Thursday 15 September 2011

'How I created Papalolo comedian' by actor, Ogunsina

(First published May 11, 2006)
Ayo Ogunsina a k a Papalolo
IF one has to measure the advantage of mother tongue in acting, particularly comedy, Ayo Ogunsina, a.k.a 'Papalolo', would be one of such rare examples of actors. He is also one of those early actors who, decades ago, saw the prospects in today’s comic act business.

'Papalolo', a comic character from the group,  Jester International, used to be a household name for decades having invaded homes through such outlets as vinyl, stage performance, radio and TV.
A week of TV viewing in the 1980s was incomplete without Papalolo and his co-acts, late Tajudeen Gbadamosi a.k.a, Jacob and Kayode Olaiya, a.k.a, Aderupoko.
Jester, a break away group from Ola Omonitan-led Ajimajasan and His Awada Group, however, was on its way to extinction as soon as one of the leaders, Gbadamosi, passed on, in 1987. Today, the shadow of the impact made then however remains as both Papalolo and Aderupoko are still favorites of fans as stand up comic acts at social events.
Ayo Ogunsina a k a Papalolo
Ogunsina’s journey into the world of make-believe, like most actors of his generation, took a start from the late theatre icon, Adedeji Hubert Ogunde. "My first contact with acting came when I joined Ogunde in 1962 – then I was in my early 20s. Being with Ogunde was like in school, it was an experience well cherished even though I left two years after, in 1964," he recalled.

But Ogunsina quickly added that he already had a background in performing art, which actually aided his performance with Ogunde. "While with Ogunde, it didn’t take long before I started playing leading roles. For example, I played the lead role of 'Otunba Ekeji Oye' in the controversial play, Yoruba Ronu. Before I joined Ogunde, I had performed with a music group, Sami Taiwo Orchestra, also in Lagos, singing and drumming then. Drumming was one passion that had been in me since my school days at Wesley College, Elekuro, in Ibadan where I finished in 1960. And because acting in those days was a combination of music and drama, I was able to blend easily with Ogunde."
Recalling how Yoruba Ronu ended up as a controversial play as a result of its ban by the then Western Region government, Ogunsina disclosed that it was a trying period for both Ogunde and the entire cast of the politically volatile play. "The ruling party then, a coalition of Action Group, (AG) and NCNC, under what they called ‘Egbe Demo,’ invited Ogunde to perform at the launch of the party at Mapo Hall, Ibadan. Unknown to the politicians, our play Yoruba Ronu, had a thought provoking theme for the rivalry between late Obafemi Awolowo and Ladoke Akintola. It was during the performance that they realised Ogunde’s play was against the political views of the party. In fact, some of the dignitaries at the event angrily left halfway into the show. Therefore, subsequent shows were banned in the entire Western region."
Rather than be discouraged, the controversy spurred Ogunde on, Ogunsina said, recalling that the play then moved to Lagos. "Baba (Ogunde) was not discouraged by that development. We moved to Lagos and started performing the same play, attracting crowd from as far as Benin. After touring Lagos, performing at Empire, Lisabi and Glover Halls, we proceeded to a tour of West Africa coast, which included such countries like Republic of Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Liberia."
But some of these countries are French-speaking. How did the group communicated? In what language was the play staged? Explaining, Ogunsina said the shows, at different times, depending on the audience, were staged in English, Yoruba and French.
Yoruba language, he noted, was mostly used "because all the countries toured have Yoruba communities both as settlers and citizens." English language, he said, was rarely used, except in few places like Liberia and Ghana.
And to support the level of commitment that theatre artistes had for the art then, Yoruba Ronu, for non-Yoruba audience, was performed in French language and by the same Nigerian actors who never spoke a single word of French, Ogunsina said. "Performing the play in French language was not so difficult. All Ogunde did was to engage a French scriptwriter and theatre director. We, the same actors, from Nigeria were rehearsed in French language," he said, noting that, even at that, the shows usually received applause by the French audience. The tour to the West Africa coast, Ogunsina recalled, lasted three months.
On his return from that tour, the actor thought it was time for him to start a troupe, even if it means collaborating with other equally experienced actors. That gave birth to what he called Araba Concert Party, which he said was formed in collaboration with Olatunbosun Odunsi (Baba  Amoye), Ayo Adekambi and Femi Philips (the late husband of actress, Idowu Philips (a.k.a) Mama Rainbow.) "We launched the group in late 1964 at Lisabi Hall, in Lagos. But we had only one play titled Aye Soro, before we parted ways."
That was not to be the final end of Ogunsina in his attempt at leading a group. He disclosed that the renowned poet, Adebayo Faleti, who was then a producer with the Africa’s premier television station, Western Nigeria Television, WNTV, Ibadan merged his group with Araba Concert Party and gave birth to a new one called Egbe Alebiosu, in 1965. The merger, he said, lasted till 1971.
On board of the new group, he stated, were Olatunbosun Oladapo, and Olanrewaju Adepoju (ewi exponent), who was known then as Odidere Ayekoto in his theatre days.
Ogunsina listed the plays performed on WNTV by the group as including a detective series, Adegboye, Sawo S’ogberi ( The Hypocrite) and Won Ro Pe Were Ni  (They Thought He Was A Mad Man) as some of the credits of the group. 

