Welcome to the Cave: Experiencing the Cavemen and Cavy people at Jabi Boat Club, Abuja. 

It was the first time I was going to be under the live influence of the dynamic cavemen duo Kingsley Okorie (Lead Singer/Bassist) and Benjamin James (Lead Singer/Drummer) and 6 friends (Bosh on the trumpet, Segun formerly known by his slave name “Eddysax” on the Saxophone, Shegs on the Electric Guitar, Fiyin on the Keyboards, Bolton on the Percussion and Ope who doubled as one of the event curators on the electric guitar); the messiahs of Highlife music. The last time they were in Abuja, the tickets sold out at the speed of wizkid in the O2 but it brought to my consciousness the fact that Abuja is a land filled with cavy people as opposed to crack; it played host to their first performance as the cavemen at the Tamerri Festival in December 2017.

The location for this cavy experience was dreamy, Jabi Boat Club, the closest thing to a beach in Abuja – with a mixture of the cool night breeze from the man-made Jabi lake, beach sand, veins pumped with liquor, great sound and ambience, cavy people and the OG cavemen, we were set for an amazing experience. 

Let’s Introduce The Cavemen

Benjamin the drummer reminds me of Tony Allen (Fela and the African 70’s drummer) when he said all I want to do is play my fu**ing drums and do that high pitch thing he does with his voice (you guys know the thing I’m talking about), he transcends his physical essence once he mounts his drums, he explained it in an interview with cruise zone by saying it’s the Holy Spirit taking over mixed with the flow that comes with mastery. You can get into the groove just by watching him strut his stuff. He seems to have a distant sense of humour and an old soul trapped in a young body. He’s deeply spiritual and ascribes many of the songs to dreams. I just dream of the words, wake up, tell Kingsley and we create.

I think our music is mostly spiritual rather than physical.

Benjamin James for Pulse

Kingsley (Knote) the bass guitarist seems more adept at interviews maybe because of his background in law, he’s a beautiful storyteller and personifies the description of your grandfather telling tales by the moonlight. He has the wisdom of the elders; which explains some of their deep lyrics and quotes during interviews. His energy and improvisation on stage is magnificent to behold. He has a pronounced Igbo accent for someone who can’t speak the language.  

 A good intention will find a home.

Kingsley Okorie

About the Cavy People

Let me introduce the Cavy People; just like wizkid has the FC, Naira Marley the Marlians, fans of the Cavemen are called cavy people. The music brings us together but being cavy is more than the sounds and rhythms, it’s a way of life. There’s a fine blend of cavy people that cut across the corporate world and the streets; so when you see a cavy person in any setting remember to tell them to stay cavy

I feel our sound is what the average Nigerian would want to hear and that’s not exactly dominant anymore in the Nigerian mainstream. Our music also transcends generations and demographics.

Kingsley Okorie

Highlife Fusion – The Cavy Music

It’s becoming increasingly glaring that the late Millennials/Gen-z’s are a group of rebels; the norm does not just sit well with us. David a wise man once said if you talk you collect describing this Generation, we really no send anybody’s papa. In this context, it has to do with the kpon-kpon and western sounds we have been constantly served. If you consider the music from the post-independence era, there was a wider range of sounds the golden generation could feast on; Oliver de Coques Highlife, King Sunny Ades Juju, Victor Uwaifos Highlife, Fela Kuti’s Afro-beat, Victor Olaiya, Osita Osadebe, Rex Lawson, Ebenezer Obey. Also, growing up in an African church, you would remember that the sounds that marked the peak of praise and worship were Makossa, Woro or Highlife. The moderately paced grooves would always elicit an almost involuntary jeer and gyration from the crowd, the movement seemed like something hardcoded into the African DNA. 

Mainstream music has relegated this highlife music we so intimately crave to the back, leaving open this huge vacuum the cavemen have come to fill and so calling them the “Messiahs of highlife music” is not a reach at all. They call the cavy music Highlife Fusion.

