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Enter SARO Experience - ThisDay Newspaper

By Okechukwu Uwaezuoke
ThisDay on Sunday, Sept 15, 2013

Call it a musical in the tradition of Broadway. Saro, as the musical is called, was conceived after a Broadway musical based on the life and times of the Nigerian-born Afrobeat icon Fela and was performed before a Lagos audience.

Bolanle Austen-Peters – better known as the amazon behind the Victoria Island-based cultural centre, Terra Kulture – thought it was odd that the production, titled Fela! featured no Nigerian actor or dancer when it was staged at the Eko Hotel and Suites.

“I woke up one day and wrote the story, which I believe is very relevant to our society and our youths,” she recalled. “I looked around me and asked: What is the story of an average Nigerian? What is the story of the average settlers of Lagos?”

Lagos became a melting-pot of non-indigenous people. “Most of us came here, just like many went to America, saluted as the land of freedom; and that is what I decided to explore. If you look around, everybody wants to come to Lagos.


“It shows that there is something about the city. When people come into Lagos, all of a sudden they become Lagosians. And I want a story that reflects music and dance. It is that simple. So, in showcasing our music and dance, I needed to weave a story around the common heritage.”
It was the preview of that story that drew a coterie of distinguished theatre buffs to the Terra Kulture last Tuesday. The gathering included the Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism and Inter-governmental Relations, Disu Holloway, the theatre icon, Taiwo Ajayi-Lycett; the French Consul Fran├žois Sastourne; the actress Joke Silva; the veteran journalist Ben Tomoloju; the former National Troupe of Nigeria’s artistic director, Professor Ahmed Yerima, art collector Omooba Yemisi Shyllon and Ebony TV host and founder, Mo Abudu, among others.

The idea was to solicit their support for this first-of-its-kind effort. As Saro’s executive producer, Mrs Austen-Peters hopes to make the production shared her thoughts with the audience. She concluded her brief opening remarks with the hope “that at some point, we’ll be able to invade the world just like others have invaded us with all sorts.”

Saro tells the story of four young men, who set out to Lagos for adventure to discover themselves. The musical took the audience through snippets of their good and bad experiences in the land of opportunity.  It is a rags-to-riches of sorts. The fortune-seeking quartet are unfazed by the obstacles in the form of the ugly experiences encountered in their quest for limitless opportunities.

The 20-minute-long performance, described by Professor Yerima as “a wonderful piece; wonderful music and acting”, was only a tip of the iceberg.  This was why the Redeemers University theatre professor cautioned the production team against making it “too long”.
But Holloway was excited by what he had seen so far.  “What struck me is the timing and sequencing of the music,” he said. “We should create this in Lagos; we’re too busy running after acquisitions in Lagos. We should have it.”

Ajayi-Lycett thought it was a wonderful piece. “We don’t have enough of theatre in Lagos and Nigeria. This is wonderful; the music is glorious and acting wonderful. We taught the world to dance; we to stress it so that those who stole from us can actually own up to it.”

She, however, expressed her reservations about some of the discomfiting scenes shown in the preview and hoped that there would be a happy ending to the production.
This is obviously a task for the production team, which consists of the musical director Ayo Ajayi, the executive artistic director Makinde Adeniran, the director Gbenga Yusuf, the photo director Kennet Uphopho, the Zmirage founder and technical director, Teju Kareem and the production manager Babs Joseph.

The musical featured both established and emerging actors like Kemi Lala Akindoju, Paul Alumona, Linda Nwanneka, Eferoghene Awusa, William Benson, Okafor Francis Chibuzor, Awele Dekpe, Patrick Diabuah, Adesuwa Etomi and Anthony OffiongEdet.

“My dream is this: to produce the best and the biggest stage production Nigeria has even seen,” Mrs Austen-Peters had vowed in an interview. “If it is going to cost $10m, $20m or more, I don’t know. But it is not going to be less than $1million. Do I have it? No! Will I find it? Yes! That is the attitude.

“Running Terra Kulture has also taught me that if you want to establish a business, you must have a certain level of strength of character. In an industry where it is not easy to come across money and in a situation like ours in Nigeria where you don’t get government funding, we have to internally generate our own funds to be where we are, nine years after. It is not a fluke.  This has built a sense of strength in me coupled with my belief in God. I am not somebody who shies away from big dreams.”

The production will be staged from October 25 to 27 at the Oriental Hotel in Victoria Island, Lagos.



Culled from ThisDay Online - Here 

Ringing Endorsements for SARO - Nigerian Tribune

Written by AKINTAYO ABODUNRIN
Nigerian Tribune, Sunday, 15 September 2013

Eng. Yemisi Shyllon, Mrs Austen peters and Tuface at the preview

A select and eminent Lagos audience treated to a preview of the musical commend its quality and relevance

Eminent Nigerians at the preview of ‘Saro’  held  at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos on Tuesday, September 10, have rated the production set to open at Oriental Hotel, Lekki next month high. Though they were only shown four out of the play’s 14 scenes, they expressed happiness with what they saw and commended its good music, dance and relevance. 


“It’s a wonderful piece. I just hope it’s not going to be too long. The music is wonderful, the dancing too. Just two things and I will communicate them to the director,” said Professor Ahmed Yerima, former General Manager of the National Theatre, who was among the select people who saw the production.

Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Disu Holloway was equally impressed by the production, saying that: “What I’ve seen this morning excites me very much. We will see what we can do to support you but don’t make it too long. What struck me was the timing and sequence; it was well timed.

I haven’t seen that in Nigeria and I commend you. We are too busy in Lagos running after so many things; we have to create, put soul back into this city and this is one of such efforts.”

