Bunmi Davies: Because I Love Fela’s Music, Some People Wonder Why I Don’t Smoke
His contributions to the world of comedy since he started producing comedy shows 29 years ago have been tremendous. That is Bunmi Davies. Leading the team at Afrotainment Productions, producers of Stand-Up Nigeria, Davies has redefined comedy shows, while working with big and up-and-coming names. In this recent interview with Tosin Clegg, he recounts his foray into the comedy world, amongst other issues
Why I’m focused on comedy
I’m deliberately focused on comedy. I really don’t have the strength when it comes to music and you can’t give what you don’t have – except when it comes to comedy. I would say that it didn’t happen by design because when the company, Afrotainment Productions started in 2000, I set out doing plays; we were more or less a theatre company but no matter how serious the issue we were dealing with was, we always injected some form of humour into it – whether the issue was about women, child abuse, HIV, armed robbery or unemployment. People who watched our production would always laugh. So, I felt we were making sense and communicating with people even though we were not serious about it, and because of the nature of the work, we were attracting comedians of some sort to feature in our programmes.
My relaxation centre
My relaxation centre called JekaPlay has been a very interesting journey. It has also opened me up to another part of the world. A lot of us see the glamour side of life. Being in Orile-Iganmu for about a year is a practical experience to understanding that things are tough. Regardless, talents abound everywhere, regardless of the background. It’s making me think of other concepts and in due time we will get there. Let me give you a typical example of how it is here, imagine someone living in Orile and working at Lekki. He leaves home at 4:30 to get to the office before eight. Then comes back at night with traffic and all and there’s no light. JekaPlay is one place you are sure of light so people just come here to chill. Somewhere that will give you peace without necessarily having to tear your pocket. That’s what we are about and that’s what we give.
What birthed the idea
A combination of different things. One is that I don’t drink and smoke so from day one I said I’m going to build something where I can stay. Whatever I can’t consume I will not give my people to take. That knocked out alcohol, smoke and drugs. There is a Yoruba adage that says if you take out food from poverty; the problem is more or less solved. Food is a major driver amongst all classes of people, we must all eat. Even when you are sick, doctors advise you to eat food. Food is for all; it is universal and that is what we’ve used to bring everybody together. I’m just lucky that I have entertainment background and that is why we have infused other things like table tennis, video games, snooker, and live football viewing amongst others. There is a limit to how much you can give people in terms of financial commitment but make them happy and everyone will be productive on their own. That is what we are about. From the beginning, when we started last year, they looked at the physical structure and they said it will be expensive but it was unbelievably affordable, so affordable that meat was N50 in a place like this.
What we are doing is that we are reconditioning people. I’m sure you know that there are people who dress well when they are going to ShopRite but they won’t buy anything. They are just going there for the ambiance and to take selfies. You won’t walk into ShopRite and start smoking, so we are bringing that kind of ambiance into this place, so that we can recondition them. They are different ways to educate people. You can do a symposium or a workshop, and this is like an ongoing real-life thing over the years.
Drinking or smoking not in my DNA
I love sweet things. Cakes, ice cream are my weak point but alcohol and smoke, no. My kind of music is Fela and so people wonder how I don’t drink. We all have different things that give us different vibes and for me it’s not drinks or smoke. Till date, I still follow the stand point of whatever I can’t eat I will not sell but I don’t want to do that with alcohol.
Stand-up Nigeria show is still standing
We are going digital now. I’m brushing up my YouTube knowledge, once that is properly done, we’ll fire on digital platforms. Content is not our own problem. The assessment of the entertainment industry in the last 62 years has radically changed. COVID-19 changed a lot of things. It’s only people who don’t want to think that will keep complaining that the country is not good. Foreigners are coming into this country, so that means they are seeing something that we are refusing to see. The country is what we call it, if we call it good, it is good, if we call it bad, it’s bad. That’s the mindset that we should imbibe. The last two years for those that have had positive mindset, check their stories and they have great stories to tell.
We are working on different things
We are working on different things and I really don’t know which to push first because if you look at what we’ve done here, it’s a big CSR project. Taking up another one within such a short space is tough. We will be fooling ourselves if we say we can. What I can tell you is that we will. I don’t go to media to announce myself, let my work talk. I have never thought of what else I can do if I’m not doing this. Probably I would be in a company handling events or doing something around that. I would probably be working in the corporate affairs department of a big company or I’d still be doing it by extension somehow; but getting into full time regular structure is another thing entirely. If they don’t sack me, I will sack myself. I didn’t go for paid employment because its essence is to earn a living and to be happy; I am happy doing what I am doing.