I DON’T BELIEVE IN NOLLYWOOD —TUNDE KELANI
Veteran film producer Tunde Kelani is set to release another film entitled Arugba. He spoke with us about the film, the industry and other issues
Q: TK, what is Arugba all about?
A: It is a major tradition in Yoruba land and in response to our audience's demand from the stable of Mainframe Productions. Since it is another era, we have decided to make it a masterpiece to be enjoyed by all. Arugba is conceived primarily from my observation at the Osun Festival. It is like a documentary that is responsive to millennium development goals about good governance and preservation and promotion of language and culture.
Q: Is it an epic?
A: I don't intend to make it an epic, but I think it is cultural and contemporary in nature.
Q: Is it an adaptation?
A: No, it is not, rather, it is a fiction.
Q: So, who wrote the fiction?
A: It is written by Ade Adeniyi, although it's a collaborative work between us. We lifted part it from the Osun Osogbo Festival.
Q: What is it all about?
A: It is about coming together to move circumstances forward. On the theme itself, it is an annual journey by the Arugba to the river, carrying symbols of worship and followed by thousands of people, who are confused and seeking relevance. On their return from the river, the process of orientation started. This and other things would be unravelled in the film.
Q: Most of your films are culture-oriented. Why is it so always?
A: I decided to do my films in response to my environment. It is impossible for any responsible artiste to ignore all the problems socially, politically and economically. That's why I always make research on things that are relevant to the environment and the country at large.
Q: What was the concept of Abeni, your last film?
A: Abeni was produced to seek cultural, social and economic unification in the West African sub-region, especially our neighbour, Republique du Benin, that shares the same cultural tie with Nigeria. It was interesting to find the difference in Yoruba language here in Nigeria and outside the shores of the country. I think our aim was in the true spirit of the founders of ECOWAS, that is, Africans should break the barriers between them and seek integration. That was the purpose of Abeni.
Q: Is the sound track in Arugba your impression about the growth in hip-hop music?
A: Hip-hop music is the in-thing in Nigeria for now. It has shown that Nigerians are very creative and enterprising, but I detest the idea of our artistes trying to copy some American artistes. That is lack of originality. I will like to improve on that.
Q: What is your view about the infusion of Yoruba dialect into hip-hop songs like Gongo Aso by 9ice, among others?
A: I think that is dynamic and nobody can stop that because it is commercially viable. I think the music has changed to the extent that the artistes and label owners as well as marketers are living up to expectation. Let's be frank with ourselves, there is an explosion musically. Now, I am happy because in the past, all our radio stations featured American music, but the orientation has changed. Nigerian artistes have brought out concepts that are original. You can now see that most successful songs have elements of our own traditional music in them. In the past, it was unusual to find those things in them but now, there is a bit of originality in our own music and that is taking the world by storm.
Q: It seems indigenous music like Juju, Apala and others are fading away. What do you think is responsible for this?
A: I am concerned also, because the emphasis is on what sells. I think the emphasis is on money and people don't understand what they are dancing to any more and that is the result of globalisation. We are beginning to lose some aspects of our culture, but there must be a change because it used to be highlife in the past and by extension, Juju music came. Afrobeat is not really out of vogue just like Reggae and Fuji is threatening to overtake all because I am afraid, the musical styles these days don't favour live bands anymore.
Q: What should we expect in Arugba?
A: In the beginning of Arugba, nobody could predict the point at which the story is going to end. There are lots of surprises because it is entertaining, educative and informative, especially the issue of language. The issues arising from the dreaded HIV/AIDS, the cultural viewpoint, the challenges of the alleviation of poverty in the society and eradication of threatening diseases in Africa today, like malaria, tuberculosis and others.
Q: Abeni took you round the world. Will Arugba surpass it in terms of your foreign exposure?
A: Let's wait and see, because the strange things about films is that it is not always the same. But I have great hopes in Arugba, because it seems to have benefited more from the advancement in technology. We expect that Arugba will go far.
Q: Are you taking Arugba round the world like Abeni?
A: Abeni was premiered in Toronto, Canada and also made it to the a World Film Festival. I have lost count of the tours, but I never imagined the film would take us to Toronto. When the film festival organisers came to us, I was confused, but they decided to premiere it and I thought they could not have taken such a product to the festival. But they insisted that great things come in little ways. The film made it to Liverpool, Berlin and Cape Town, among other places.
Q: Why are other Yoruba films not making it to such festivals?
A: The film has to be good enough.
What about the language of Arugba, it is pure Yoruba language.
Q: You don't seem to be part of Nollywood, why?
A: I appreciate Nollywood and I am happy that such a phenomenon is really happening in a country like Nigeria. It is a good thing, because Nigerians are hard-working people and we just don't see the obstacles. It is just that we need to improve because there is no point having 2,000 films and 10 of out of the lot cannot compete internationally. But I don't believe in Nollywood because it is a foreign phenomenon invented by the English artistes.
Q: So, what is the future of the Nigerian film industry?
A: It is very bright. In fact, the level of technology is improving by the day. The industry will re-invent itself.