Shining light on Surulere, the Silent Entertainment Hub in Nigeria

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Surulere, one of the major areas in Lagos, Nigeria sits 18.1Km away from the State’s Capital Ikeja. Surulere translates to “Patience is Virtue” in Yoruba language, one of major languages spoken in the country. Beyond the existence of a lifestyle reflecting patience, hard work as a lifestyle is evident in this region. Surulere as a residential and commercial Local Government Area stands as one of the most vibrant areas in the Lagos mainland, mostly known for being a boiling point for the city’s Sports and athletic affairs. The region houses two international sport venues and this spirit is evident in its resident’s energetic display. Sports accounts for one of the Nigerian major source of entertainment and this has Surulere boiling over constantly with activities surrounding Sports. It’s easy to see culture reflected in the lives of the region’s residents, as most inhabitants of the area and its surroundings are wake early to jog, cycle or run along the road close to and around the National Stadium. Rich and overflowing with businesses, Surulere has a large number of the most prominent Clothing stores, Interior Design boutiques, car dealer shops and sports shops popular on the mainland area. Asides staying bubbly all day, there is no sleep in Surulere too; numerous bars, lounges, clubs and pubs, gives enormous life to the area’s effervescent night life.

Considering these realities, it’s no surprise that region today is giving birth to an increasing number of bright stars, covering sports, music and movies. One of these stars is the very iconic Afropop star, Wizkid aka Starboy. Wizkid the young artiste who is redefining Afropop across the world has paid homage to his humble roots, Ojuelegba in Surulere in a track titled “Ojuelegba”. On the single, he sang and recounted the huge influence his birth place played in shaping and forming him into the star he is today “Ni ojuelegba - in Ojuelegba / they know my story / From Mo'Dogg studio/ I be hustle to work…” Wizkid today might be named as the most successful and most iconic Afropop artiste in Contemporary Nigerian Music scene. The 27 year old is going places many before and after him can only dream of. With numerous enviable awards, international features, international tours and a number of world billboard charts tops tied to his name, this young star is putting not just Nigeria but Africa on the global map with his artistry like no other African Artiste of his time. Among his numerous endorsements is one with the international beverage giant, Pepsi reportedly worth 350,000 U.S dollars! Time and time again Wizkid has named his Surulere root as one of his biggest influence.

An interesting element of influence to Wizkid’s success story is the late, legendry Music producer and artiste OJB Jezreel. OJB, another Surulere born and bred icon played a key role in laying Wizkid’s career foundation. OJB was a strong pillar in building the bubbling Music industry both as a Producer and as an artiste. He released unforgettable singles like ‘Searching’ and ‘Pretete’ amongst others.  At the peak of his career, he worked with 2face Idibia, single handedly producing 'Face 2 Face' album; the album which had the singles “African Queen” and “Ole”. African Queen brought home to Nigeria for the first time the MTV Best African Act award (2005) and was used as an original soundtrack for the film Phat Girlz, an applaud worthy feat at the time. Beyond 2face, OJB worked with Bennie Man, Faze, Iyanya, D'banj, Durella, Wizkid, Yemi Alade, Jazzman Olofin, Weird MC, Paul Ik Dairo, Daddy Showkey, Sir Shina Peters, Olu Maintain to mention a few.

 

I can’t say for sure if it’s something in air or in the water at Surulere but another fast rising star has sprouted out from this same area and has mentioned her participation in Her local church Choir perhaps back in her Surulere place of birth as a strong foundation to the start of her career. Simi, the new Nigerian music sweetheart is stealing the heart of the country and the continent at a rate no one expected. In the highly competitive Nigerian Music industry, one notably ruthless to women, Simi stands out and has kept her success pace rising through the years. She’s set to release her second studio album titled after her, “Simisola”. Simi was born back in 1988 in Ojuelegba, Surulere just like Wizkid. Today she has a number of hit singles, features, quite a load of nominations and awards to her name in a rather short period of time.

 

The Surulere light shines beyond the music industry, into the local Movie industry so much so that it has been named by some the entertainment capital of Nigeria mostly for the role it played and still plays in producing fresh crop of Actors and Movie producers. Surulere has been recognised by many as the official birthplace of Nollywood. Though in recent times due to the high cost of production in Lagos, Film production has since moved to other cities down the South East, especially Asaba, an otherwise sleepy and calm town, Surulere still plays a role in housing many production houses and studios. Nollywood resonates across Africa into distant continents telling authentic Nigerian and African stories in the most Original ways. During the early stages of the industry back in Surulere, movies were popularized at first through video cassettes which traded locally and across Africa, today the industry has a number of channels on satellite and cable television channels, as well as on streaming services like iRokoTV. Though most Nollywood movies are delivered in English and local Nigerian languages, Francophone African countries now tune into the buzzing industry through, a satellite channel called Nollywood which offers viewers round-the-clock movies dubbed into French.

A number of active Nollywood actors like Ramsey Noah, Desmond Elliot, Damiola Adegbite, Linda Ejiofor amongst others have mentioned Surulere as their birthplace, root and center of influence into stardom.

Friday Special: My Personal Travel Experience - Exploring Kano 1

Friday Special: My Personal Travel Experience - Exploring Kano 1

 Escape is an action, but on some days, Escape becomes a place. When escape is an action, itis one that moves away from danger, from trouble, from life threatening situations like an angry lion, a bear, fire, an explosion or a place like Lagos. I have written earlier on how Lagos with its endless bustle and hustle can be suffocating, so I won’t go on about that on this post.

