A Season’s Cultural Offerings, Introspection

Despite the prevailing economic challenges in Nigeria this year, the yuletide period remains a kaleidoscope of cultural offerings on stage, writes 

Yinka Olatunbosun

Saro the Musical at 10

The resounding sound of drums and voices inside Terra Arena Victoria Island Lagos is rekindling the memories of ten years ago when Saro the Musical first hit the stage in Lagos.  Theatre buffs have been converging again to relish the rich theatrical experience delivered by the award-winning Bolanle Austen-Peters Production (BAP).

In commemoration of those 10 years of Saro the musical, a seven-day run starting from Dec 22, 2023 through to Jan 2, 2024 has been activated to return sparks to Lagos, Nigeria’s culture capital.

Set in Lagos, the story explores the life of three talented boys, Azeez, Laitan and Efe who hail  from the humble village of Kutuwenji where they were local sensations. Driven by their passion for music and the desire for success, the trio embarks on a life-altering journey to the city of Lagos.

Broadway-styled, Saro the musical is produced by Bolanle Austen-Peters and has travelled beyond Nigerian shores to Johannesburg and London. This immersive musical is created to transport the audience through the struggles, triumphs and drive of the characters.

Many believe that Saro the musical is the first musical theatre on the Nigerian stage but that is not totally accurate judging by history. Long before Saro the musical, Nigerian theatres domiciled in university environments had seen several musical dramas. But in 2013, a revolution occured in theatre culture in Lagos when theatre production houses owned by private individuals cultivated the interest of the public in large-cast musicals. Heightened by the use of costumes, tech-enabled scenic designs and beautiful choreography, the narrative musical theatre changed significantly and impressively too. For the first time in the post-democratic era, theatre attracted top government officials, corporate bodies, expatriates, international visitors and foreign embassies.

This change all started with the pioneering move by a production driven by a non-governmental organisation to give young people a voice….

Travelling Through Time with Kakadu the musical

Known as Playhouse Initiative, this youth-centred organisation championed the return of musical theatre to MUSON Centre in 2013 with the performance of Kakadu the Musical, a period play set against the Nigeria-Biafra war situation. 

Kakadu is far from being a graphic war documentary with visuals of bloodied warriors. In fact, it is a gleeful tale of life in Lagos, love and friendship beyond the war interfered with lives and livelihoods. 

Built around the character of a club owner, Mr Darocha, the moving tragic-comic story in Kakadu is laced with existential themes alongside the subject matter of national unity.

Since its debut in 2013, Kakadu has travelled to Calabar, Davos in Switzerland and Jo’burg, staged for almost two weeks at the Nelson Mandela Theatre, considered as the biggest stage in South Africa. 

The musical returns to stage again at MUSON Centre, Lagos from December 28 to 30, 2023, as the executive producer and playwright, Uche Nwokedi brings back magic of this musical experience. Kakadu set a high standard that even its writer fears to shatter. Beyond being an entertaining piece, Kakadu is at the core of conversations about the Nigerian state. Most of the issues raised in play have become even more relevant today. At the moment, Nigeria seems to create a sense of Deja Vu similar to post-war economic hardship in the early 70s. Most businesses are struggling while some multinationals are closing operations. The middle-class are leaving in droves in search of greener pastures. Like the period before the war, Nigerians are using content creation vis-a-vis social media memes and Afrobeats as escapism from the more critical issues. In the era of Kakadu, music was also the filter that masked the deeply fractured nature of the Nigerian state. How soothing. Well, one can enjoy Kakadu the Musical without the baggage of emotion just because it’s purgative!

The Father, The Son and The Uncle

The New Afrikan Shrine in Lagos will witness the performances by the Afrobeat music family. Femi Anikulapo-Kuti, his son, Made Kuti and brother, Seun Anikulapo-Kuti would be performing tonight in a concert touted as one of the most affordable in the city. In the heart of Ikeja, this nightclub is the most consistent on the mainland and has secured a multi-generation audience overtime.

Greater Lagos Fiesta Looms…

Perhaps in response to the need to reposition our cultural products as export-worthy, Lagos State Ministry for Tourism Arts and Culture has  been in a hyperactive mode since the beginning of the year. Whilst most state theatres are still existing as under-utilised installations in their various locations across the state, the Ministry is looking for an opportunity to thrill tourists and Lagos residents with this year’s “Greater Lagos Fiesta.” 

Holding from December 29, 2023 to 1st January 1st, 2024, the festival is created to regenerate cultural life in Lagos.

“We are taking this year’s fiesta to a whole new level, with three days of non-stop excitement”. The Lagos state Honourable Commissioner for Tourism arts and culture Mrs Toke Benson-Awoyinka declared at a press conference in Lagos.

“We have put a lot in place for security, we are working actively with all security apparatus of the state, the Nigeria Police, DSS, Civil Defence, Lagos State Traffic Management Authority, LASTMA, Neighbourhood Watch among other security operators in the state.We are making sure that the entire space is secure, we are ensuring that our children are well taken care of and secure as well”.

The Lagos Countdown 2024 #Greater Lagos Fiesta has become an annual tradition, of celebrating, culture, music, and entertainment, among tourists visiting the state and the citizens during the Christmas/new year celebrations. It has a track record of safety and orderliness- but don’t mistake this for a pick-pocket free zone.

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