By Eromo Egbejule
In the classic video for Justin Timberlake’s hit single, Mirrors from the 20/20 Experience album, love and its consistency through several generations is chronicled, for our viewing and listening pleasures.
This summer, the history of Lagos is being woven into a love-hate story for the world to experience Eko in a Broadway style masterpiece themed Eko the Musical, which will be sprawled across the stage on August 24, 2013 at one of the city’s biggest recreational venues; the appropriately named Eko Hotel & Towers.
Eko the Musical 2013 is part of a grand movement themed Experience Eko, a series of events that is set to reveal Lagos as the liquid wonder, and how it is calibrated differently from the rest of the world. It probes into what makes Lagos tick; why some call it Lagos, others Eko; some call it Las Gidi, the one thing that connects the dots and makes it a cultural melting pot. Within the city are people of various ethnic backgrounds, the haves and have-nots, all forging ahead with a unique kind of schizophrenia that is not unconnected with the nervous energy in the city. Every day, millions of Lagosians brave the odds to eke out a living for themselves in this concrete jungle and city of opulence. The paradox of poverty and plenty, solitude in the midst of chaos, the restless energy of the city life, all revealing the core of the humanness of its people, the wealth and confusion that is very much a part of its excrescences. This constant struggle has created a unique image for the Lagosian. The more we study this phenomenon, the more we realize that Lagos is not just a place but a movement, and an experience that lives in us. The more we study the more we realise that the real Lagos is the sum of its contradictions.
Eko the Musical captures all of these contradictions in a tale of swashbuckling romance; a parallel story of two eras connected by the pursuit of love and significance in Eko Akete; Ilu Ogbon, embellished with the sparkle of interactive live dance of great depth, intensive body language which changes in tandem with the music and acts. There will be interpretation of old dance forms and contemporary choreography with subtlety, a wide range of movement and emotional resonance. Beyond the event, it is enriched with musical flavour created by fusion between harmonies and memories evoked from original pieces. It is aimed at broadening the audience’s taste to diverse and unique music, from covers of the 60s and 70s to a fiesta of contemporary twists laced with spoken word, monologues, duets and everything in between.
As Ferdinand Adimefe, the curator, CNP puts it,” Our thinking was about fusion: Nigerians love music and would follow it anywhere, but theatre is usually deep and often laced with message that hits you down to the marrow, but is not yet mainstream in our culture. We took the best of both worlds to create themusical and theatrical expression but what made it awesome capturing the past, the future and the present in a synergic experience weaved into one story at one event.”
If its organisation of the delightfully riveting For The Love of Country musical - the first of its kind in Nigeria, one must add - with seasoned cast like the ageless Onyeka Onwenu, the sonorous Timi Dakolo, Tosin Martins, the energetic Crown Troupe of Africa and others, by the same Creative Nigerian Project, is anything to go by, then it is not too early to pick out your dress for this event.
Creative Nigeria through its artistic events is seeking to preserve Africa’s cultural heritage, re-introduce eroding values and history to a new generation through conventional and unconventional means.
Ferdinand said, “We describe Creative Nigeria as a creative and cultural platform that seeks to drive social reformation through a synergy of arts, culture and entertainment. We are not just cultural revivalist or stewards of culture, but our agenda is redemptive, which means that we are geared towards using arts and creativity for social constructivism and social re-engineering through our programs. Art unites our world in the way politics can’t; it mediates our human experiences. I know the subliminal power in theatre and artistry and how it can impact on the mind. I think there is a kind of connection between the content of our entertainment and the loss of values. Again art is like a coin with two sides, on one side it gives diagnosis and reflects the malaise in society; on the other hand it is prescriptive tool that should be used in shaping society. Art that highlights society and does not address it is incomplete; it is like you are diagnosing without prescriptive for a cure. So the point is art is about shaping social consciousness and mental evolution or it is nothing, it is about selectively and carefully transforming the imagination and reality of your audience; they should never be the same after they read your book or watch our shows.”
As a build-up, there are several competitions; the music competition, which is road to Eko the Musical (Sounds of Eko) is also tapping into the talent of those who can sing to express their Lagos in a song. We believe music is the most effective form of art that can promote the “Eko Experience” that transcends age, class, tribe, religion, and simultaneously leave a lasting impact on the psyche of the people. Entries will be from different genres-from classical tunes to contemporary twists in from juju to jazz, R&B, reggae, from jollof-music to neo-soul, blues, alternative rock, classical and everything in between. There are unconfirmed plans to get several of the oldies who rocked the mega-city with their colourful compositions and evergreen recordings over the years including Fatai Rolling Dollar who penned Eko Akete and Jazzman Olofin for “Eko Ile”.
The last one is the photo competition (Eko Lano, Loni, Lola), we tap into the extraordinary power of photographs to tell a compelling story about Eko in a photo competition themed “Eko Through My Eyes”. This project is about going beyond conventional ways of seeing and understanding Lagos, by offering an infinite variety of perception and interpretation via the camera The idea is that pictures speak the most universally understood language. The picture competition is about pictures that chronicle history of the past and the day, the restless energy of the city life, revealing the core of the humanness of its people, the dynamic events, the wealth and confusion that is very much a part of its excrescences of Eko. It is about showing the plethora of cultural interactions, the social significance of spatial and temporal qualities of its landscape, the beauty of the earth and skies defines its locale.
While speaking at a press briefing recently, the Creative Director of Creative Nigeria Project, Lily Okpapi said, “On one level, it is a platform established to promote the creative industry in Nigeria, Africa and the world over. Our mission is to package, present and exports the best of Africa’s culture, Nigeria’s finest talents at an international level to a global audience, from world-class concerts, festivals, conferences, seminars, exhibitions, arts, music, movies, books and fascinating cultural events that capture our history. We collaborate with agencies, corporate organisations, government parastatals, NGOs and individuals in driving a culture of innovation through our relevant projects. On a deeper level, we are deeply passionate about preserving our heritage, values, culture, enhance our human civilization and enlighten social and spiritual consciousness through such content. It is about showing the different side of Nigeria, telling our untold stories. It is to about bringing strong intellectual value to entertainment and to make intellectual content entertaining in a way that it will be empowering. The ultimate goal is to create an alternative entertainment with content that will inspire, motivate and provide clean fun.”
–– Egbejule writes from Lagos.