When Escape is a Place, it goes to the most to the most unexpected places. Last week I took a break from Lagos and went on a visit to the Heart of the Northern Part of Nigeria, Kano — The Centre of Commerce and I haven’t gotten the taste of the town out of my mouth (literally, I brought home more than enough treats).

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Puff, Puff, Pass!

Puff, Puff, Pass!

From a new study conducted by BMJ Journal from over 160,000 people spanning 15 years. Although it didn’t address whether e-cigs are luring people who would otherwise be nonsmokers, but it did find that e-cigs do have a role in helping people quit. The researchers looked at several population surveys that cover the years 2001 to 2015. These surveys provided smoking-cessation rates, and the most recent survey, from 2014 to 2015, had information about e-cigarette usage. 

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Finally, Pidgin English Goes Digital!

Finally, Pidgin English Goes Digital!

British media powerhouse, BBC yesterday launched an online portal that will deliver its expressions in Pidgin English. The new media expression will disperse content through text news, features and podcasts. This is an exciting news for many across Africa and this is why.

Pidgin English, the now popular informal lingua franca of Nigeria has grown into a strong and highly accepted medium of communication across Nigeria into west and central Africa. The language originated from Portuguese speakers who came into West Africa during the colonial era.  Since its birth, Pidgin English has evolved, from being a medium of communication for uneducated, impoverished and lower class communicators who were not literate enough to express themselves in proper English Language to a popular and accepted language. Though still informal, Pidgin English cuts across class, age, tribe, borders and cultures.

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The man behind Fela's album covers

LEMI GHARIOKWU IS THE MAN BEHIND ALL OF THE ICONIC ALBUMS FROM THE LATE MUSIC LEGEND FELA KUTI

I did the portrait and lo and behold he took me to Fela just like that,” says Ghariokwu, recalling his first meeting with Kuti at his house, the infamous Kalakuta Republic. “When he saw the portrait, Fela said, ‘wow, God damn it,’” he recalls, laughing. It was the first time I heard these words. Fela loved the portrait so much and wrote me a check for 120 naira — I used to earn 30 naira for my portrait work — but I rejected it. I said ‘I don’t want money, I give you the work from the bottom of my heart.
He was very surprised so he tore up the check, took a sheet of paper and wrote ‘please admit bearer to any show free of charge,’ continues Ghariokwu. That was my ticket to Kalakuta; that was the beginning [of the journey].
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Lemi Ghariokwu is one of Africa's greatest visual artists. Lemi has a career spanning almost 40 years which includes designing 26 original cover images for the Nigerian musician legend, Fela Kuti. Lemi also has over 2,000 other album cover designs to his credit including covers for Bob Marley and a host of other music legends. Lemi's style to art is influenced by his deep philosophical views on social and political events. His designs are multi-faceted and combine a variety of styles and media.

He was a member of Fela's much loved Young African Pioneers. These self-proclaimed rebels supported Fela's music with their art, poetry and writings. Lemi relationship with Fela Kuti was very close and he was often mentored and advised by the Afrobeat legend. Ghariokwu's works are in the collection of art and afrobeat lovers around the world. His painting, Anoda Sistem, is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.

 LEMI GHARIOKWU

LEMI GHARIOKWU

That initial meeting in 1973 changed Lemi’s life. From there, he’d become one of Fela’s closest confidants despite being seventeen years his junior, and, as he puts it, the two were “comrades in arms.” They studied metaphysics together, they read Marcus Garvey and Malcom X, they discussed Pan-Africanism. “I became like his son,” Lemi says. “When he was recording a tune, I was close to the process, so by the time he recorded the album, it was almost a fait accompli for me to illustrate the album. Most of the time, ninety percent of the time, he’d say, ‘Lemi, it’s a motherfucker, man.’

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For Lemi, a 20-year journey into friendship and artistic expression via the covers of Fela's ever expressive afro-beat music, started out in 1973; Lemi Ghariokwu was straight out of secondary school, spending his ample free time giving himself drawing assignments and making portraits for people in his neighborhood. Martial arts action film "Enter the Dragon," starring Bruce Lee, was a big hit at the time, and Ghariokwu was asked by a local bar owner to draw a poster of the movie for his pub. 

A few days later a journalist called Babatunde Harrison entered the parlor, saw the poster hanging on the wall and quickly asked to see the person who'd created it. When he met Ghariokwu, who was living next door with his parents, Harrison requested to see more of his drawings. Amongst them was an illustration of Nigerian afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti dancing on mud -- Ghariokwu had previously bought an album by Kuti called "Roforofo Fight" (roforofo means mud in Yoruba) and had given himself the task of creating his own version of the album cover. Impressed by Ghariokwu's work, Harrison, who was a friend of Kuti, asked Ghariokwu whether he could design album covers. The teen artist reluctantly said yes and then Harrison brought him a picture of Kuti to do a portrait as a test.

 

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Still only sixty, Lemi is now organizing his archives and preparing to open a museum of his work in Lagos, where people continue to come to pay respect to what he and Fela created.

Fela didn’t respect anyone initially, but when you had something to offer, he showed so much respect. He gave me so much freedom of expression.