Monday, March 26, 2007

Am I Vain

One of those wears that I am crazy about.

At Busola Elegbede's Book Launch

YPI (Most of Us)

The War In The Sky

This write up was first published in National Mirror.

The War in The Sky
by Uzezi Ekere

Over the years, historical events have served as great inspirations towards the making of masterpiece works of literature that did more than just entertain, but helped in educating people, and even opted them to do more research on the topic, just to know more. In 2006, a fiction work on the Biafran war, Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Adichie, brought back the war into discussion, and some young people who had no idea of it, had to try to understand more. February 22 saw the birth of another work of literature, where the sun and the moon had to take centre stage as the main acts in a poetic work of drama titled The War in the Sky. The formal presentation of the 35 paged book saw a gathering that cut across the literature circle, into other fields, as people came to find out what Busola Elegbede, the author, had to offer. As it appeared, it was a lot that came in a small package. Making this discovery was only made possible, when the Onile Agbon theatre troupe, led by Amos Femi, came up to do a drama presentation of The War in the Sky. Soon enough, like the title of the book, there was soon war as the sun (queen) and the moon (king) couldn’t resist fighting each other. With a compilation of casts; Morayo Ajani, the narrator, the sun, the moon, four moon dancers, four sun dancers and four cloud dancers, the audience got engaged in the flirting and mockery of the moon towards the sun, and the unbelievably rage and temper of the sun, whom, the reviewer of the book, Chike Ofili, would later describe as having the temperament of a man, and should have been the king, instead of the queen who ruled by day.

“A blinding but watchable SUN shines brightly down on Nigeria,” says Morayo. Throughout the presentation of this drama, it is obvious that both the sun and the moon are trying to show who has the more important throne over the earth. Although the sun got away mostly because of her aggressiveness, the moon has the last laugh when he was able to block the light of the sun from falling on the earth, and thus, an eclipse.

The work Busola Elegbede presented is an event which, even though happened in many other countries, is strictly based on Nigeria. Writing on the eclipse of the sun, she did justice to the constant fight between the sun and the moon as at the same time, funny enough, her work could be interpreted to address the political situation of the country, with the constant fight between president Obasanjo and his vice, Atiku Abubakar. Although the book is a work of literature, which will also serve as an avenue for entertainment, the writer sees the work of the book as going further.
"The book is the challenges Nigerians face,” Busola Elegbede said. “It’s a human experience where there will be a dark time and a time you will shine. And to deal with the misconception of what some people around here still think about the eclipse, when they regard it as a spiritual thing.” Earlier on, the chairman’s opening remarks to the audience had expressed the sadness that not enough youths were present at the book presentation, that it would have been worthwhile to have that audience, since the book is actually addressed to them from one of there own. But later on, Elegbede cleared that notion, saying the book is for everyone. “The chairman meant it in form of a school book that they could use in their studies, but it’s for everyone really because there are people who buy books just to read and enjoy. Not necessarily as a school book.”

Elegbede who has been writing since her secondary school days, and who once wrote for her drama club in school, co-wrote a play where she played the lead actress during her NYSC in Adamawa state. “It was about two years ago that I started writing for the stage so I have been active and involved in it.”
Just like many writers, she yearned for a break, to come out and be read, but it was taking too long to happen, which then prompted her to self publish.
“A climate of the state of the book industry in this country which made the writer, the editor, publisher, event planner as well as marketer, when she should be using such precious time to nurse other creative ideas,” the reviewer, Chike Ofili said.
On the book, he emphasized that if there had been an editor, the author would have been given more light and insight towards her work. “It is my opinion that the book is a well thought out plan, but it would have needed more imaginative stretch if she had a good editor.”
Elegbede said she did seek the help of publishers and actually have some deals. “I have so many manuscripts and I am tired to looking at them, so I had to do something about this one. “I even have the synopsis of this book out for foreign publishers,” she added.
And knowing fully just what the industry is like, Elegbede has her marketing plans that she hoped will work for her. “I will take this work and showcase it as much as possible. It’s not just writing it, I’m going to dramatized it with the help of drama troupes. I plan to take it out of the country, but I’m taking it round the country first. Besides, exporting this work is part of my inspiration,” she said. “Because the eclipse brought people last year – foreigners - to Nigeria, so I decided I was going to write about Nigeria and about an event that brought people to Nigeria, which was why I chose the eclipse of the sun.”
Elegbede’s title for her book is partly influenced by the fact that her father, is a retired military man. Already, with this work, she intimated that she has been nominated for an award, but refused to talk further on it till the time is right. Already, she is working on other projects. “I write for comics and some websites, so I’m a very busy writer. But I am bringing two new works out soon. One of them is titled Despair in Her Eyes. I want people to praise and criticize.”


