Kelani Brings Ayinla Omowura Back to Life

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Legendary Nigerian filmmaker, Tunde Kelani, is currently shooting an eponymous film based on the life and times of the late Àpàlà musician, Ayinla Yusuf, popularly known as Ayinla Omowura. Ferdinand Ekechukwu reports

Filming of ‘Ayinla’, a musical film on the life and times of the late Àpàlà music legend, Ayinla Yusuf, popularly known as Ayinla Omowura, has started in Abeokuta, Ogun State. Announcing the forthcoming biopic, ace filmmaker Tunde Kelani confirmed principal photography has kicked off for ‘Ayinla’ via his official Instagram page.

The cinematographer known for his love of adaptation of literary materials and exploring cultural phenomenon said this is an important but unusual film by many standards. The biopic will star Nollywood actor, Lateef Adedimeji as the lead character, Bimbo Manuel, Kunle Afolayan, Omowunmi Dada, Ade Laoye, and many others.

The ideation or obsession which gave birth to the movie, according to the veteran Tunde Kelani, lasted more than three years and refused to die despite twists and turns including the COVID-19 pandemic. The movie answers questions like, ‘‘Who is Ayinla Omowura? Why is his music still relevant after his tragic death forty years ago? What is the root that nurtured his craft and music?

Incidentally, Kelani grew up in the beautiful town of Abeokuta, economic and cultural power in the western region of Nigeria. Adding that, the shoot coincided with two related events that were held namely the anniversary of Tawakalitu Omowura, Ayinla’s favourite wife who passed on six years ago, and the 97th birthday celebration of Adewoke Onilu-Ola, Ayinla Omowura’s master drummer.

Born in 1933, Ayinla Omowura born Ayinla Waheed Yusuf, who grew to fame in the 70s with his genre of music known as Apala, is considered one of the most original Yoruba musicians of post-colonial Nigeria. His music was popular in South-West Nigeria in the 70s. Sadly, the controversial music prodigy died during a brawl in a bar with his estranged manager, Bayewu in Abeokuta on May 6, 1980.

The enigma fondly called Egunmogaji or Anigilaje was at the peak of his meteoric rise to stardom when he met his untimely death. He was 47. Forty years after, his musical legacy lives on in ‘Ayinla’ which is currently being shot.

Although a book “Ayinla Omowura: Life and Times of an Apala Legend” recently debuted. The film is set in the 1970s and early 1980s been the time of the occurrence.

A former Nigeria football international, Segun Odegbami, who is a brother/friend of TK, as Mr Kelani, is fondly called, is on set of the production and has been documenting the progress of the shoot via his social media handles.

In a post shared by TK, with the caption “My Diary – an Eagle in Nollywood!” Odegbami said: “For the next week or so, I intend to document and publish my experiences as a close part of the filming of Tunde Kelani’s latest flick-in-the-making, Ayinla. For those that enjoy coffee-table-style literature, this is for your reading pleasure, away from the depressive news everywhere one turns to in the country. . . In the almost half a Century of our relationship, I have not seen Tunde Kelani, TK, in his present mood. It is, probably, because I have, also, never been a close part of his film community on the eve of any of his major productions. This time, we have been ‘5 and 6’, tied in a knot.

“TK has been ‘close marking’ me, the way Claudio Gentile marked out Zico at the 1982 World Cup.

No breathing space. Everywhere Zico went on the field of play Gentile followed him like his shadow. That was the strategy Italy adopted to stop Zico. In my case with TK, he may have adopted a similar ‘strategy’ to forestall any possible ‘escape’ by me. He obviously remembers my versatility as an actor, that’s why he is investing a lot of time on me this time.

“Pls tell him to relax and I am all set for my expanded part in the movie. To fill up my time after playing my part, I am going to keep a diary of the highlights, telling it all, tiworo tiworo, particularly what this faded football star thinks of the experience and how well he does in Planet Nollywood. The past two weeks have been intense, exciting and a blast.

“Working with TK and seeing how a movie is being put together have been a unique experience. The details in producing an epic film like ‘Ayinla’ are mind boggling. The only subject anyone can get TK to discuss these days is the film. Every conversation starts and ends with ‘Ayinla’. I am in his ‘prison’. The good news is that, at last, the filming started a few days ago in Abeokuta. That has taken over his life.”