On 22nd April 2009, I was lying in my room in phase 3, Gwagwalada. I noticed a light creeping from side-to-side on my wall. It was coming through my open window. I climbed the water tower to investigate the light. It was a skybeamer and I could tell it was coming from the university compound. I followed the light like the wise men of the east. As I walked closer and closer, I started hearing sounds from beyond SUG- so pristine. I strained to hear better…and it was Hillsong’s “Arise” playing. At first I was pissed that someone could be playing music so loud at that time of the night. As I drew nearer, I was confronted by a swirling mass of bodies, looking hypnotically at a giant electronic screen. And playing a bleeding solo was one black boy wearing a white t-shirt, on a red guitar (I think it was a fender stratocaster).
I was thrilled that the organisers went the lengths of importing an American Rock band. I rocked along, silently ruing the fact that my chosen genre of music, rock, simply had no serious following; neither did it have any bands brave enough to try it. Our band (TheFlame) had just gone through the torturous process of choosing a name. I’d wanted to buy an electric guitar but I settled for a fridge (that turned out to be useless in the end. It still decorates my room) because it may be useless if the people did not like rock.
While the band was doing their final song, I worked my way through the crowds (and shouting the lyrics to “superhero” as if I’d heard it before). I didn’t think it’d be so easy, but I got backstage and waited for them to get off. I identified my target- the guitarist. And I asked him questions- what pedals do you use…surprisingly he actually answered- took me onstage and showed me a yellow/orange pedal (I think it was a daphon).
While we talked, I realised it was actually a Nigerian band from Jos (THREADSTONE). I collapsed to my knees in awe, and I ripped my jeans in the process *facepalm*. They invited me/the band to their hotel room the next morning. But before the night was over, a fireworks show started suddenly and I fell (to take cover) for the second time that evening. It was when I realised that I was the only one on the floor that I stood up. Till this day, those of the band that remember make a show of remembering who I am and then tease me about that night. That night, just when I was about giving up any hope of playing real rock, seeing TS on stage revived the dream. So if you ever watched us sing/enjoyed our band’s company, you know who to thank!
So we went to the hotel. While I was talking to Joseph, I was listening to someone playing the piano in the background. When I turned to see who was rehearsing, I saw that it was Umar playing a guitar like he had thirteen fingers. I played one of our songs and he helped out with a chord I was finding hard to build (I had the idea in my head). I was humbled and elated that someone so accomplished could come down to my level and teach!
So began my Threadstone Romance. I followed them on every possible platform, and lapped up every song they pushed out. Every time my band went out, we were bound to open the night with a TS song. In fact we were so excited that we forgot all about copyright that we uploaded a rehearsal of TS’s “foolish” on reverbnation. Within days we shot up to #1 on the Abuja Rock charts, and #9 in Nigeria. Umar sharply pointed that out to me and I took it down 😀
I met them a couple of other times, each time shorter than the last but that didn’t really matter. I’ve had Umar on my bbm, and the whole time I’ve never heard him say anything vulgar or insensible. It’s something that’s put me on my toes because when people are in a position of influence, whatever they say count. Like during the Jos violence and the Boko Haram crises, I expressed so much anger over the issue…but seeing his own reaction I realised it was a classic case of grieving more than the bereaved.
I’ve talked all manner of things with him- guitars, rock/metal bands, TS upcoming albums. In fact once there was this time I wanted to impress one girl and I asked him to help me make a video and mention her (she’s a madder TS fan than most other people I know). Umar actually agreed and shot the video. I felt on top of the world! (and sadly it was too large to send via bbm but the effort was humbling!). Umar took the time to read a reasonable number of my blog posts and discussed about them. Like my posts on Ope, on the friendzone (he went ahead to share a few stories too). He once even referred me to a blogger that he felt was writing in a similar manner to me. That experience was once again humbling! To make matters “worse” he introduced me to the Berkely Music School, gave me advice about buying a good guitar/pedal. There was this time the members of the former David Crowder Band (now The Digital Age) started following me on twitter. I didn’t ask for a follow back, and the accounts were actually verified. To this day I accuse Umar of secretly orchestrating that move just to make my day (seeing Duncan Philips of Newsboys follows him). Blah blah blah
It’s just sad that I haven’t been able to do anything personally for him beyond infecting my friends with TS fever. I’ve enjoyed everything this chairman has done for me, and I hope this is a lesson to the world- that Stardom doesn’t automatically turn people into pigs; that Salt is only effective in the midst of the hot soup; and that life is a lot more fun when you approach it with a large dose of cheerfulness.
Before I spoil what is promising to be a good blog post, let me say the Happy Birthday Umar. Thanks for everything, and God bless you deeply.