Swollen feet, fragile hearts & New WINE at ADOM PRAIZ 2019

Amid hordes flowing in a winding queue into the Perez Dome this charged Saturday afternoon is Mommeee, clad in a flowy white ensemble and walking through the narrow gate...
The 2019 Adom Praiz concert featured first-rate ministers including Cindy Thompson, Daughters of Glorious Jesus, Pastor Joe Bechem and a host of others.

Amid hordes flowing in a winding queue into the Perez Dome this charged Saturday afternoon is Mommeee, clad in a flowy white ensemble and walking through the narrow gate with an energetic smile and a pulsing heart ready for worship. 

Since February, that very organ beneath her chest has been in active combat with Unstable Angina, a diagnosis doctors arrived at following her complaints of sudden chest pains, insomnia and swelling feet that felt nothing short of torture. Still in her twenties, Mommeee has had to frequent specialists as devotedly as she has attended Sunday church. But she’s not here for a miracle, necessarily. 

She’s simply here to sing. 

To her hopeful mind, the miracle has already occurred: “I’m living. It is enough proof that God is alive,” she has constantly comforted herself since finding out about her infirmity.

But Mommeee has always been this way; sparkling with comforting laughs and kind protection to whoever required it, her siblings often being primary beneficiaries. It’s how, in her household, she came to be affectionately known by “Mummeee,” though she’s the third born of her Mama and Dada. Not one to complain about troubling situations, Mommeee has gone about her days as normally as she can, making sure to conceal her situation from most people, lest it brings them undue worry. 

The tenth edition of the highly patronised concert, tonight will be a blast. Of this she’s certain. It’s how she’s felt every year since 2012 when she first attended. And of the ten acts advertised as headline performers, she is especially keen on witnessing sets by Pastor Joe Bechem and Cindy Thompson (best known for ubiquitous numbers like “Awurade Kasa,” “Awurade Na Aye,” and “Makokyem Nyame”). The roster also consists first-rate ministers as Daughters of Glorious Jesus, Joe Mettle, Prof. Kofi Abraham, M.O.G, Obaapa Christie, Kwaku Gyasi, Francis Amoh, Rev. Yaw Agyeman Badu, trading my the stage name YABS among others).  

Scheduled to commence at 3 pm prompt, the event drags for over an hour due to security and ticketing challenges. For patrons who constitute a devout lot for whom it is a vital annual exercise of spiritual upkeep, however, it is a minute sacrifice they willingly make for a far greater gain. The gathering transcends a single demography: a Snapchat—marked young populace flamboyant in makeup and the new vogue of bespoke kaftans and dresses, slinky denim wear, t-shirts, suits, stilettoes and sneakers, and an older stratum flaunting classics from yesteryear (political suits, smocks, Kaba and slit and suchlike). Girls Girls, Boys Boys, white-collar personnel, blue-collar personnel, individuals and entire households, connubial pairs and active suitors.

As Mommeee has observed over the years, Adom Praiz is serious business—characterised by earnest sincerity and attention to the voice of God. For the six-hour duration of the service, an electricity orbits the venue, continuously baring itself in random bursts of tongue-speaking and an unseen hand that sends some patrons flying to the ground, kicking in weepy submission to a transcendent anointing, others on all fours, unable to withstand the thick celestial wind wafting about. 

When first she attended Adom Praiz, tagging along Brother, an older sibling who possessed extra tickets and his wife who was heavily pregnant with their second child, Mommeee recalls being astonished and relaxed in the festive chaos all at once. They got in at 8.30 pm, a full hour after their estimated time of arrival due to heavy traffic and insufficient parking space. A lover of a good book and quiet, Mommeee recounts having to step out of the auditorium briefly, seeing as it was significantly loud inside. At the same time, the hymns being rendered with singular passion sent goose pimples rushing up her round handsome frame and a blissful lightness in her head. This feeling—a singular spiritual interaction has ensured her return ever since. This year, it would serve as a wanted tonic for the inevitable episodes of depression that creep into the mind of one in constant combat with heart complications. 

