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Friday, November 26, 2010

Remembering Saro Wiwa on the stage

A scene from ‘The Killing Swamp'
Death is a debt that every one must pay. Though the how and when, unlike debts owed a bank or some magnanimous benefactor, we may not know. Yet, we still must pay. And the why, for sure, is different from one debtor to another. However, there can be nothing as dispiriting as knowing that you are going to die, as well as the manner and time of death.

For Kenule Saro Wiwa, the Nigerian writer, theatre producer, and environmentalist, it was a mixture of all, as re-enacted in Adinoyi Ojo Onukaba's play ‘The Killing Swamp', where the playwright, using his creative licence, digs dramatically into the final moments of the late Ogoni activist's life.

The play, directed by Chidi Ukwu, was staged in Abuja on Saturday, November 13, by an Abuja-based theatre company, Arojah Royal Theatre. It was to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of that execution, spearheaded by the then military ruler, Sani Abacha, an act that was widely condemned by the international community.

Patrick Otoro is Ken Saro Wiwa

The audience in Abuja, largely populated by members of the international community, was held spellbound by the delivery and interpretation of Patrick Otoro, who played the role of Kenule.

"The performance was so real that I felt like I was witnessing the exact incident as it happened... Kenule is a very strong character and the actor succeeded in arresting the audience," said Yoash, an Isreali in the audience.

He revealed that it was his first time watching a stage play since arriving Nigeria; and added that the lady sitting beside him was close to tears and murmuring repeatedly: "Did they really did that to him?"

Otoro, who endured the passing away of his father just days before, put up such a heart rendering performance. He could be described as a veteran of Adinoyi Onukaba's plays, having at various times produced, directed, or acted in some of the playwright's pieces. Among Otoro's earlier involvement in Onukaba's plays, are: ‘A Resting Place', ‘Tower of Babel', and ‘Her Majesty's Visit'.

"It's a great honour been given the responsibility of re-enacting the lifetime of such a great personality like Saro Wiwa. I am glad, however, that I did not disappoint. This will no doubt remain for me as one of the highest point of my active career as a theatre practitioner," he said of playing the lead in ‘The Killing Swamp'.

Other players in the four-man cast play were: Jibrin Ahmed as Major; Ikponmwonsa Gold; Seun Odukoya; and Adetutu Adebambo, who played Asabe in the first and second performances respectively.

Gaming with death

Though a dramatic imagination of the playwright, the last moments of the late Ken Saro Wiwa, as depicted onstage, moved the audience to tears. Kenule engaged in what Major refers to in the play as ‘buying time' with various demands.

The highpoint of the play was the late discovery by Kenule that his cousin is the Major who has been assigned to carry out his execution. This revelation was followed up by a long drawn argument about the real reasons behind his predicament, the foundation set up in the name of Bera's father, and the possibility that money must have exchanged hands. Having failed to talk him out of avenging his father's death, Kenule gave up his antics and orders Bera (Major) to carry out the execution, saying, "Go on, do what you are here to do."

The play opens and ends at a clearing in the bush, where Kenule and the Ogoni eight are executed. It employs a flashback at some point to re-enact the meeting of Asabe and Kenule at an audition and then the court scene, which had both players switching roles. The same technique was employed in the court tribunal scene, where Major assumed the role of the judge.

‘The Killing Swamp' offers fresh insight into the Niger Delta issue, especially as it relates to the intrigues behind the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa. The playwright, however, in his wisdom, employs humour in his treatment of some of the most salient issues in the play.

Commenting on the production, the playwright, Adinoyi Onukaba, praised the high quality of work put into the production by the actors and director.

"While it is right to say this is my play, what you have seen here today is beyond me. It is the interpretation of the director and his artists. You don't always have much influence on how your play is produced. Once the book leaves your hand and goes into the hand of a director, he gives it whatever interpretation that suites him, and in this case, I must say that the director, Chidi Ukwu, is very good and has done a good job."

Story by Jerry Adesewo

Yes, I have been approached severally by lesbians in Nollywood - Ify Arinze

Talented music sensation and actress, Ify Arinze is set to dazzle music lovers with her tunes. A former member of music divas called IBAN girls, Ify chose to go solo to make name. The Auchi, Edo brought up condemned Lesbianism in Nollywood in all its entirety and declared she can’t trade her body for fame. Excerpts:

When did you start off as a musician?
I started music fully in 2006. I formerly used to belong to a group, Iban girls, before I left them to be on my own.

What does music mean to you?
Music means everything to me, I sleep, eat, breathe, and live music. I have always loved music.

Who do you look up to in the industry?
Internationally, I look up to Jennifer Lopez, Celine Dion, and Whitney Houston. Locally, Onyeka Onwenu, Christy Essien-Igbokwe and Asa inspire me.

How do you get inspiration for your songs?
My inspiration is from God and love. Most of my songs are about love, I write about my feelings, experiences and surrounding.

When should we expect your album?
There is no definite date for now, but I promise you will be first to know when the time comes.

What genre of music do you play and why did you choose that?
I do all genre of music, hip hop, R&B, Dancehall, high life, and a little of rap.

