No doubt, scores of documentary movies were screened at Freedom Park, Lagos during the just concluded 2018 iREP international documentary film festival. But one particularly hits home the reality of what it means and takes to be a music journalist. Titled My Father’s Book, the short documentary was inspired by a little, almost forgotten book by a music journalist named Ceasar Kagho dedicated to the memory of Charlie Bee, an iconic disc-jockey who redefined night life entertainment in the old Bendel State (now Edo and Delta States).
Produced by Kagho Idhebor and Kagho Akpor, the documentary was set in the 1970s in the former Bendel State, based on their father’s book titled, Bendel Deejays (1977-1981) A Tribute to Charlie Bee (1957-1982). The book was published long before the two film makers were born against the backdrop of the era of disco music. The book wasn’t just a historical piece of the key players in popular music of the period, it was a tool to dig into music archives and how a movement in music ran its course.
The sole narrator was Ceasar Kagho, a journalist and a die-hard music fan who began his career in print journalism as a political reporter. On his father’s advice, he switched his beat to entertainment and became one of the best at his game. He was on the streets, backstage and where necessary in the studio watching the movement in music and the trends that marked the disco era.
He enjoyed clubbing. As a matter of fact, to be an entertainment writer requires social skills. He didn’t need to learn those for he was a natural. He toured with artists and had all access pass during music concerts which enable him to enter just about anyway during a performance. But something must have struck him about disc jockeys. They are ones who make music popular, through sound manipulation.
The opening scenes in the film showed turntables, vinyl records and audio consoles that were popular with disco DJs. Skills on the wheels such as beat-matching, scratching, beat juggling, back spinning and needle drops were the usual techniques that make DJs unique but with Charlie Bee, the protagonist of the book upon which the movie is based, a humane strength of character distinguished him from his contemporaries. He was young but not a juvenile. Unlike his peers in the entertainment music, he didn’t engage in heavy drinking, smoking or philandering. And he was drop-dead handsome. He was sporting jerry curls that was popular with music stars of the period. But he had such a good heart. He began his session at the club with a message of love and his signature tune. Everyone loved Charlie Bee so much that most of the DJs of the period added Bee as suffix to their stage names.
Sadly, the news of his death stung like a bee. He was single and childless at the time he passed but he touched so many lives with his simple lifestyle and message of love and unity. Disco also died a natural death as well with the rise in pop music. According to Caesar, most of the disco enthusiasts and DJs relocated or delved into other careers because discotheques lost its popularity in time.
On the techniques of cinematography, the movie was well-paced, neatly edited and the narrator was shot through monochrome effect that captured the spirit of “past’’. Lots of the narration was done in show-and-tell, that is through the help of old photographs treated with high-resolution by Logor. Stories abound to be and with My Father’s Book’, we have learnt that it is stories that we may have taken for granted that are the real stories.
To preserve that music legacy, Caesar wrote his book and now his children shot the movie and screened it for the first time at Freedom Park. It was a most fitting film submission to the theme of iREP festival, “Archiving Africa’’, an untold story of disco era in Nigeria and a must-watch for every music journalist.