Olurombi: The making of a myth

by Prince Wale Oreshade

This article is culled from Y! Magazine Issue 3, out in stores now. To read more of this and other exciting pieces, buy a copy! (Click HERE to find a vendor near you)

Onikaluku jeje ewure! ewure!! ewure!!!

Onikaluku jeje aguntan! aguntan!! aguntan!!!

Oluronbi jeje omore omo re apkon bi epko

Oluronbi o jo in jo in Iroko jo in jo in!

So goes the ever green under-the-moon-light theme song of Oluronbi. The folklore, like Abraham’s story was one wet with the virtues of fulfilling promises. But unlike Abraham; Oluronbi didn’t want to give back her daughter, Abike, to Iroko. She would love to keep and nurture her, like Rappaccini to his daughter. Oluronbi was the last wife of the King of Idi-Iroko. She was barren and so she sought the help of Iroko, who is reputed for answering prayers. While others will offer animals and other food stuffs as in the case with the biblical brothers; Kane and Abel, she offered to give back the child if given! She was desperate to have a child of her own, even just ‘for a day’! But when her daughter’s time was up, she rushed down to Iroko to ‘negotiate’. Iroko took her daughter anyways, for even Abike had promises to fulfill in the hades!

It was an awesome watch with almost no blemish. The mythical story line was well adhered to with couple of modern norms like the choice of Abike and Oluronbi’s attire on the day they were to welcome the suitors, which was European. But unlike Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, Much Ado About Nothing and The Winter’s Tale; The suitors came with Nigerian cultural idiosyncrasies and nuances to seduce the Princess. The subtle and soft use of English, Pidgin English, and Yoruba was splendid. At some point these language combination was comical and at others, it aided in passing across the message in a manner that makes the audience smile and nod. The heavy Yoruba accented English also worked well both in poetry and conversations with words like ‘comu’ instead of ‘come’ and ‘olori’s’ instead of ‘Queens’.

The dance and music was deeply African and if by any chance Oduduwa was in the Theatre, he would be impressed. The stage lightening also helped in conveying the message. It had red spot lights when the issue being discussed was serious, it had yellow lights when the activity was light. The stage was dark when with the god, and the stage had blue lights when the atmosphere was so sensual and romantic! There was also the continuous fast blinking light that made the quick dancers look to us as though they were in slow motion. The ‘ewi’ recited with high pitched feminine voice poured lucidly on our faces the sonorous beauty of the Yoruba language. It was captivating!

The King’s three other wives, like Soyinka’s Lion and the Jewel’s Sadiku had fun in making jest of the King’s potency which they affirmed had dwindled with the advent of Oluronbi. This trio also reminds one of the witches in Macbeth that were filled with stylish sarcasm. Tears almost ran down my cheeks when Oluronbi cried of her loss. Goose bumps did roll down my skin and my palms did sweat as the anxiety and suspense flipped through the pictorial pages of Oluronbi on stage!

One will almost forget that it was tragic at the end because of the shimmering softness that Abike possessed when she walked away-died! There were no blood, scars or tears on her skin as she ‘walked away’. Instead villagers danced, sang and rejoiced on what was supposed to be her walk to death! This tragicomedy, titled Oluronbi, is a tale that really needs to be told now that Nigeria’s elections are by the corner and promises are floating in the air. Iroko is telling all the politicians to fulfill their promises or else!

After having had the above experience, the. nostalgia grew in me to meet the organisers. So I was happy when I was given this rare privilege. I was not only able to meet the Producer, Director, Head of Operations, but I was able to meet couple of the Artistes.

Ikhane Akhigbe, the CEO of Aboriginals and a Barrister at Law, is the Producer of Oluronbi. The young entrepreneur had this to say when I asked him to give a background of Oluronbi. He said that, its been around for a over year. Technically, we’ve done a show at every quarter. Its an African-cultural folklore. He then sang a bit of the theme song: Onikaluku jeje ewure. And he continued saying that, what we did with Oluronbi was to take the folklore and put it on visuals in a manner that will depicts Africa’s Culture and Traditions. It had songs, dance and fashion.