How come you have not hit it big in music?
All good things don’t come easy. You will have to work your way to the top. I am not in a rush to drop an album because everybody is doing so, I want to make an album that will cut across the globe and get to everyone. I am working on something that will be worth the wait.

Are you signed to any record label?
Not at the moment.

Why is it that you are not interested in doing that?
I was once on a label called Rhymesquad entertainment, but things didn’t work out because of a clause that wasn’t in my best interest. So, I decided to do things on my own, pending when I get a better offer.

How long do you think it will take?
I don’t know, I just need to make things better for myself and close a deal that will boost my career.

You are also an actress, when did you begin acting?
I started acting in 2003. I did a couple of movies, like Bumper 2 Bumper, Blames of memories, Strange affections, Died for conscience, Sweet love, Love and marriage, Bed of roses, Drifted dreams, Richest man among others.

Which one do you prefer, acting or singing?
I love music more, although music and acting work hand in hand. I love both, but acting is interpreting a character that isn’t you, while music, they say is soul food. Music helps express me unlike movie where I interpret another person’s character.

What is your view about Nollywood?
There is a lot of improvement in Nollywood, when you watch movies like Ije, Anchor baby, The Figurine, Through the glass, you will marvel at the level of creativity and quality of the pictures. With just little adjustments, we will be there. It is just like saying, we are not where we want to be, neither are we where we are supposed to be, nor are we what we ought to be, but thank God we have gone far above what we used to be.

What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on my album and planning my video, my single will hit the airwaves soon.

Who among your family supported your musical journey?
My siblings, mum and dad didn’t approve at first but now they are adjusting to it, because they have come to see how much joy it gives me . So far so good, they have been very supportive.

What challenges have you been facing since you started out as a musician?
Remaining focused and determined, the ability to forget about the huddles because they will always be there. The question I ask myself is how bad I want it, how determined am I? Nobody said it was going to be easy, so despite the challenges, my determination will see me through them.

How did you handle these challenges to get to the peak of your career?
I remain passionate about what I do and try not to be distracted or discouraged with what is going on negatively.

Where do you see yourself in three years?
I see myself on top collecting Grammies, Oscars, you name it.

What kind of relationship do you have with your fellow artistes?
I have a very cordial relationship with my fellow artistes. That is as far as it goes.

How would you describe yourself socially?
I am an extrovert, lively, confident, playful and I love being around people.

Who had the greatest influence on you as a child?
My grandmum, Mrs. Gold Ijeamaka Arinze.

Do you have regrets about your life and career?
No. There are rough times in life, agreed, but not enough to have regrets. I see them as part of my experience towards attaining the goals I have set for myself.

What has music done for you financially?
Not enough compared to what we deserve as artistes but I believe we are getting there.

Have you accomplished as an artiste?
Exposure, experience, connections and good friends.

Are you planning on taking acting full time?
Not really. This is because if I take movie full time, I won’t have time for my music which happens to be my first love.

What do you love most about singing?
The satisfaction I get while on stage and studio is fulfilling. Getting good sponsors and overcoming this thing about male dominance in the industry thrills me as an artiste.

Any embarrassing moment?
Yes. When I was with my group IBAN, we were performing on stage when the zip of my trousers went down. I was so embarrassed and I lost concentration while trying to hold my trousers and still do my routine dance with my group. It was very unconfortable and embarrassing.

What are your views about young ladies who trade their bodies for fame?
Our society frowns at it, but we are responsible for the choices we make. So, whatever choice these young ladies make, they should learn to live with the consequences. Don’t blame it on anybody most expecially the society.

Would you do that if you have the opportunity?
No I won’t. It is not because I am judging those who do it, but because I wasn’t brought up that way and I wasn’t taught that way. I believe in merit, it is fulfilling to know you got something because you deserved it and worked your ass out for it and not because you gave somebody something for it.

Your love life?
I have a very healthy, interesting and active love life.

Who is your ideal man and why?
I love a good listener. A man who gets me will be supportive of my career, with good sense of humour. He would also be a God-fearing man that will respect and stand by me at all times, he must be a man who respects the word woman.

How do you deal with romantic heartbreaks?
It is part of life and inevitable. Once or twice in a life-time, we get our hearts broken as women, but we must learn to let go and move on with our lives. All you have to do is analyze your mistakes so as not to repeat them again.

How do you handle your fans?
I relate to them as much as I can, and I am open to their opinions, critics and suggestions and I take the reasonable corrections.

Describe yourself in three words?
Determined, focused and passionate.

Do you unwind?
I soak myself in a bath tub with some chilled wine and soulful music playing on the back ground while I read my novel. I love daniel steels collections. That is how I catch my fun when I am not working.

How were you described as a child?
Lovable, charming, intelligent, funny and full of life.

Are you pursuing your childhood dream?
Yes, I have always loved showbiz as a child and I am happy I am doing it.

Did you love going to school as a child?
Yes, I loved it.

Any phobia?
Height and cats. They scare me to bits.

