After conquering Lagos in December 2015 and making a future President laugh in the process, “Wakaa! The Musical” went off to London at the end of July and became the first Nigerian musical to show – and sell out – in London as well. Here are 5 lessons to learn from that success.
1. Shut out the naysayers and focus on your audience: Mrs Austen-Peters told of how a London PR company advised her to get refund for the 446 seater Shaw Theatre, because according to them: “You’ll be lucky if you get 50 people”. It will be wonderful to find out what that company thinks of the outcome now. Rather than be side-tracked by the opinions of a company don’t understand her audience or her vision, she just marched forward boldly and did her thing. That’s conviction. Conviction in your product, and conviction in your message.
2. Find a message that resonates: Wakaa! addresses universal themes of love, success, failure, and migration in an increasingly globalized world, with a distinct Nigerian twist. These universal themes resonated in Lagos, and they resonated in London as well. We are also willing to bet that it will resonate wherever it is performed. The lesson is simple. Find a good story and tell it in your own way, with energy and commitment.
3. Busting stereotypes: Nigeria is quite a bit more than Boko Haram, kidnapped schoolgirls, corruption, and all the other things that first pop up in a Google search. This is what Wakaa! delivers. The reality of Nigeria is textured, and within an often dysfunctional society are people with concerns that are not unlike those of the average upwardly mobile young person in the West.
4. Nigeria’s soft power: Nigerian actors, Nigerian music, out of Nigeria. Good art is good art and will succeed anywhere, especially in a hyper connected world where word of mouth travels faster than ever before. The problem is that there has been no coordinated strategy to promote Nigerian art across the world. What we have so far is the hustle of individuals, who together have portrayed the country in a much more positive light than any current or past elected official. It is time to have a serious conversation about the active promotion of Nigeria’s soft power across the continent and the world.
5. Charity begins at home: Bolanle Austen-Peters runs Terrakulture, which has become perhaps the leading arts center in Lagos and provided a platform for many to gain recognition and thrive. After 11 years of steady building, we are seeing her vision take flight to new shores. There is much more to come.
- Photo credit: H/T DiasporaLifestyle.com