Sensei Uche has earned a living for the last three years as a “hype man” in Nigeria’s entertainment capital Lagos, standing alongside the DJ in bars and clubs and whipping up dancers’ enthusiasm.
But the coronavirus pandemic has cut off his livelihood. Nigeria’s government, like others across the globe, has shut bars, nightclubs and restaurants since late March to curb the spread of the virus.
“Now we have to start thinking if this will become our reality,” Uche said.
He is now plying his skills online. Wielding a microphone, he works alongside a DJ playing music for “isolation parties” at weekends. The party-goers are the 1,000 people who typically watch the videos posted live on Instagram of Uche and the DJ.
But while the online parties keep his brand alive, he is unable to monetise them. The problem is shared by bar and club owners.
Rotimi Kuti, a representative of the Cubana Group network, said his club in Nigeria’s Victoria Island business district usually hosts around 700 people on Friday nights. Since the lockdown, he only makes money from food deliveries.
He is hopeful the situation for the entertainment industry will improve, be it through the easing of restrictions prohibiting gatherings of more than 20 people or support for businesses.
“Businesses are bleeding money so everybody will come to a compromise as how to help and make sure we aren’t keeping people unemployed,” he said.
Uche is hopeful too – but he is looking for a medical breakthrough.
“I just hope we can find a vaccine in time so we don’t make this the new normal,” he said.