – manning every point. They were warm and civil in their approach but they were, at the same time, proactive, precise and firm. The result is not just that there were no ugly incidents, the participants felt secure, while the organisers were also able to achieve their goals. This is a factor that organisers of similar events in Nigeria have to bear in mind, in terms of the need to cultivate security well ahead of the time of their programmes.
And what is BET Awards without the infrastructural largesse that the American culture offers it? With the existence of magnificent venues, such as the L.A Live, Staples Centre and Nokia Centre, it seemed that the task of the organisers of the event had been done.
The imposing theatres/auditoriums/halls are not just ready to swallow any audience, no matter how huge. They are connecting structures that make mobility easy and interesting, even if at times intriguing. This is complemented by the fact that they stand in proximity to big hotels that include Marriot Hotel, to which the BET Awards conveniently spread their tentacles.
The Staples Centre will particularly tickle any lover of quality concerts. In terms of size, it can swallow the zeal of an inexperienced artiste, to the point that he or she may collapse at the sight of the number of the sea-like audience that yelled practically with all parts of their bodies. But once the performer is sure of himself, the Staples Centre is eager to give his talent new wings and boost his creativity with a compelling technology, as especially exemplified by the surreal lighting system it commands.
Originally a multipurpose sports arena and home of major basket ball teams that include Los Angeles Lakers, Staples Center has 18,118 capacity that was really stressed by the BET crowds. The likes of Beyonce and Dogg enjoyed these facilities at the BET carnival and their tested musical endowments arguably never remained the same. It is such a synthetic preparedness that apparently buoyed BET Networks Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Debra Lee, to, on Friday evening, promised to deliver a world class panorama to celebrate music, film and other aspects of art and life.
“The BET is to elevate, educate and entertain,” she said at a reception for nominees that included Ice Prince and Donald from South Africa. The reception was held at the open roof arena of Marriot Hotel. It was a fulfilled Lee that later spoke during the awards finale on Sunday, when she also announced the winner of the Humanitarian Award – Diyane Wade.