Routinely, Adom Praiz has paraded every great Gospel minister ever. Therefore, in a way, Mommeee reckons that patrons attend the concert expecting the crescendo of their experience to arrive via a specific ministration. The acts she has earmarked will come, but before that happens, a number of opening acts (four, to be specific) would set things up.

Tonight, there are nearly as many handkerchiefs as there are worshippers. It is the underlining intention of the program, after all. The event’s longstanding slogan, translates from Twi thus: “We shall wave [our handkerchiefs].”And so, frequently during the function, Mommeee hoists her handkerchief into the air, where it found company amidst a warm cloud of thousands of others. For a small section of worshippers bereft of handkerchiefs, they swiftly improvised with an assortment of other waving implements: towels of varying sizes, scarves, pieces of cloth, napkins, pieces of cloth, and pieces of clothing.

On another day, under a different firmament, handkerchiefs perform the relatively insignificant ritual of curtailing sweat; gentle dabs to keep makeup intact, or linear wiping to restore aeriation in dripping pores and damp outfits due to perspiration. Whilst admittedly, handkerchiefs are employed in this regard tonight, that function is secondary to the holy role that Adom Praiz arouses: by waving their hankies, patrons were sharing in a profoundly symbolic gesture, an unashamed expression of both excitement and triumph over spiritual adversaries. 

There are dance moves too; a lavish assortment of trending limb motions, Mommeee observes with a brittle smile the Agbaza, Shaku Shaku, and even off-tempo oscillation. You cannot stop a man bent on singing Halleluiah. 

Once Thompson mounts the stage, adorned in a ball of gold, Mommieee knows that this is indeed among the night’s highlights for her, and, judging by the sternum-rattling shouts that attend Thompson’s ministration, she’s not the only one. Now sweating her make-up off, Mommeee feels a teenage joy soar up her entire being. She exclaims in praise, waving her hands, in one of which a brand new handkerchief, purchased specifically for tonight inhabits. Thompson’s renditions—an engulfing journey through multiple Gospel staples—while they incited spiritual mirth, also sparked nostalgia, seeing as she has been away from active music in many years. 

 There’s something about a worship song, a trance-like quality that redeems one of infirmity both in thought and body—even if momentarily. Else, why does Mommeee’s face lodge so much ecstasy, her feet leaping and jumping and praising God like they’ve just voided enormous weight? When Thompson brings her performance to a pulsating end, Mommeee remains standing for a whole minute, her palms applauding loudly, her legs still vibrating with new confidence. 

It is not long before Mommeee gets to see Pastor Bechem—another act she has not seen in concert in a while, and the other reason she is here. A nineties baby, Mommeee holds musicians like Bechem—haloed by a gentle anointing and at home in a moving worship hymn—in a special compartment of her fragile heart. At a point during his set, even he breaks down in tears, unable to handle the grace that has been whipped up—high on his own supply. 

“This is more than a feeling,” concedes Momeee over and over. “The presence of the lord is here, as evidently as tan on light skin.”

Feeling sufficiently sated, wearing the happy smile of a well-fed baby, Mommeee leaves shortly after Bechem exits the stage. She will miss the other Joe—the Bo Noo Ni singer who recently launched his new album “Wind of Revival—but she’s got a plan. “Mettle is everywhere. If I miss him at one program, I will find him at another,” she laughs to herself as she rises to leave. 

Perhaps, Mommeee will go home to the weight gain and hair-loss—inducing pills of Artovastatin and Clopedogril that she painfully downs with water or milk, and insomniac nights which find her simply fiddling with her phone while soft music plays from beside her bed, or pen down songs that will end up in an EP she’s been conceiving for many months. 

This very moment, though, as she descends the ugly concrete stairwell that leads to the upper terrace, past a woman flipping through photos of an Islamic wedding she attended hours earlier (she’s wearing the same lacy blue number as are in the photos); as she crosses the highway and hails a trotro to Nkrumah Circle, Mommeee’s face still houses a meaningful smile like one who has partaken of new wine, whispering “thank you, thank you,” while still catching her breath. 

Pop writer from Accra.