Three categories of people frequent The Jazzhole. I belong to the first kind: Book lovers. I was introduced to this quaint, quiet hub of a store located at 168, Awolowo Road, Ikoyi, Lagos, by Mr Mike Awoyinfa, my teacher, boss and co-author, during our “Summer of Writing” of the 50 Nigeria’s Boardroom Leaders. Hardly would a month pass by without both of us visiting the store.
Although I had read about the bookstore first in Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah, it was in June 2015 I stepped into the shop for the first time. Usually, we spent some 30 minutes or more browsing new collections. I busied myself with just the books. I walked through the store, around the shelves looking at titles by a farrago of authors, and I was awed by titles that spanned all genres, from Nigeria, Africa, and the rest of the world. Vintage books. Bestsellers. Rare books. Popular fiction. Coffee table books. High-brow magazines. Comics. Textbooks. Historic literature. I felt like I was in a bibliophile heaven. There were biographies of global figures such as Hilary Clinton, Hitler and Angela Merkel. There were good, well-written books about obscured figures and esoteric subject matters. If you are in the book trade, or involved in the book craft, and living in Lagos, you can’t help but visits the shop. Jazzhole is a watering hole for writers. Subsequent visits reinforce my first impression.
Yet, Jazzhole is not exclusively a bookworm’s world. The shop is a hub that, going by its name, attracts other kinds of creative mind asides readers and writers. That brings in the second category of people for whom Jazzhole is a natural lair. Music enthusiasts. Music is a major niche of the store––jazz music, especially. I love music––pure pop, R&B and Hindi particularly the ballads of Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh. Jazz never really jells with me. But Jazz is Mr Awoyinfa’s turf. So I listened to him and the proprietor talked about Miles Davis, Hugh Masekela and other greats and little known jazz exponents from around the world and Nigeria. They really know jazz, and I had over a period of one year picked some education about the music. Sometimes I have no option but to listen to him playing in his car. If you walk into Jazzhole a complete tabula rasa, hang about a few occasions, you’d find to your astonishment how much of a taste you have acquired for the jazz sound. Jazzhole is an ashram for true jazz enthusiasts in Lagos. It is also a library, a vast collection of a range of music curated from around the world, from Motown to Harlem to Trench Town and from Senegal to Mali and Burkina Faso. The catalogue of CDs and vinyl in the shop is astonishing. The record collection included various compilation of Congolese artists Abeti Masikini and Tchico Tchicaya, Nigerian artistes Fela and Asa and Bob Marley and of other long-forgotten great musicians. Jazzhole is the best place to purchase the finest of music genres including world music, Nigerian and African classics. The stocks include Nigeria’s Jazz and Juju, Fuji and Afrobeat greats.
On one of our visits in early 2017, I discovered a collection of old vinyl records. One of the records, of Sikiru Ayinde Barrister brought a wave of déjà vu. The last time I had seen a Barrister record was back in 1998, among my father’s collection that had been abandoned and had gathered dust. At Jazzhole, such old records are prized and are in vogue. The sight of the old vinyl brought back nostalgia of the early 1980s when I watched the turntable spun and churned out good melodies. The records at Jazzhole were a jolting reminder that “old is gold.” The proprietor collects them and sells them as a way of bringing back good old music to influence the younger generations.
Jazzhole’s third facet is a cafe, which brings in the third kind of patrons who may not necessarily be art-inclined. Right inside the store, at the back section, is the nice little café section. With the interior brimming with books, and shelves crammed with CDs and vinyl, a space was carved out for a sitting area with a drum set and microphones in view.
The coffee shop offers over 40 varieties of tea, coffee and espresso and a mélange of homemade cupcakes, sandwiches, fruits crumble and pastries. If you are no fan of fresh or herbal tea, there is the option of juice or smoothies. And if you are a vegetarian, the Jazzhole cafe is home of vegan delicacies, such as carrot cake. With a cup of espresso, you can spend time while leisurely flipping through interesting books and listening to an endless music of cool jazz and soul.
A place to draw inspiration, to awaken your muse, to soothe your mind, that is Jazzhole. Established and aspiring writers, artists and musicians would find it absorbing. On a day you are afflicted with writer’s block, or feeling down, visiting Jazzhole is good therapy. I have visited a couple of time to buy books and to draw inspiration from legendary works that have bearing on a project I was working on.
Jazzhole’s other good finds include its listening sessions and jazz evenings for international and local acts. Picture in your mind a scene of relaxed jam sessions by real musicians. That is scenario when the likes of Etuk Ubong, Teju Cole, and Brymo staged live performances there. Other notable artists like Siji, Keziah Jones and the Afrojazz/Afrobeat collective “Ayetoro” have also performed. In July 2018, Celine Rudolph and Lionel Loueke, a couple described as “one of the most beautiful European Jazz voices and guitarist” had a live concert as part of their Obsession Tours.
Nneka is in town and will be live at Jazzhole this Sunday, August 18.
Jazzholes regularly screen movies too. That is where its moniker of “The music and books lover club” comes from. This once-a-month- Sunday film show, dubbed Is That Jazz “aims to bridge the gap between music, literature and cinema…and to explore the relationship between the three forms of arts.” In April, Sometimes in April, a 2005 historical film, written and directed by Haitian filmmaker, Raoul Peck about the Rwandan genocide of 1994 was screened. Others films, including War Witch (1966) by Kim Nguyen, Black Girl, by Senegalese Ousmane Sembene and Throne of Blood, a 1957 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth by Japanese Akira Kurosawa, “a ravishingly visual exploration of the warrior tradition of Japanese myth” have been shown at various time.
Customers who were in the store on March 9, 2018, ran into JP Clark, Africa’s foremost poet, dramatist and scholar, who spent some hours there. Author Seffi Atta was there in 2017, so also was Ghanaian highlife guitarist, Ebo Taylor. Most recently, Teni the entertainer was there.
Back in 2016, we had an invitation to attend a live jazz session slated for the weekend. Unfortunately, we were right in the thick of a project and hardly had the time to spare. You don’t have to wait until Goethe Institut or Alliance Francais stage events for you to enjoy high-grade art events. Jazzhole does it all the time through its monthly art exhibitions devoted to African literature, music and arts.
That includes occasional, book reviews and book club meetings. French anthropologists Julienne Bonhomie book presentation, The Sex Thieves: The Anthropology of Rumour and launch of Professor Adekeye Adebajo’s The Eagle and the Springbok, a book of essays on Nigeria and South Africa.