Monday 16 April 2012

Return of Umoja...local content still missing

  By Tajudeen Sowole
About six years after its first performances in Nigeria, the South African musical and dance-drama troupe, Umoja, is back in Lagos, perhaps with the hope of turning its unimpressive first outing into a success story.

In 2006, the offshoot of the  popular South African theatre troupe, Ipi Tombi, now known as Umoja (Spirit of Togetherness), came to Nigeria with the hope of re-enacting the success established by the former group over 20 years ago.
  The result of the first show held at Planet One Entertainment, Maryland, Lagos on Saturday 29, October 2006 was a flop. I watched audience trickled into the hall. And when the show was in progress, less than 25 per cent seats were filled. The attendance did not have any significant increase till the end of the show.
  The visit of the group was a two-week schedule in Lagos, which held at two other venues: Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos Island and Eko Hotel & Suites, Victoria Island. I was not at the two other venues, but sources disclosed that the attendance were not any different from the Planet One show.
 Umoja is back in Nigeria and scheduled to perform at Expo Hall of Eko Hotel and Suites on April 29, 2012. Whatever went wrong in their first coming, apparently is still subsisting now – it's a natural factor.
  This, fundamentally, had a link to the dynamics of the Nigerian audience in the last two decades; the people's sophistication was far ahead of Umoja. In fairness to the performance of Umoja that I watched in 2006, the standard was high, technically. For example, colour selection and costumes blend with the tone of lighting, rendered a musical strength to the content of the performance.
  However, the Nigerian content was missing in the Umoja performance of that night. Over the decades, Nigerians had, proudly, like never before, preferred their local talents such as musicians, actors and other performers to foreigners. In the last two decades, there has emerged Nollywood and the musical scene at home has blossomed too.
  In addition, theatre-going culture was still struggling for prominence in Nigerian entertainment. This led to the failure of Umoja here in its first coming.
  And the question arises: has Umoja learn how to take the Nigerian factor into consideration? The answer from the publicity showed that the local content is atill missing conspicuously. The new promoters, First @ Art needs to spice the show with known names who may take some guest appearances such as comic / stand-up cemedians before and mid-way into the show. For example the presence of one or two of ace comic acts such as Alli Baba, A.Y., Gbenga Adeyinka and Julius Agwu, to mention a few would add stronger attraction to the show.
    In 2006, Umoja was brought here by Latola Promotions
The promoters had hoped that Umoja tour "is here to beat the performance of Ipi Tombi."

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