We felt the peak of Igbo Hi-life music kind of died with the Nigerian Civil war – after Celestine Oku and Rex Lawson. In fact, the end of the Nigerian civil war gave birth to psychedelic rock bands.

Benjamin James for Pulse
Benjamin James and The Cavemen Live in Jabi Boat Club, Abuja by Sadiq Sarumi. The African Hobo

The Cavy Experience

The Music we were about to listen 

Emanated from the cave 

What is the cave?

The cave is the heart of a man. 

The cave represents purity, primitiveness and creativity.

Welcome to the Cave from R.O.O.T.S

Fela introduces his set by saying Everybody say Yh Yh and Femi Kuti with A ra ra ra ra.

The Cavemen say Una dey feel the Groove

The Crowd will respond Yh Yh

Cavy People and The Cavemen Live in Jabi Boat Club, Abuja by Sadiq Sarumi. The African Hobo

This Interactive and Participatory style of performance used by the cavemen carries the crowd along and was used throughout this cavy experience to get everyone into the spirit of the groove.

They started the set with Iro off their award-winning 16 track debut album ROOTS. The song encourages you not to quarrel or take offence because you don’t know what you will be “ọ bu onye makwazi ife ọ ga-egbu“. The live rendition had the horns play some punching notes which was not the case in the digital album, this gave the song a completely different feel.

As Selense a feel-good love song was introduced, Kingsley made sure to differentiate English people who pronounce it as se-len-cefrom cavy people who call it Seh-Len-Seh. They upped the tempo of their performance with this one as it was brimming with the fast-paced shaky and pipe-y percussions that give Highlife a special flavour. The catch for this performance were the breaks after each chant that allowed Benjamin the freedom to really express himself on the drums.

Knote and The Cavemen Live in Jabi Boat Club, Abuja by Sadiq Sarumi. The African Hobo

The Cavemen’s highlife is a music of escapism. It is music made for dance and a good time, for swinging hips and shimmering buttocks and so they regularly gave room for interludes where the band just played and allowed the cavy people to express themselves how they liked. Groove Belleful. During these interludes, all the instrumentalists got their 5 seconds of fame and boy did they take it well. Olusegun Sax burst into a cover of Zombie by Fela Kuti; the blend of Afrobeat and Highlife might be an exciting prospect.

Bolo Bolo (Happiness in the Cave) this song started with this probing question, what will you do so that a woman will not take you for a fool? (Ọ gini ka i ga-eme ka nwanyi a ghara i bolo bolo su). It’s a light-hearted groove that showed the dexterity of Benjamin both as a drummer and a singer laid majorly on the rhythm guitar and percussion. This is a sound that will take you back straight to your village party in the ’60s as you gyrate freely with your blood stuffed with freshly tapped palm wine and your belly stuffed with freshly roasted chicken. On a more serious note, What will you do so that a woman/man won’t take you for a fool?

Knote and Segun of The Cavemen Live in Jabi Boat Club, Abuja by Sadiq Sarumi. The African Hobo

Bena started rather hilariously with Kingsley calling out the saxophonist Olusegun because he had just been left hanging by a “Bena”. It progressed to a call and response “Bena leave me o” before the full groove kicked. As the groove climaxed, they infused a sample from the King Of Pop Michael Jacksons “You’ve got to be starting something, you’ve got to be starting something and Benjamin falsettoed with Mama se kuku samama kusa“. It was an improvisation I did not see coming but blended in almost perfectly.

We got the chance to witness the cavemen’s process of creating music. Kingsley got the crowd clapping to a 4/4 time signature alongside the drum kick and as that settled in, the horns and percussion came in with some rhythm. Experiencing the music take shape was beautiful, like a master chef putting a classic meal together. The impact of what the cavemen are doing now might not be fully understood yet but it’s setting precedence to what the future of music in Africa will look like. (I digress).