When he was asked on how expensive Oluronbi was, he said he wouldn’t do that. He further gave an idea of how much it did cost by saying that he had an average of over a hundred cast and crew at every show of Oluronbi. And that if each person received an average of Ten Thousand Naira excluding every other details as maintenance, logistics and event arrangements, then you will have an idea of how expensive it is!

I then asked him if there were plans on showcasing Oluronbi all over Nigeria and eventually outside. He said, they are plans to do that. The ultimate objective is to show Oluronbi in many places as possible, to showcase our cultures and traditions. So any length we have to take it to, we would!

I further asked what the acceptance attitude of sponsors considering the fact that it is traditional? He answered quite abruptly saying: Initiatially, there were skepticisms as to whether it could be done. But eventually that died. It was self sponsored by Aboriginals except from the last show that the Lagos State Government sponsored.

On how chanllenging it was. He said that it has been challenging and considering how big the project had been, it puts a halt to every other thing the Aboriginals was into. Aboriginals is an entertainment firm. The cost of one show of Oluronbi could actually launch ten artiste’s musical album. Its been quite hard. To cope with the logistics and hiring the best for the job. Its basically a very demanding project.

While the atmosphere was getting too serious, I decided to make it soft by asking him about himself. And he said almost immediately that He thanks God that He is alive! By nature I am not interested in a lot of things but when I love something, I put everything to it.

When I asked him on the style that was used in rendering Oluronbi and its theme song. He was of the view that: Well, the instrumentals and dance was there so that when one leaves the theatre, the songs still plays in one’s head. And for each show of Oluronbi, we have expanded. We learn from each one and make it better and better. We made over a thousand copies of the Oluronbi songs and gave it out for free. Attached to it was Tomi’s album too. Tomi is a new artistes under our label.

On whether Oluronbi will be showing next year. He said that will depend on demand for it. So if the people want it again. Fine! We would like to show it every year. But it will depend on the Public, Media and Sponsors because we can’t do it alone.

He then gave a privilege brief on Aboriginals and its objectives. Aboriginals Productions is about telling authentic and true Nigerian stories. Its about content. Whether music, video or plays. Each time we take a project, we want to show the world that we have something that can stand on International stage. And that is why we chose Oluronbi in the first place. And the response locally and internationally has been great. We don’t want to tell the same stories that has been told by other people about us; we want to tell our own stories. I don’t want my two boys to grow up with the thought that they can only get the best on Dstv. We want to create an atmosphere that will make them look inwards. And the artistes in Nigeria are really doing fine. Whichever genre they belong, I respect them for what they are doing. We really should start respecting them. And I thank every body that has helped in the Production and the Acting. Everybody and anybody that has

anything to do with Oluronbi.

I then sought to meet the Head of Operations. Miss Nike Taylor. She is a young pretty lady with lots of energy. At least those were the first adjectives I could think of when I met her. She is also a guru in Corporate and Brand Communications. For a project as big as Oluronbi, I was surprised when I saw the young lady that was the Head of Operations. She indeed is a genius. Eagerly, I asked if I could meet her. I am in charge of Operations of the Aborginal. I run the office management and other Project or Project related matters. On how challenging was the Oluronbi project. She looked into the thin air and said that though the cast and crew was big. It was fulfilling. Its a play that is one of a kind.

I was quick to ask her the question of what message did she think Oluronbi passed across? And she said that though Oluronbi was staged in Pre-colonial times, it has messages that are valuable to this present age of ours. It extends the role of a woman in the society not to be just one of house welfarism but one that can affect the society at large. The strength of womanhood was intellectually eulogised.

Surprisingly, I saw the young eleven years old boy, Timi Taylor, who I gathered was in the  Operations Department as an Intern. If I didn’t know better, I would say its not possible. But I recall so well, that it was the young boy that stood before hundreds of audience at Muson Center addressing us on when the play was to start. We had no choice but to clap at the end of his delievery. We were so surprised at his confidence, in fact, if a pin fell when he was talking, its sound would be heard.