What would you say about lesbianism in Nollywood?
I am short of words on that issue. I guess it is just their sexuality, but it is bad. God created Adam and Eve to engage in sex as a man and a woman and not man to man or woman to woman. So, when women indulge in such act, they are only telling God He made a mistake when creating them which is a big sin.

Have you been approached by one?
Yes. On several occasions.

Would you engage in it for the sake of money and connection?
No, because it is not the only way to make money and get connections. There are other honest means of getting to the top, and if it is the only way, I will rather stay without money and connections.

What are you worth now as a showbiz person?
Not as much as I desire but I am getting there.

Can you date someone you have just met once?
Yes. If I feel some connection with that person.

What would you do if your man insists you quit your career?
It is dicey. For a man that loves me to say that, knowing how happy my career makes me, There must be a very good reason. He must explain to me why I should give up what I love doing for him and if it is reasonable enough, I just might quit my career. It is one of those things we do for love.

Won’t you regret that?
I have no room for regrets in my life. I always move forward.

Can love make you fight over a man?
Never, because the things that are worth fighting for won’t make you fight to get them. Anything you get by fighting for it, will always make you fight to keep it. How long can a lady do that? Have you thought about how exhausting it can be?

Why did you leave Iban girls?
Nothing. I just wanted to do things on my own. We didn’t quarrel or fight for anything as alleged. I just wanted to follow my heart and we discussed my departure. They saw reasons with me and I left.

Can you do a collabo with them if need be?
Of course. I can do a collabo with them. We were more than friends, so working together anytime, any day is not a problem.

What do you consider success as a person?
Success is this feeling of fulfillment. It is about dreams reached, height attained and the life that were touched by you. That is what I consider success.

Tell us about yourself
My names are Arinze Ifeyinwa Charity, popularly called Ify. Musically, my stage name is E’phy. I am in my 20’s and was born into a family of seven 3 boys and 4 girls. I was born and brought up in Auchi, Edo state. I am from Ifite Nnibo in Awka Local Government Area of Anambra State. I studied criminology in Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo state. I am an easy going person , I think before I do things, I have a lot of friends who like me and see me as cool, so I will say I am cool.

Any last words for your fans?
I want to say a very big thanks to all of you for ur support, encouragement and for believing in my dreams. There is and wouldn’t have been me without you guys, you guys rock, I love you all.


A word is enough for the 9ice — Ruggedman

The long wait is finally over. Rapper, Ruggedman’s third album, Untouchable was released November 20. Expectedly, it contains the feverishly awaited response to his former collaborator, 9ice‘s earlier diss track, Talk, I am Listening which was released on September 20. Ruggedman’s birthday, While 9ice’s totters on crudity, Ruggedman‘s A Word is enough for the 9ice is as blistering as it is laden with braggadocio and advice.

Featuring up and comer, Ella, the hook of the song is an interpolation of the 1975 classic of unsung juju maestro, General Prince Adekunle and his Supersonic Sounds’ Awodi n fo ferere which is the parable of an eagle soaring higher than its normal altitude because it wants to meet God – a vain, fatal attempt. Prince Adekunle’s orginal version opens the song and sums up Ruggedman‘s lyrical package to 9ice.

Tracing the genesis of their relationship to when 9ice was ‘a studio rat‘ in producer, ID Cabasa‘s studio, Ruggedman said he took him in, upgraded him, showed him the ropes and put him on the music stage where he found fame and fortune. He didn’t stop there. He says, “I gave you the money, the fame and the wife that changed your life and gave you a son. In other words, I gave you a life.”

Sounding rather penitent, the rapper said he had to leak his private telephone conversation with 9ice on the Internet because he was fed up with myriad accusations that he was overly familiar with the latter‘s estranged wife.

There had been a groundswell of finger pointing in Ruggedman‘s direction when 9ice‘s song, Once Bitten, Twice Shy off his Tradition album hit the streets. The subsequent breakup of the singer’s marriage to his wife, Toni Payne further aroused interest in who 9ice was actually referring to in the controversial song. According to Ruggedman, “All I wanted was to clear my name of the dirty rumour,” admitting, however, that he went about it the wrong way out of desperation.

Then, like a hypocritical guardian of privileges, he launches into a clinical tirade on the things he did and didn’t do for 9ice: ”You tried to tarnish my image and that of your wife because you wanted to sell CDs, God bless you. You can tease me all you want, but it would never change the fact that the first big stage you got on was through me. The first award you won was through me. You started making money after I introduced you to the world. The wife you married, I introduced to you. The first child you got was from the woman I introduced to you. I helped you come up in the industry……Never pay back good with evil. Be respectful to your elders.”

Earlier, one of Ruggedman’s protégées, Chinaydu had replied 9ice in a track entitled, And The Beef Goes On which samples the beat of 70s American R&B group, The Whispers‘ song of the same title.

9ice’s manager, Dehinde Fajana, tells us, “We won’t dignify Ruggedman with a response.” As the war of words between the two artistes reaches frightening dimension, well-meaning older entertainers have not ceased to mediate but none of them seems ready for a truce.

Story by Adeshina Oyetayo