Me You and I one of the songs they mentioned was gotten from a dream (meanwhile na just vibes dey my own dreams). It’s a song you can sing to reassure your lover that they don’t have to cry /Baby, you should know it’s alright / Don’t let this love / Don’t let this love fade away / Let our love be magical. Kingsley skillfully led the cavy mass choir by the 1,2,3 call and response as they screamed the lyrics If you be my baby girl / I will be your baby boy/ Oo ye ye into the abyss of the night making everyone feel in that moment like they were a part of the band.

Knote and Segun of The Cavemen Live in Jabi Boat Club, Abuja by Sadiq Sarumi. The African Hobo

They were excited to share new songs from their sophomore album coming out before the end of the year; whoop whoop we’re eating good. It had the lyrics- I won’t let you go, please hold my hands.

They describe their music sometimes as Brain and Booty because of its ability to be poured into reflective forms, danceable ballads that travel beyond erotic playfulness and into sentimental world-weary emotions. The music is expressed as serious but unserious at the same time; you can dance to it, you can also meditate on it.

The Cavemen Live in Jabi Boat Club, Abuja by Sadiq Sarumi. The African Hobo

Ah, Akaraka oh (Destiny) Echi d’ime (Tomorrow is pregnant), Kingsley rhythmically intones on “Akaraka” in his husky Igbo tongue over the accompanying traditional instrumentals certain to send shots of nostalgia through your body.

The experience cannot be complete without mentioning the horn guys; Bosh and Olusegun Sax who were having so much fun with the music, they played the shakers and ekwe and injected more life into the set by singing and dancing whenever the horns weren’t playing.

Onyema Uche speaks to the mind of a man, highlighting the saying that what you don’t know won’t hurt you. Please this does not relate to the paternity of your child. The song says it’d be better for us to live life not knowing the mind of another person. Because if you know my mind, you might run away from me. And if I know your mind, I might run away from you. This is one of my best songs on the album, the sound transcends the lyrics, the chants are deeply reflective sending chills down your spine.

The pace of the groove started to slow down when they entered Obiageri a sombre song that features Mama; it would have been absolutely bonkers if she had joined them on stage. The lyrics aren’t so straight as it talks about someone who only came to the world to enjoy and come close only to take but are never of any real value.

Next up was one of the songs the cavemen first released Osondu a song they say was birthed out of frustration but giving to them by God and took them about 2years to finally release. It takes you on a solemn journey through life with a prayer asking God for guidance.

Mgbe I na-aga ije gi elekwala anya n’azu, ọsọndu

When you’re going on your journey, don’t look back, it’s the race of life. In the race of life you have to keep moving

Osondu

They winded the set up by looking for their shoes and clothes because Anita wanted to kill somebody; a bubbly ode to a woman that had them sprung. A concept everyone can easily relate with, the primal need to love and be loved.

Kingsley ended by affirming that they were taking highlife to the world. That means we will have a bigger cavy community. If you have never attended a cavemen’s concert, you are simply missing out on something magical.

Cavy People and The Cavemen Live in Jabi Boat Club, Abuja by Sadiq Sarumi. The African Hobo

As I come to the end of this article, I ask myself- Will they stay true to the Roots? How will the pending international recognition affect their originality? Where will they be 20 Years from now?

Whatever the case may be, I am already proud of the legacy my “rebellious” generation will leave behind. The future of Afro-beat in Made Kuti, Reggae in Skip Marley, Highlife in The Cavemen but to mention a few. There’s a host of African sounds that can still be explored and western sounds that need the African influence, the cavy people are well fed we are eating good now and the cavy people are not malnourished. 

Thank-Yooooo! (in knotes Igbo accent)

Hope you enjoyed this article from the cave and remember to stay cavy!

All Pictures were taken by Sadiq Sarumi (IG @SadiqSarumi)

Stream Roots by The Cavemen

Finally Finally,

Big Shout-out to everyone that put this show together and sponsors; Ope (Peeyloopy), Jessica Bongos, Jabi Boat Club and Heineken Ng.

Hobo-Out (@theafricanhobo)

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