This write up was first published in National Mirror

by Uzezi Ekere

It is surprising that in a country where the culture of reading has been described as dead; people still have mountains of hope as they keep saying that our literature is growing.
“I think that our literature is growing,” Prof. Akachi Ezeigbo said. “New writers are coming on board all the time, and even the older names are still writing, and the quality of some the works being produced is encouraging, even though there is also a lot of improvement to do, but one expect that some will be very good, some will be good, some will be not too good, and some will be bad.”
When Okome Onookome had to say something on the growth of African literature, he said it was definitely growing.
“Nigeria Literature is doing well, as far as I can tell,” he said. “African Literature is doing well, but I think that Nigeria Literature stands out. I can give the example of Canada, where I have been for the past four years, teaching African Literature.”
With this view then, one would expect that all aspect of the industry would grow together; publishing, reading culture etc. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case.
Regardless of the fact that they say the publishing business is a non profitable one, more people are going into it, and even if there are not more, those there refuse to quit. In talking about the publishing business, it will be wise to differentiate between the publishers of educational books, and literature. While the former is a striving business, the same cannot be said about the later. For this, many people believe that a lot of factors could be responsible for it while others have ruled it to pure marketing strategy and a
passion for the business.
Sefi Atta once said that one problem facing the industry is publishing. And the difficulty of getting quality works to readers.
The compliant about the dwindling or dead reading culture, does not stop the releases of new books into the market, and whether they sell at all, is a question that demands an honest answer from the publishers.
Surprisingly, the publisher of Farafina, Muhtar Bakare, revealed that after getting the right to publish Chimamanda Adichie’s Purple Hibiscus for West Africa, he had an initial print run of 13,000 in 2004, and as of September last year, had sold twelve thousands copies, while ordering for more to be printed.
In as much as this figure might seem small compared to the number of copies of books sold in a week in the Western world for them to make the Best Sellers list, 12,000 copies sold in Nigeria of today, is an achievement, because most publishers wouldn’t publish more than 5, 000 copies of their first production.
Today in Nigeria, more and more writers are being discovered everyday, although some of them are yet to come out with a certified publication, the media recognizes them as upcoming talents with abundance of talents.
Unfortunately, despite this vote of confidence, very few or almost no publishers are taking interest in these writers, unless of course they get an opportunity to publish a book abroad, and make publicity. And with such publicity, it is then guaranteed that the reading Nigerian public will listen to them.
Publishing nevertheless, has always been a problem in this country, according to writer, Prof. Akachi Ezeigbo. “Even in the time of Achebe, it wasn’t anybody who scribbled anything that got published, even though it was easier for people who wrote well because there were publishers who were actually looking for writers, especially the African Writers Series. Today there are many publishers than was the case in the past. But then, many of them are publishing text books and things that will fetch money, such as biographical writings etc.”
Although, even if publishing has always been a pain in the neck, it has gotten worse today, despite the fact that there are more writers.
“Things began to fall apart for the Nigerian publishing industry when the military first intervened in the political arena in the early sixties,” said Muhtar Bakare in a presentation in the UK, in 2006. “They went on to destroy all social infrastructures. They mismanaged the economy and entrenched a culture of corruption. They added little to the infrastructure of commerce and allowed whatever existed hitherto to fall into disrepair. Of particular significance was their destruction of the educational system. This is would have wide-ranging consequences for a country where the language of the inchoate national culture, English, was not indigenous, but learnt in school.”
With this said, it becomes almost understanding when people argue that the slack in publishing also resulted to the waning interest in reading. Adewale Maja-Pearce said that if something has to be done, it should be done properly. “We don’t have standards,” he remarked. “We have the best in the world and very little belief in actual standards. I am very interested in trying to get books up to international standards but we don’t seem to be committed to doing that. Book publishing is not as it used to be. Taking the process from manuscript to a published book is a big step. You have to work on the book. Proper editing and packaging are very critical issues in the market. I am also aware that people have been saying for a long time that there is no reading culture in Nigeria. The problem as I see it is that books are expensive, so they are out of reach for many. Affordability is therefore a basic problem. Also, there is not much infrastructure on ground. It should indeed be possible to print cheap editions of books.”
Gradually, the reading public is beginning to wake up to the news of new and good writers, books properly packaged and affordable, as Farafina opened the doorway for others publishers to follow, by publishing well put together books that are affordable. As the culture returns, there are hopes that things in the publishing industry will change; that more writers living at home will be given an opportunity and foreign publishers will come buying publishing rights from Nigerian publishers. And fortunately, there are possibilities considering how the literary circle of Nigeria and Africa has changed in the last ten years.
Finally, when this culture of good writers, good reading public, and good publishing is achieved, the old generations writers, like Achebe, Ike, Soyinka, can relax, that what they started will not wither away once they are gone.


