By Tibebeselassie Tigabu and Mihret Aschalew
Taking a glimpse of their short miniskirt outfits, their straightened hair, makeup, mascara and lipstick, one can guess that they were preparing themselves for a special occasion. On Saturday night, at Ghion Hotel, four girls were standing close to the employees’ canteen.
One of the girls, with her infectious love, was saying, “If I don’t do it for Teddy Afro who will I do it for then?”, explaining about why she straightened her hair.
It was not only these girls who came for the Teddy Afro concert, outfitted in short skirts and high heels. Other women were also in miniskirts and hight heels.
Their excitement and hype seem to make them forget the cold. Then they headed to the small underground toilet. Inside the toilet, which does not have light, three girls were changing from jeans to miniskirts. After a while, they came out and joined the crowd.
At the main gate, crowds were shoving and inside couples were lying on the grass while some were queuing up to get drinks. Before the star attraction came music, which was being played by the DJ.
From the day of the announcement everybody thought that tickets would be sold out. So many of his fans bought their tickets early.
On the concert day, the entire road was swarming with people. The road that takes to the stadium, to Ambassador Theater and on the opposite side to Meskel Square, was so crowded. Apart from that, there were rumors that fake tickets were being sold.
On that day, one of the issues was parking. Some also used the nearby clinics to park their car.
The queue was on two sides, the longer queue was on the road to Ambassador and the other on the road to Meskel Square. Then after a little while the crowd rushed to the gate, pushed the security guards and broke in. The security guys were forced to beat up some of them.
When the crowd was entering the concert room, one of the coordinators, who was sitting in a pickup car, was shouting on the microphone saying: “Please hold up your tickets.”
Without any checking, unlike some strict concerts, people started to get in pushing and jostling one another.
One of them in the crowd was the renowned composer Abegaz Kibrework, who also had composed the song Tikur Sew.
After entering the placed they scattered to find spots while some preferred to go straight to the drinking spots and the food area.
Despite all that hustle, still many people were waiting patiently for the highlight of the night – Teddy Afro.
Around 9:30Pm Teddy Afro’s song came and many jumped on the stage. But it was a short documentary film about the artist.
This short documentary film depicts the inception of Teddy Afro’s music, the people who mentored him and also the inspiration behind his music and lyrics.
Whenever new songs come on the film, the audience were cheering and applauding. Finally, the highly anticipated singer came on the stage. That was also featured by the crowd going insane with shouting, cheering, clapping and jumping.
Teddy started the night with a song from his earlier album, Abugida, featured by Abugida Band. The crowd seemed to know each word, verse, rhythm in the song and they were singing along like a national anthem.
Apart from Teddy the staging, which is designed by the Ethiopian makeup artist Tesfaye Wondmagegn, was also decorated with writings of Tikur Sew. The lighting that changed from minute to minute turned blue, yellow and other colors.
Since it was very difficult to see Teddy further, apart from the stage, the crowd was trying to have a good view. Some were standing on the beer casket and climbing on a tree.
Teddy mixed up the songs from his recent and his earlier album; all in all more than 20 songs were performed that night. One of the songs entitled Yasteseryal, which is considered to be controversial, was sung. Many did not expect this song to be performed. It was a mixed up feeling among the audience, especially when repeating one of the verses.
In the meantime, like in the past, he was interacting with the audience with his short sayings “Fiker” (love) and the audience response was “Yashenfal” (wins). Since the theme of the concert is Wode Fiker Guzo (journey to love), Teddy was preaching about love. Some seem to be intoxicated with joy and expressed that with jumping and being out of control.
Whenever Teddy took a break, the DJs of the night also played the fast tempo songs. One of the popular sounds of Nigeria, a song entitled “Chop My Money”, by P-Square featuring Akon, also made the crowd to go crazy.
Far from the stage, people were still lining up for drinks, for toilet and also some were lying on the grass holding each other intimately.
Whenever Teddy came back on the stage, the crowd went crazy and one of the highlights was Teddy changing his outfits.
The sound was appreciated by many when the sound engineer named Philip Christopher Strong, an expert who worked in the past with personalities like Kanye west and Black Eyed Peas, was also involved in this.
Teddy entertained his fans not only with his songs but also with Shimels Ararso’s and Mahmoud Ahmed’s and was finally wrapped up with his song Tikur Sew.
Even though it was a bit late the audience did not want to let go of Teddy and were asking for more songs.
Even though there were euphoric moments many people were disappointed with the crowd management and the hustle they faced. One of them was Behailu Fedlu, who actually got into the concert without showing his card. His was not a special case because there were many who did that too.
He believes that the crowd was too much to handle. The place could not accommodate them. So there were gaps when it came to service. In addition, there were many pickpockets.
“They have been promoting the concert for a while but they did not prepare well when it came to hosting the crowd,” Behailu told The Reporter.
Behailu believes that since there was no checking at the gate, many people had smuggled in drinks, which have high alcohol content and they were also throwing bottles.
Even thought there were security guards, they were very small in number especially when it is compared with the crowd.
He also observed four incidents that ended up in fights and throwing bottles at each other.
Since he did not feel safe at that moment, he was forced to leave with his friends before the end of the concert.
One thing that amazed him was when he was asked by some who claim to be coordinators why he was filming.
“There was so much confusion to know who was who and since it was not advertized that filming was not allowed. How would I know if it is allowed or not,” Behailu asks.
Some of the embarrassing things he recalls are looking at people who were peeing on the grass and encountering four people who fainted.
Apart from that he does not believe Teddy played Mahmoud song well and in some instances the musical instruments were bit fast for Teddy.
Even though he was disappointed with the hustle at the gate, he appreciated how the stage was designed, which has an Ethiopian color. The smoothness of the sound system, the lighting and also how Teddy managed to perform well and controlling the stage was some of the good things he observed.
Many in the audience were a bit disappointed when it came to crowd management but were happy with Teddy’s performance, stage design and lighting.
On his part, Ashenafi Zeleke, general manager of the organizer Adika Communication and Events, says that this concert has taught them a good lesson.
He says that everything was smooth when it was all started. After a while things went out of control when the crowd broke in while pushing away the security guards at the gate of Ghion Hotel.
“We could not control what was going on. We learned that there was a crowd that had a different motive. There was no other choice but to let that crowd in,” Ashenafi told The Reporter.
Apart from that he said that many pickpockets were also caught red-handed.
According to Ashenafi, the checking responsibility was given to Ghion Hotel and coordinating the queue was for Adika.
He says that this breaking in is becoming a trend in Addis’s concerts, citing Jah Lude’s concert as an example.
Apart from that, Ashenafi explains that their agreements with Ghion were not fulfilled, such as adding portable toilets.
The food and beverage also was supposed to be taken care by Ghion and Ashenafi explains that they asked them to make it available on different spots but that that was not possible because they could not have many cash registers.
According to Ashenafi, since it is not a good idea to use glasses or bottles during concerts on that occasion, they prepared around 40,000 plastic cups and a responsible team to pour the beer but most of the beer caskets were stolen. So a mix-up was created. On this concert, around 12,000 people came and Ashenafi says that the crowd was very difficult to manage.
“We have past experiences but this was a bit difficult to manage. Looking at the crowd, maybe it would have been better if we did it at a different venue. Unfortunately, we learned the hard way,” Ashenafi states.