All For The Love Of Fame

Project FameIT was barely 6am and a horde of people had begun to mill around the popular Bolingo, Abuja. As the day wore on, the multitude grew thicker. By 8 am, the small bar beside the Hotel pool was teeming with a youthful crowd. The multitude did not turn out for a recruitment exercise. Neither were they present for a religious programme. It was actually the auditions for MTN Project Fame West Africa; the biggest talent hunt competition in sub Sahara Africa.

This same platform had produced some of Nigeria’s biggest music exports. The Iyanyas, Chidinmas and Praiz. A host of others owe their blossoming music careers to the platform. This time last year, a certain Goeffrey Oji was one of these wannabees at the Abuja Auditions for the reality TV show. Today, Geoffrey is a household name in the country following his emergence as the winner of the competition. It took Geoffrey seven attempts before he joined the illustrious list of winners.

For the multitude that trooped to the audition ground, this was no ordinary music talent competition. This might just be their ticket to fame and stardom; a once in a lifetime opportunity to begin their journey to musical greatness, just like Geoffrey. For them, it starts with scaling the stringent Abuja auditions.

While the poolside bar of the Bolingo Hotel is usually a relaxation spot for guests, there was nothing soothing about the location during the Abuja auditions. The air was so thick with palpable tension; you could almost reach out and touch it. Failure to impress the judges would certainly spell the end for the hopefuls.

The aspirants dealt with the tension in a variety of ways. For some, a last minute rehearsal was the perfect remedy. Here and there, the voices of the hopefuls filled the air, as they waited for their turn.

Others found solace in companionship. They bonded with one another; bantering, laughing, sharing their experiences and even offering tips to one another. You would find it hard to believe that they were all after the same prize — a ticket to Lagos for the next stage of the MTN Project Fame auditions.

Mustapha Ayeni, a student of the University of Jos, arrived from his home base in Kaduna a day before the auditions. Amidst the tensed atmosphere of the audition, Ayeni, a keen guitarist, turned to his guitar for comfort.

Like a magnet, the music drew other hopefuls to him. Suddenly, his newfound friends became his backup singers. “This is one of the funs of MTN Project Fame. Even if I don’t get chosen, at least, I now have friends, who are passionate about music just like me,” Ayeni says.

His buddies agree with him. In fact, they all said they want Ayeni to emerge the winner. “I think Ayeni is a talented singer. I would prefer him to win this competition because he is better than the rest of us,” Ruth Ogiga, one of the members of the group, says.

The fates of the hopefuls lay in the hands of trio of Matilda Duncan, Gang and Gospel On Da Beatz, the Abuja audition judges.

For some of the contestants, the talent hunt is an endless cycle of disappointment. Year after year they try their luck but to no avail. For a number of them, the crushing blow of rejection is almost too hard to take. Emmanuel Bala Marama did not make the cut this year. A Kano-based marketing researcher, Marama’s blue-collar job really holds no appeal for him. Music, he says, is his passion. “I can’t live without music. That is why I’m really disappointed that I failed to make it this year. I left my job to come here for this. I don’t think I will come back again,” he says.

Amina Mohammed also did not make it. Though, the judges commended her singing talent, she was advised to work on her craft and try her luck next year. However, she was in no mood to take that advice. “I can’t go through the tension anymore. My heart is broken. This is the end of Project Fame for me,” she says.

For Amina and Marama, the quest for fame and fortune has surely been a painful one. Still, as disappointing as the experience may be, the allure of the platform always attracts them back. Chances are, they will probably be around the next year for yet another attempt.

Then there are the perennial hopefuls. Though, it’s been one episode of dashed hopes after another, they continue to try their luck. Obviously, the bitter taste of disappointment is not enough to discourage them. Ikechukwu Godwin, a native of Ebonyi State, is a veteran of Project Fame.

The 32 year old’s history with the reality show began from the very first edition of the competition. His experience has always been a consistent tale of rejection. Still he would not give up. “I don’t want to give up. It doesn’t matter that I failed to impress the judges in the last attempts. This year, I feel my luck is going to change today,” he says, just before he is called in. Sadly, Godwin’s quest for fame is punctured.

He is not alone.

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