This programme held on February 18 at Terra Kulture Lagos, when YPI, Young Professionals Impact, collaborated with Crown Troupe and Terra Kulture for the Bukhateria show.
While I am a part of YPI, I also covered the event and reported for my paper, National Mirror, and this was how it appeared in the paper.

When people gathered to enjoy the performances of stage artistes on the third Sunday of the month of February, it was more than just entertainment that was happening. It was also new hopes for some children somewhere. It was an evening that saw the ‘Crown Troupe of Africa’ mount the stage again, as they have always done on the third Sundays of every month. Bukhateria No. 12 was more than the usual Bukhateria because the original organizers where joined by Young Professionals Impact (YPI). The audience came prepared for an evening of exciting performances, and where not disappointed as one artiste to the other succeeded in inviting reasonable applause from the audience. The show began with an opening performance by Footprints, a theatre group of five young people who thrilled the audience with their choreographed dance play to put them in the mood for the rest of the activities yet to come. Taking over from them are The Goodies Flavour Melody. Then came Aro-Merin, as they performed the jazz side of a popular track by Asha. They were in their performance, able to hold the complete attention of the audience, who listened with rapt attention and possibly nostalgic feelings. Quickly bringing the audience back from the melody of divine feelings, Oteega, the MC, couldn’t stop cracking jokes. Soon enough, he explained the reason of the gathering. In as much that ‘Crown Troupe of African’ has always done the Bukhateria show every month, it was a welcoming plan to do a show that was totally dedicated to charity. The Young Professionals Impact (YPI), is a non-governmental organization that comprises of young professionals, employed in different fields, who came together, because of the common dream they have to help the less privileged ones in the society. YPI’s ‘Live The Dream’ project involves a series of activities that will enable the body to raise funds for charity, as well as take up the responsibility of sponsoring the education of certain children.