Veteran actress, Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, also had kind words. “We don’t have enough of theatre in Lagos, in Nigeria so this is a welcome change. The music is wonderful and the acting fantastic. Thank you for this production,” she said. The actress also touched on the relevance of the play to the society, expressing the hope that people will take lessons away from it and not just be entertained.“We can laugh but we must take something home. Parents have to do something about what is happening in our society; we can still entertain, inform and educate our people.”

Lawyer and art patron, Myma Bello-Osagie, said that with the coming of ‘Saro’, Lagos, fast becoming a megacity, will be able to give the world more than music.  She highlighted the importance of live theatre and why it should be encouraged.

Celebrated TV presenter and founder of Ebony TV, Mo Abudu said: “I totally enjoyed it. It was funny and a reflection of our society. It shows us what we need to do; we have to show our reality. A play like this allows us to reflect on our society though it’s painful and hurts, it’s our reflection.”

Writer and stage actor turned film producer, Chris Ihidero, said the quality of the play, especially its opening music wowed him. He disclosed that if he had remained a stage actor, he would have been part of the production.  “I was on stage till 2007 when I moved into film. If I was still in theatre, I will be on this stage. This is so fantastic; that opening music. You have done more than theatre already, I see film and I’m jealous.”

Scholar, director and critic, Dr. Tunde Awosanmi also commended the production but noted that there is room for improvement. The director of ‘Yeepa! Solarin Mbo’ and ‘Adventures of the Sugar Cane Man’ amongst others said: “It is a very promising show. It has so many highpoints; if out of just four scenes, we could record that number of highpoints then by the time it stretches, you can know what I’m talking about. However, we will need to be very conscious of parallels; the influence of certain productions which had preceded this. I was beginning to see the parallels and they are quite visible; I could, in the structure of the piece, see some very classical replication and we have to be very careful of it. Then, there is a need for this production to employ a speech coach.

“I know that it’s a production that is likely to cut across ages and generations but I think we should be more conscious of the youth because it’s a youth story. Coincidentally, as I was walking out of the hall, I saw one of the people who are today famous in the music scene; who came into Lagos like one of those characters, I mean Tuface. So I can say to you, and this is not being generous, this is not being critically magnanimous, that this show has a lot of relevance. It is current to the Nigerian story and that is one thing that is very significant about it. And of course, this show shouldn’t last longer than an hour and 45 minutes.”

Speaking earlier, Bolanle Austen-Peters said she was inspired to write and fund the production because she wasn’t happy that foreign productions were being imported to the country when Nigeria has its own quality plays that can tour the world. Besides, she sees the production as an avenue to create jobs and harness the creative talents of Nigerian youths.

She added that though funding has remained an issue, she is able to produce ‘Saro’ because she already has the facility (Terra Kulture) and because she wants to project the brand name. She thanked her collaborators including Zmirage Multimedia and called on corporate Nigeria to start backing local productions.

Culled from the Nigerian Tribune - Here 

SARO The Musical Tells The Spectacular Story Of Lagos, As City Of Dreams - The Guardian Newspaper


INSIDE Terra Kulture hall few days ago, it was a harmonious fusion of traditional African drums throbbing and the clash of horns as Saro, the Musical was unveiled to a critical audience made up of government officials, theatre buffs and business executives.
From the standpoint of the production crew, Saro, the Musical’s marks a remapping of Nigeria’s cultural landscape in this Broadway-style music drama, the first to come out of the heart of Africa, Nigeria.

First was the Opening Glee, with classic music master, Ayo Ajayi conducting his large choir in announcing the arrival of Saro in Yoruba language. Indeed, the pounding of the drum sequencing, with the horns weaving in and out reminded audience of something primal and evocative as could only be coming of out Africa.


However, this opening rhythmic throbbing soon gave way to Saro’s unfolding story, a story that begins with a love affair between two young people soon to be separated by the twin forces of a father’s desire to give out his daughter to another young man from a wealthy home, since her choice of suitor is an upstart musician, with nothing else to recommend him, and the young musician’s impending sojourn to find greener pastures in the city. The two youngsters deftly perform this romantic plot in a classical Romeo and Juliet fashion to the delight of the audience.



And when they lent their sensual voices to singing about the impending separation threatening their love, there is evident in air that tragic loss and longing for the divine.

 But the pace of performance is quickened as the foursome set out on a journey to the city of Lagos where they hope to realize their musical dreams. When they arrive Lagos, it’s everything they’d hoped for and more much. The frenetic pace of living, the lifestyles, the petty crime, the extortion, the free dramas that are endless in Lagos suck in these four rural folks; they are fascinated, shocked, and repelled by it. But they also enjoy it. They respond to Lagos the way they see it, and then begin their arduous road to building a career in Africa’s most turbulent but reputed city of dreams.

 Only four scenes were performed out of the 14, as a foretaste of what is to come, when the show opens in October to audiences from Nigeria and abroad.

 According to the Executive Producer, Bolanle Austen-Peters, “The most natural thing that came to my mind was to come up with a story of people that make up Lagos. In trying to do that, I said to myself, ‘who best can represent a true Lagosian?’ There are different types of people that represent Lagos. You have the Saros, the Aworis, the indigenous Moslems, the Afro-Brazilians, etc. You know, the Saros spoke to me simply because they are free slaves from Sierra Leone. More importantly, my mother-in-law is also of that stock.

 “So, it is just an easy way of representing who Lagosians are and also talking about the free spirit that these people brought with them. And being a music lover, I see music as a form of freedom. I express myself through music; I love to dance and I love to listen to music. In the writing of the story, I had to create emotions; that is why you have the love story, the success, the failure and just all that depicts the everyday scene you find in Lagos, hence the beach, the police, the motor parks… all those things that make Lagos what it is are all the facets we are going to feature in this play”

Culled from The Guardian Newspapers - Here

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