"But most popular and biggest hit of all was another Adebayo Faleti’s play titled Idamu Padi Mikailu (The Travail of Vicar Micheal).
If one would not easily recollect what the TV adaptation of Faleti’s play look like, the cinema  version titled Iwa, shot on 16mm in 1988 and directed by the pioneer TV soap opera producer, Lola Fani-Kayode, was one classic. among Ogunsina’s best screen performances. As Sufianu, (the church worker and house-help of the lead character, Mikailu), the actor lifts the role as if Faleti had him in mind when the original version was being written.
After breaking up with Faleti, Ogunsina, gradually, and unknown to him, inched towards another union that was to earn him the fame he is known for today. The trauma from Faleti, he confessed, discouraged him into any further collaboration.
But another poet, Oyewole Olowomojuore (Baba Gebu) he said, lured him into forming Ewenla Group. That too did not last, he lamented.
His experience with Olowomojuore was the last transit to another group where he met destiny. The group, Ajimajasan, led by Omonitan, also included the other two with whom he later became famous under Jester International.
"I joined Ajimajasan in 1972. There I met, Tajudeen Gbadamosi, Kayode Olaiya and Bashir Aworawo, a.k.a Oloye Ajere. I worked with Ajimajasan until 1979 when I left," Ogunsina said, recalling that while with the group, he introduced music comedy, satirizing musicians’ popular music numbers.
Papalolo (left) on a set of production
  "When I first told Ajimajasin the idea, he was reluctant to accept it, but later gave me the chance. To his surprise, it turned out a success. With his consent, I then formed a parallel group called Jester International, a division of Ajimajasan."
In 1979, Ogunsina stated, Jester was pulled out from Ajimajasan as he, alongside Gbadamosi and Olaiya, "peacefully left" the Omonitan-led organisation.
If records have to be on the fair side of history, the trio of Papalolo, Jacob and Aderupoko were the first to create music comedy and release such in an album, on vinyl, and not a new generation comedian Julius Agwu. Recently, Agwu was credited for being the 'first Nigerian artiste to release music comedy as album on CD.'  

"While with Ajimajasan, we had an album of a full music band backup from one Remi Sakadeli, a juju musician. But our first independent record on vinyl was Jacob Is Ku, and followed by three others. The music comedy idea was so successful that we used to tour the West and North of the country."
Therefore, the group, Ogunsina said, continued its acts on TV with the first work known as Owo Tabua, (Plenty Money), syndicated on NTA, Ibadan, Lagos Television (LTV 8) and Ogun State Television, OGTV, Abeokuta.
The character, Papalolo, has crossed generations of medium, from music comedy to stage, TV and video. How did Ogunsina arrive at the character idea in the first place? "I created that character while with Ajimjasan. You know that back in those days, even until recently, there used to be this saying among the young ones that 'Baba lo’nlo', meaning that juicy things of life belongs to the boss or the elderly one. It was from that common saying that I derived ‘Papalolo’.
Whoever has not met the actor off stage, would remain convinced that he is truly physically challenged as he walks when acting. "The idea of walking like a disabled person came during the production of Idamu Padi Mikailu. It was not part of the script that Sufianu walks like that, but I introduced it to give the character more life," the actor disclosed.
Even though, the death in February 22, 1987, of Gbadamosi was a set-back to the group, the advent of video did not however leave Ogunsina and Olaiya behind. Still under the same Jester International, such titles as Aiye Orun’bo (Return From Heaven) and Eyin Aiye (Egg of Life) and recently Layipo, have been added to the profile of the group.

A native of Osu, Ilesa, Ogunsina said he was born between 1940 and 1941 and attended Wesley College, Ibadan. He taught as a primary school teacher for one year and a half before traveling to Offa. In Offa, he worked with UAC for two years and two months with the then new cigar, St Moritz before traveling to Lagos where he joined Sami Taiwo Orchestra, singing and drumming.
Ogunsina, a veteran actor who has acted on stage, had his works on vinyl, was a household name on TV, has list of celluloid movies (cinema) to his credit, including big hits like Anikura, and Ija Orogun, yet still in demand in the age of video. Ogunsina deserves a front seat in the Nigerian entertainment hall of fame.

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