Their decision to join ‘Crown Troupe of Africa’ and ‘Terra Kulture’ in organizing the Bukhateria No. 12, is to enable them have a beginning for the task ahead of them, since some of the activities the organization plans to initiate, includes art presentations such as exhibitions and drama presentation.
In that note, the creative works of the evening was of interest to the organization whose project Live The Dream will also encourage young ones on living the life that is right for them, a life they dream of and which can be achieved through the various talents that God has given to them.
‘Crown Troupe of Africa’s first performance of the night titled ‘Cycle’ is written and choreographed by Segun Adefila, the leader of the group. Basically, what the contemporary dance piece tries to convey out to the audience is the fact that there is nothing new under the earth: ‘follow a print and leave a print as done by those who lived before’. They chanted, as they described through well choreographed steps, how it is important to live a life that is meaningful, so as to be remembered for the good addition to the generation of a people.
Another highlight of the night was by four little boys who knew how to speak with their drums. Ironically enough, they go by the name of Drummer Men. To the delight of the evening, they played a popular commercial track called ‘Baby Konga’.
Humour unlimited was also part of the occasion. Not to forget the fact the Oteega, a popular stand up comic was the MC of the evening. Wherever he stopped, Oteega was soon to bring on stage another of his colleagues (soul snatcher and Kofi), to help brighten up the occasion. Then not forgetting Salem whose song cry of the politics of the country eventually matched the main performance of the evening.
The main performance of the evening, by ‘Crown Troupe of Africa’, was Olu Obafemi’s ‘Night of a Mystical Beast’ a poetic play on trust and betrayal which tells the story of how the black man got colonized by the white man. What’s more, was the presentation of the reality in which we live in today, all in the name of democracy; the fraud of the politicians and the pledges of empty words which are never redeemed.
Although at the beginning of the play, we see the kind of community that the black man exist in, and in the contentment in all that he have. But gradually, with the coming of the white man, who artistically ridicules the ways of the black man, and leads him to lead a life different to one he knows, the believes change to accommodate what he learns from the white man, who overnight, turns from being the enemy into the friend who will loan the people money to carry out various constructions.
It is strange that when the learned children of the land tries to warn their king from listening to the deceit of the white man, the king is unsure of what to do, as there lies lots of promises by going the way of the white man. And just as commotion arises in the face of war, the king obviously in need of guns to defeat his enemies in battle, turns to the white man, who already seem to have succeeded in starting a commotion.
“This is our condition,” the white man say,” you will have guns to fight and conquer your enemies, but you will give us your men to help us fight and conquer our enemies in the white man’s land”, the beginning of slavery.
Obviously the play tries to identify who the beast is among the people for all the calamities that befall them, as unknowing all through selfish reason, they take decisions that favours themselves and which hurts the people. It is a play that intends people to think of the other person before making a decision.
At the end of the day, YPI had a successful first outing and were very grateful to all those who helped to make it happened. As all the monies raised goes to charity, the organization will soon be back to launch their project.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Sound of Your Voice

It was more than the sound of your voice
That vibrated in the innermost
Chambers of my heart
As the echoes refused to seize.

I looked forward to seeing you again
Wondering what you really were like
Because when we met
I didn’t take notice really.

There was something alike
That emanated from you to me
Later I knew it was
Our same nature of mind.

As always my head
Began its many fantasies
And I wish not
Because I fear that road.

Twice I took it
And twice I went in deeply
And twice I was wounded

Now you are before me
As I peep through a window
Into your mind
And I fear, I fear.

I fear of digging deep
I might have the strength not
But everywhere I turn now
I hear the sound of your voice.

December 2006


Published in National Mirror in 2006

Music in Nigeria today is big business, but it isn’t that easy. Success doesn’t depend on talents alone, but good management, good looks, luck, among others. While lots of male artistes of this generation are making waves, the female artistes are still coming up and trying to catch up. What’s more, it isn’t easy for them.
Niyola is another addition to the ever increasing number of artistes in the industry, and already she is attracting a lot of commendation. With good looks and a good voice, the artiste who is currently with ‘Westside Music’ Label, is set to storm the music scene with her debut album. Recently, she spoke with Uzezi Ekere on her music and what people should expect.

As an artiste, you are known as Niyola. What is your full name?
I am Eniola Akinbo from Ile-Isha, Osun state.

How long have you been in the music industry?
Well, I started singing at a very young age, but I got into the industry in 2000. Professionally, I started singing in 2002.

You are currently on the Westside label. Did you begin your musical career with that label?
No. I used to be with the Trybes. When I left there, I started working with Freestyle’s production outfit, called Make Some Noise. I put out a couple of singles them just to test the waters and the response was good, after then, I got a two album contract with Westside.

So when are we expecting your debut album?
By the end of the year, it should be out. It has fifteen songs in it, and the album is as good as done because we are almost through with all the production. And of course it is a self titled album. Already the first single Call My Name is out and is even on some music charts.

