By Anote Ajeluorou
Inside Terra Kulture hall four 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”