I asked him on how challenging it was for him, and he said that being behind the scene is a whole different experience. I had to work tirelessly. And I learnt a whole lot! I had to wake and sleep at the right times. I am proud of Aboriginal and I say Thank you. I then asked him what the message he got from Oluronbi was. Its one that tells of the virtues of fulfilling promises. Thus, we shouldn’t make promises we can’t keep. I have learnt not to promise my friends what I can’t give. I have learnt above all; hard work!

I had to tease him eventually by asking him if we would be seeing more of him in the Arts, this is what he had to say: Probably, though I love the Arts. But I will be an entrepreneur so I can invest in the Arts. He made me think of what I would have said if I were in his shoes at eleven. What a smart kid, I thought solemnly to myself.

I asked to meet any of the Directors and one was provided immediately. He is a tall, lively young man with an Afro. His name is Olarotimi Fakunle. We shook hands and he introduced himself as one of the Directors and one of the actors at some points. I write and direct. I also asked him how challenging it was to put together something this sophisticated. And he said that, it is the most challenging project he had ever done. So of course, I had to improvise ingeniously most times. We started with three directors and one had to travel abroad at a point. And handling different people from different homes was just tedious. It was a good experience though. It did widen my horizon. He said the lesson from Oluronbi was a fundamental message. It teaches that one should not say what he can’t do. Oluronbi promised to give back Abike even if given ‘for a day’! But she refused to give back when Iroko asked. And Iroko did what it had to do.

He didn’t leave without advising up coming Directors. He said: Know what you want to do. Be faithful to what you want to do. And what you want to do will be a part of you. Though there are different theories of Directing; the most important thing is understanding the play and going with it.

I am sure Chiqita Ezinwa, Abike, had lot of suitors after the play that day. She really does fit someone from the gods. So pretty a pretty a young lady. With well practiced gestures and walks of a Princess. Of course, I met her too. Abike was Oluronbi’s daughter. She was given to her by Iroko. On meeting her, she said she acts, sings and dances. I had been in all the shows as Abike! Seriously? That must have multiplied her suitors. I then asked her how challenging was the role was. She said that this last one was the most challenging for me. There were more people and more dramas. But it was fun. I quickly asked her what her message from Oluronbi was. For me, she said. It shows the extent to which society could push women. Most of the things that Oluronbi did was because of the pressure from the society. Women should be given more freedom and privileges in the society.

Even though I didn’t spot Ijeoma Aniebo on the stage. I am sure she was one of those that saliently made the show a great one. She was in the choir. The choir that rung the theme song and other songs in our ears. She is a young lady with a strong heart. She works for Hitv. I used to be a professional dancer but I don’t dance anymore. And acting is just one of the things I do. She said.

Considering the fact that I had to combine acting with my work; it was hectic! You pretty much have no idea. I had to make out time for rehearsals. It was a wonderful experience. When I asked her what message she thinks Oluronbi carries. It was as though she had rehearsed her reply. She exclaimed: It is a woman’s world! Yes, I know a lot of people like to say its a man’s world, but the truth is that women decide what stands in a society. Whether as wives, mothers or sisters. So women should learn to stand up for what they believe in. Women should realise that there is a lot more riding on their shoulders than they are willing to admit!

I had to meet Ikhane again to give his closing remarks and this is what he had to say. Oluronbi was born out of the urge to do what has never been done before. And I think we achieved that. I am sure we have struck a chord. Aboriginals will do Oluronbi again. We will make it national and eventually international.

Onikaluku jeje ewure! ewure!! ewure!!!

Onikaluku jeje aguntan! aguntan!! aguntan!!!

Oluronbi jeje omore omo re apkon bi epko

Oluronbi o jo in jo in Iroko jo in jo in!

This article is culled from Y! Magazine Issue 3, out in stores now. To read more of this and other exciting pieces, buy a copy! (Click HERE to find a vendor near you)

Comments (2)

  1. Good and detailed article, comprehensive, though quite long; interesting especially for those who like drama; they get anxious to watch the drama.

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