NIGERIAN FANS ‘SMITTEN’ BY R.KELLY
There’s no denying that the 42 year old R&B star has a huge following across the length and breadth of Nigeria.
Since his 1993 solo debut, the singer-songwriter has been a hit with Nigerian fans. And many, up to this day, continue to cherish his greatest hits; unanimously agreeing that there’s no contesting the fact that he’s the ‘R’ in RnB.
But following repeated allegations of child pornography and minors’ abuse, especially the 2002 leaked video tape allegedly showing Kelly and a 14 year-old engaging in sex, many followers renounced their fan-ship, apparently disgusted by the purported act, and convinced by the weight of the evidence against him. Radio stations in Lagos yanked him off their playlist. Writers condemned him, and many publicly expressed their disappointment.
But for six years, Kelly insisted he was not the man in the video. And not for a minute did he allow the tribulations to diminish his art. He was eventually declared not guilty on June 13, 2008.
But it was until a year later, before one could say for sure, if Nigerian fans still thought him guilty or not.
When he set foot on Lagos for the first time last week, one thing was clear: Mr. Kelly was keen about leaving a good impression. Before, during and after his gigs in Lagos and Abuja, he went ‘out of his way’’ to bond with fans, reporters and crew members. He asked to be snapped with the most unlikely people, exchanging banters with pleasantly surprised fans, and generally carrying on like a ‘’regular guy’’.
Many who came across the singer were easily reminded of Wyclef Jean, the Haitian who will go down in history as the most friendly, most unassuming and most supportive foreign act to ever visit Nigeria.
‘‘He’s so so simple, I can’t believe it!’’ a fan who attended the show told e-Punch.
‘‘He walked up to me and said, when are we taking our picture?’’, Lily, and industry insider who worked on the concerts, told friends excitedly.
He autographed her call card.
Another guest, who saw the star singer use a fan’s handkerchief to wipe his face, could not stop marvelling at ‘his himility’.
For someone who rarely tours or travel far, it’s interesting how well the singer has mastered public relations; how he manages to sweep fans off their feet even when there’s no mic in his hands – especially fans who did not have the best of opinions of him, prior to his visiting.
How did he do it, that fans who – just a few years ago were burning his CDs and calling him names, were suddenly scrambling to cough out alarming figures to see him rock the stage? How did he do it that, after just a few nights in the country, they’re now the ones spreading his gospel like they’re paid to do so?
He gave a good account of himself in Lagos and Abuja, drawing from a rich repertoire of fresh and old materials. But visiting acts are usually known to give a good account of themselves. What they fail to do most times, is leave a proper impression of their personae; what they fail to do is pull ‘PR stunts’, that can cause a whole nation to pronounce a ‘not guilty’ verdict.
Didn’t Kelly just do that?