Feb 02 – 08, 2009
This was another broken week as Wednesday was another public holiday - Armed Struggle Day – Feb 4 is the name of Luanda’s airport. We enjoyed taking the day easy & catching up with some school work. What a perfect working week: 2 days on, one day off, 2 days on & then 2 days off again!
It was Bills birthday on Saturday & we’d originally planned to go to Kissama National Park for the night, but then we heard that about an Angolan rap concert in the soccer stadium & Bill decided he wanted to go to that instead. It was headlined by a top Angolan rap star – Yannick from the band Afromen (which has been winning best rap awards here), along with a whole host of other local musicians. One of the teachers organised buying VIP tickets for all interested people (at a very reasonable 3500 Kwanzas each (US $50). It was a late afternoon start with the whole concert due to finish around 10pm.
Bill spent time on our Wednesday off to produce fake press passes for us both, so we could try our luck with getting close to the performances. We laminated the passes & put them into lanyards. Although we didn’t really know what real press passes looked like, we figured we could pass ourselves off as freelance photographers working for foreign magazines. It certainly was worth a try. We'd got backstage passes given to us in Malaysia, just by showing our cameras, so we knew anything was possible.
On Saturday morning I gave Bill his birthday present, (bought at Christmas time & kept hidden) – a new flash gun with built in diffuser & reflector. He’s wanted one for ages so it was an easy pick (probably too easy – I think if I’d asked him to guess what I got him, he’d have been right. The flash really was cool – it even had a wireless “slave” function built in – meaning that if he had it disconnected from the camera & another flash went off, it would too! The rap concert would be a great chance for him to “play” with it.
The bus to go to the concert left school at 3pm with the plan being to go to a local bar for a few drinks first & then head to the stadium & the concert about when it was due to start. Nzitu (Angolan by birth, but trained in the UK) had organised the day out & he took us to a local bar (but just where none of the rest of us had a clue). It opened just as we arrived & it was a pleasant place to sit for an hour or so.
Then we headed into the city for the stadium. Nzitu handed out our “tickets” – blue arm bands. When we were about 5 big city blocks from the stadium we encountered huge queues – people headed for the concert – with green & purple bands on. Our bus continued on & was able to drop us quite close to the VIP entrance to the stadium. We couldn’t believe the number of people we saw queuing in streets. We even saw scalpers selling the arm band “tickets”.
The entrance was nothing short of chaotic – huge seething crowds pushing to get in & armed security people checking on peoples arm bands. We finally entered holding our arms high in the air so the bands were clearly visible. Our bags were checked several times (not quite sure for what) but the cameras were no problem.
We’d entered in the wrong place – once we were inside the main stadium, it turned out that we needed to leave again to go into the VIP section – there was no way to get there from the ground level of the stadium. So we forced our way out against the crush of people coming in & then walked around the outside of the stadium to get to the VIP entrance. The arm bands allowed the security people to move people very quickly, & even the bags searches were fast & efficient. The VIP section ran along almost the entire left-hand side of the stadium, the seats closest to the stage were already all taken. We had to move along more than half the length of the stadium to find seats for our group (10 of us). The VIP area gave us seats (as opposed to grass for the people down in the stadium) and also free sodas & beer as well as some food – almost all of it unsuitable for vegetarians (we’d predicted that we wouldn’t get food).
Bill went off by himself (with his camera) almost right away – after about 10 minutes I caught sight of him again down in the main part of the stadium. The actual concert started about half an hour after we’d found our seats, & I could tell very quickly that I was never going to any decent photos if I stayed where I was. Bill wasn’t answering his phone (we discovered later he’d been trying to ring me too – it seemed that the reception in the stadium was intermittent at best). As I walked to the stage end of the VIP area, I caught sight of Bill right down in front of the stage. I wasn’t able to catch his attention & with him not answering his phone, I decided to try to join him. The problem was, I couldn’t find a way down to the stadium (I thought Bill must have just jumped over the side). So I exited the stadium again & backtracked the way we’d come in & joined the now even more frantic crowd trying to get in through the entrance gates. Fortunately I managed to get back in relatively easily, - right at the back of the stadium with the stage at the far end.
The track around the stadium wasn’t over crowded (unlike the pitch which was just packed with people), so I was able to move to the front easily. There was a line of police security blocking off the access to the stage, but I knew Bill had gone through it OK, so I pulled out my fake pass, put it around my neck with my camera in my hand, took a deep breath, and just walked though the security line as if I belonged. Amazingly, no one challenged me & next thing I was in front of the stage, tapping Bill on the shoulder! We stayed there for another hour or more – between the stage & the fence holding back the crowd. The security people were periodically spraying the crowd with a big hose of water – so people could cool down & drink. It was an outrageous scene – the crowd pressed up against the fence behind me & the singers performing in the lights & stage effects right above my head. Bill was having a blast as well – he even followed a couple of (real) photographers onto the stage – but they were all soon chased off.
The acts changed about every 15 minutes or so, but to be honest, we aren’t big rap fans & after taking several hundred photos, we decided we’d had enough & left the security area. Bill had come downstairs by some back staircase, so we went back up to where the others were the same way.
After the huge adrenaline rush of pretending to be something I’m not (Bill just seems to take things like that in his stride, but it terrifies me), on top of having no food, made me feel totally drained & tired, even though it was only about 8pm. Bill felt the same (well ravenously hungry anyway) so we asked around the others to see if anyone else was interested in going home then. 6 of us in total were ready so we called the driver to collect us – he said he’d be there in 10 minutes.
This is where the whole day fell apart – we left the stadium after about 10 minutes, and almost as soon as we were outside, a group of locals asked us for our arm bands. Despite these supposedly being non-removable, they managed to get them off us, so they could use them to get in themselves. But when we got to the street, there was no sign of the bus.
To cut a very, very long story short, the bus never actually arrived & we had to wait for the concert to finish & then wait another hour or more, before the driver actually turned up to take everyone home. Quite what happened, I still don’t know – however we did get home & despite everything, it wasn’t super late. We were still starving hungry though, so we had the fastest pizza on the planet (so fast it wasn’t even fully hot), but overall we’d had an excellent day out & we’d taken the chance on getting some outrageous photos.
We had a big sleep in on Sunday & another relatively quiet day at home, just catching up on things we needed to do.