Yinka Olatunbosun

The year 1996 means a lot to music lovers in Lagos for one reason: it was the year the MUSON festival was born. Though it was a mini-festival at the outset, its maiden edition which lasted three days featured performers from Bolshoi Theatre of Moscow. Twenty years after, the story has changed. Whilst retaining the classical musical tradition, the festival incorporates other performing art genres such as dance, drama and performance poetry.

Inside the Mobil hall, MUSON Centre, this year’s edition was recently announced to the public with several participating artists and organisations in attendance. The Vice Chairman, Louis Mbanefo SAN recounted how the festival has fast become institutionalised in the city’s cultural calendar.

“The events featured in the first festival were two piano recitals; a children’s concert, an art exhibition, drama presentations; African and classical music appreciation lectures; Nigerian traditional music and dance as well as two concerts by MUSON artists and choir. Each successive festival has adopted basically the same format, but with variations, depending on the available material,” he disclosed.

The exciting news is that this 20th edition is being packaged to give the festival a broad appeal. The Chairman, 20th MUSON Festival Planning Committee Kitoyi Ibare-Akinsan, declared that the festival will run from October 14 till October 30, beginning with a visual art exhibition.

There will be a musical, “FELA- Arrest the Music”, which will last for three days; two shows per day. A very intriguing part of the festival this year is that most of the events occur both in the afternoon and evening. In previous editions, most performances hold from 6 pm. but in order to include the younger audience whose bedtime is 7 or 8 p.m., the 3 p.m. matinee has been initiated for the musical.

The Chevron festival drama for this edition is J.P. Clark’s The Wives’ Revolt which is directed by Ben Tomoloju while the Total Festival Opera for the year is Bedrich Smetana’s The Bartered Bride which is directed by Sir Emeka Nwokedi. Both performances will hold on October 22 and 23 respectively.

The Jazz night scheduled for October 28, will feature Lanre Kunniji, an alumnus of the MUSON School of Music, currently based in South Africa where he studies jazz performance at Masters’ degree level. He will share the stage with Debbiesoul, a classic soul and jazz vocalist as well as Perpie, a smooth jazz and soul saxophonist. THEOSOLITES, an all-male jazz band will also be in the spotlight for the night that will be opened by School Big Band, conducted by Col (Rtd) Odujobi.

The classical concert which is the grand finale on October 30 will be conducted by Walter Michael-Vollhardt. It will be preceded by the performance poetry and music concert directed by Efe Paul Azino on October 29.

Asides the youth concert and music discussions, the festival’s traditional entrée, tagged “My Kind of Music” will be featuring Banke Ademola, Ifeoma Fafunwa, Yemisi Shyllon and Benson Idonije.

Akinsan also acknowledged the contribution and support of the Society of Performing Arts of Nigerian (SPAN) as well as Treasure House limited.