It isn’t easy being in an industry that is very well dominated by males. How do you cope?
Well, I am someone who cannot be intimidated by anything once my mind is set up on something, because I believe in myself. Yes the industry is dominated by the opposite sex, but I have to do what I believe in too, and prove that I can hold my own. Those who know me, know this about me. Somehow I deal with it, sometimes I get through with it. Truth be told, what Satan capitalizes on is your fear. When people see your confidence and faith that you have in yourself, they will back down from whatever they want to do, that isn’t right for you. Even if they persist in their ways, they will find that you are also very persistence in your faith, and they will let you be.

Back to your album, are there other artistes’ voices we will be hearing apart from yours?
Oh yes. I featured others; Ojb Jezerel, who also produced some tracks for the album, Freestyle and Sasha.

Most times, apart from the fact that artistes have contracts with labels, they usually have other plans outside of music. What are yours?
Well, I have quite a lot of things that I want to do but that are on hold for now. Like I intend to go into modeling later on. I also have a passion for acting as well, then I have a flair for fashion. They will just have to wait for now, because I want my singing career to get off the ground first.

Most parents are not every into the idea of their children wanting to go into showbiz. They would rather the children go to school and do professional courses. Did you face such hindrances when you decided to take music up as a career?
Not really. My family has been supportive so far. It was actually my dad who discovered that I could sing. I was eight then. And I used to participate in singing competitions then which of course, my mother bought the forms for me. I was actually forced to do the AMEN competition then because I was ill. They have been supportive.

Are you still in school?
Yes I am. I am presently studying English Language at the University of Lagos and I am in my second year. I have to school here you see, because of my work. I actually have been in the college of Journalism at Ogba, Lagos. I graduated from there and decided to further my studies. So I am a journalist too and one day, I will go into publishing. I have my plans.

Now Niyola, your album isn’t out yet, but music lovers know you as an artiste. You have a name that has preceded your work. So now that this album is finally coming, what should the public expect?
The best and the very best. I can guarantee you that. My album is very diverse and most people have said that it is too foreign, but I am only expressing myself there. There is R & B in it, pop, hip-hop, soul, a little bit of Jazz too. I didn’t leave my culture out of it. You will find it all in my album. I just decided I will give the best and let the public know what I am really about; which is why the album is self titled, in the first place because it brings out the real me. A lot of people don’t know what I am about. They keep hearing the name and keep wondering what she does. So this is my time to answer all their unasked questions.

It is a good thing to have a female R& B singer come into the music industry, as they are almost not existing in the industry. In Rap, there are few ladies making impact. Why do you think that females shy away from the music industry?
A lot of people look down on us for a fact, you see. Some people will take us as people who do not want to go to school, and who don’t have a future. Irresponsible, that is to say. That think it is people like this who go into music. Some people associate going into music as being loose. That if you are into music or showbiz, you are not decent. So putting all these into consideration, most girls shy away from what they want to do, because of the fear of being looked at in a funny way. They think about what people will say, which shouldn’t be so. In the end, you are the only one who can see your vision and your dreams, and you have to fight to make it come true, you have to be strong and focused. Nigeria didn’t just gain independence. We fought for it. So also, these girls have to fight for their freedom. Yes my family supported me, but it wasn’t just as easy as that. I also had to fight for my freedom because I knew more than anyone what I wanted to do and I had to make them realize that.

So now that you are fully in the industry, as a female, are you prepared for the kind of attention people will bring your way?
Truth be told, I can’t say I know what I am going to face, but I think that I have an idea though and I can say that I am very prepared for it. It is easier to handle when you are prepared. And most of all I am a very God fearing person who puts God first, and he will see me through because he will also be with me.

You are under Now Muzik management. How did you get to be working with them? Did the management company come looking for you, or you went looking for it?
I went looking for them. at the time that I just got Westside, I was asked to come with my own management team. I was still working under Freestyle’s production outfit then, and he was the one you took me to Now Muzik, and we started working together.

At Last

At last I can access my blog. I was so miserable always trying to sign in and never getting on. And this unfortunate accident happened when yours truly decided to switch to the new blog. Still looks the same to me anyway.

Nevertheless, I'm glad to be back! So smile with me.