Apart from its primary objectives, Luli has become a piece of brilliant marketing and perception management project for the church itself, even if that was not the original plan
Sometime around 1am, Luli’s energetic MC, Ibukun Oni, who has held forth in that role for the 7th season, invited a well-known celestial pastor, Prof Ekunola Davies for the word ministration. For the uninitiated among the huge crowd, it was supposed to be a brief interlude. He was supposed to quickly perform his preaching, say a brief prayer and be on his way so that the music can roll on…
We were all in for a surprise. This side attraction soon became the anchor for everything else. He had a cutting edge to his voice that forced you to listen. More importantly he had a story that you could relate to. Many of us gradually got caught up with his excellent exhortation and then when he started to pray…
Immediately he ended his prayers and started taking his leave, after predicting a release of the anointing on all those who had joined him in prayers and predicting a rain of blessings, a literal rain broke through the skies. I was Immediately alarmed thinking of the huge crowd of white cladded worshippers who filled the grounds of the Tafawa Balewa grounds venue of the 2023 Luli concert in its 7th edition.
The rains came down in all its fury. The music went on blasting into the night of praise with the musicians emblazoned in a sea of brilliantly coordinated lights on the expansive stage. And the dancing and singing went on with the worshippers totally, it appears, oblivious of the downpour. I had been mentally preparing to join the hordes I assumed will have to leave in order not to be drenched by the rain.
Many were in the covered stands but far more, including those in the delineated VIP sections, in their thousands refused to move an inch. When I mentioned to the gentleman beside me that I was surprised that even the majority of women and young ladies in their white flowing gowns were not making a run for it, he explained that the rain is not new, that it usually rains during Luli but that people never leave as a result of the rains, rather they are empowered by the excitement of the night.
I steeled myself against any thought of running away!
Though it was my first visit to the Luli concert, I was not entirely new to the concept. I had received invitations in the past but could not attend perhaps because I did not fully understand the idea thinking it was the typical all night Christian crusade which I thought may be a little too much for me. Also, I used to worry about going there without being dressed in the traditional all white flowing gowns of the Celestial members. This year I got a platinum card once again. The card was so well produced that I vowed to attend the event if only to justify the investment somebody was making to get me through the Luli experience.
It turned out to be an eye opener. The Luli project commenced 7 years ago by certain members of the Celestial church who really wanted to do “something bigger than them”. The Luli project looked beyond members of the Celestial church and sought to use the concept as an opportunity to let the outside world participate in and understand the celestial church more in an immersive range of activities running on an annual basis and climaxing with the Luli concert. Luli has, in my view become a good case study in less talk, more action. The best part of it all is that the overall Church leadership has been unstinting in its support for the project. To let the world, know of its firm support for the initiative, no less than the then leader of the Church, Rev Emmanuel Mobiyina Friday Oshoffa was present on the occasion to offer his support and prayers. The current edition had in present to deliver the annual harvest of prayers from the church leadership, the octogenarian, M/S/E S. O. Banjo who was later celebrated with a rousing happy birthday song by the Celestial choir.
The 2023 Luli is a testament to hard work, perseverance and sacrifice. From the lead visionary, Dr. Gbenga Daniel, to the dozens of volunteers and the sponsors of this year’s event, there was a never-say-die spirit at work to ensure the usual perfection in execution. For a none fee paying event, one can only imagine the investment involved.
The star studded event paraded the impressive central choir of the Celestial church of Christ, the Celestial Symphony Orchestra, the Dunamis drama ministry, HOD Solafunmi, Sola Allison, Ajidara and the impressive dance driven band led by Apekeola.
Others include Olamide Erinle, Indo, ID Blessed, Harmony, Engo and Bidemi Olaoba. I was excited to see Afro Beat star, Seyi Solagbade, who I am told has been a consistent performer in the concert just like Sola Allison and Tope Alabi, who closed the show at about 8am in the morning! The 2023 Luli commenced the previous evening at about 7pm.
Here are the 9 things you should know about the Luli concert and El Barachah.
- Luli is a brainchild of the El Berachah worship ministry on behalf of the Celestial Church of Christ. It is a registered non-governmental organization charged with a mission to take worship beyond the traditional borders and facilitate an inter-faith and non-denominational platform(s).
- The Luli concert was conceived as a platform to realize the key objective enunciated above. A brief appraisal of the perception issues surrounding the Celestial church among none adherents easily explains the relevance of this. Most Christians and even none Christians who have never had an idea of what goes on within the church’s walls simply invent their own ideas, this is combined with bits and pieces of information gathered from sometimes parochial and biased sources. Over time, these figments of imagination become coalesced into a body of false “knowledge” that is passed from individual to individual, further extending the distance between brothers and sisters of the same faith who worship the same God and believe in the same holy book. The Luli concert is a giant and magnificent effort to soften these hard edges and unite members of the Christian faiths and even none Christians in an atmosphere of undiluted praise and worship. It’s non-parochial, rules free code ensures everyone feels at home and is able to grasp the main point of the event: The absolute primacy of God.
- Another major initiative of Luli is the Luli walk. The Luli walk is a 4km health and enlightenment walk to promote mental, physical and spiritual well-being. The event which brings together fitness enthusiasts of all faiths and categories is really a lifestyle event which reminds people of the need to take good care of themselves beyond simply praying for good health.
- The Luli community outreach, dubbed Luli cares has a mandate to provide free primary health care services. In its short history it has touched a documented 2000 plus people in Lagos and Ogun states. The annual concert is preceded by programs and activities with the objective of empowering communities with outreaches that would serve as part of the churches contribution to national development. The Luli initiative intends to penetrate the “remotest of the remote villages to tell the people about the gospel, providing relief materials and supporting widows with work tools including sewing machines, grinding machines and the like”.
- The Luli Music Masterclass is another free program which is organized for choristers, performing ministers and music lovers. The master class is facilitated by local and international gospel artistes and music producers.
- Though the event is dominated, understandably by regular Celestials in all white sultanas, none Celestials are actually encouraged to join the exciting concert event. Entrance is free and it holds annually in TBS. Attendees are free to dress as they wish to as long as they look decent. VIP tickets can be accessed on the Luli concert website by early birds. This year’s event held on the 7th of October. The date for next event in 2024 and other major events are to be announced soon and documented on the project website.
- The lead visionary of the project is Dr Gbenga Daniel, an accounting alumnus of Obafemi Awolowo University with a PhD from Babcock University. He is a staunch member of the CCC. Dr Daniel has demonstrated tremendous leadership ability in piloting the affairs of this complicated project over the last seven years. One of the impressive revelations at the event is the pride with which many of the major artistes reiterate that they have been performing on the Luli stage for 7 years. These include major artistes like Tope Alabi, Sola Allison and Seyi Solagbade.
- Now in its 7th edition, the Luli concert platform has become a discovery and mentoring platform for many young gospel artistes some of whom have become super stars in their own right. The pre-concert open mic event allows up and coming artistes to test their mettle on a big stage face to face with a large crowd of gospel music enthusiasts and the feedback they get becomes a valuable tool in honing their skills for the future.
- Organizers of the event make it a point to appeal to those who see value in the mission of the project to support the project with funds as it takes a lot of money to make it sustainable. This can be done through the Luli concert website. Supporters of this year’s event include Jayfour Global services, Maryabik Global service, Polak group and Mercylink Care. Others are Mainstreet Capital and FCMB.