The arts are heavily subsidized by governments in other parts of the world, says Mbanefo
By Anote Ajeluorou
CHILDE Internationale, Wole Soyinka’s rarely performed play, will open the 26th edition of MUSON Festival 2022 that has ‘Resurgence’ as theme. The play promotes the need for the retention of Africa’s cultural identity and traditions by her children in whichever place or country they sojourn. As explained by the duo of the play’s artistic director Julius Obende of A1 Production and lead actor Tunji Sotimirin, the play’s message is especially urgent now that the phenomenon of ‘japa’ (leaving for greener pastures abroad) is a topical issue in Nigeria and all over Africa. The festival will take place from October 21 – 30, 2022 at MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos.
This and other exciting festival programmes were made known at a press briefing on Wednesday, October 12, 2022 at MUSON Centre, where the Chairman of MUSON, Mr. Louis Mbanefo, without being immodest, extolled the famous iconic cultural centre for keeping the culture torch aflame for 26 editions since the idea of establishing MUSON was birthed in 1983 among six famous friends, adding, “Indeed, the MUSON project is one that all Nigerians should be proud of.”
According to Mbanefo, “Let me begin by saying a few words about the origins of MUSON. It was formed by a group of friends, including Mr. Akintola Williams, Chief Ayo Rosiji (late), Mrs. Francesca Emanuel (late) and Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi (late), Chief Olufemi Adeniyi-Williams, and my humble self in 1983 with the main objective of promoting the understanding and enjoyment of serious music.
“We tackled our objectives in two ways. First, we have held concerts with regularity since 1984, with performances of the highest quality by Nigerian and expatriate performers. And second, we have developed two Schools of Music – the Basic School which provides musical education in the theory of performance of musical instruments for Nigerians of all ages, and the Diploma School. The latter runs a two-year course in theory and instrumental performance and has an annual intake of 30 advanced students who are all granted scholarships by the MTN Foundation. From humble beginnings, the school has now become a Diploma Awarding Institution which is accredited not only by the Ministry of Education, by also the Music Examination Board in England. The school has produced over 350 Diploma graduates, many of whom have continued their musical education in Europe and America and attained international recognition. Most of our alumni have made and are making very impressive contributions to the musical life in Nigeria and indeed, the world. They have raised considerably the standard of singing and musical performance in churches, in schools and at social events. Indeed, many churches and musical societies throughout Nigeria are borrowing from the templates established by MUSON. There can be no doubt that training in classical music is an important discipline for our youth and a source of spiritual fulfillment, not to mention employment, throughout their lives.”
Mbanefo enumerated other cultural virtues of MUSON that make the centre stand out and argued that Nigeria should be grateful for the strides the centre has made over the years in animating Lagos’s cultural calendar. He called for greater support for the arts from government, saying that MUSON has soldiered on with personal and corporate support and is a testimony of what being resourceful can bring about.
“The MUSON Choir, which has won gold medals at international competitions, travelled to Greece just last week and performed to a distinguished audience. And we have a Symphony Orchestra which is conducted in regular concerts by our visiting German maestro Walter-Michael Vollhardt. We also have an opera department which has programmed highly acclaimed performances of many well-known international operas.
“In addition, the facilities in our beautiful and iconic centre are regularly hired by the artistic community for art exhibitions, drama productions, jazz concerts, traditional music and dance, film premiers, literary events, as well as social and business events.
“It (MUSON) has demonstrated what can be achieved by Nigerians when we pool our resources, talents and energies towards a common goal. The founding fathers and mothers deserve the gratitude of the Nigerian society for the very considerable personal sacrifice of their time and skills. Whereas the arts are heavily subsidized by governments in other parts of the world, the MUSON project has been funded entirely through generous donations by individuals and the major companies in Nigeria.”
Mbanefo therefore made a call to all Nigerians to take advantage of the MUSON Festival 2022 to enjoy the cultural performances on offer in the week-long event, and made a rundown of the programming line up.
“The highlight of the MUSON annual calendar has become the MUSON Festival. Its appropriate theme is RESURGENCE – resurgence from the ravages and privations of the Covid pandemic, as well as the hope and expectation that 2023 will bring a resurgence of the Nigerian nation and its cultural and spiritual values,” Mbanefo said. “This year’s festival follows the usual pattern, with some interesting new features. It will start with the opening ceremony on Friday, October 21 followed immediately by the Festival Drama production of Wole Soyinka’s play Childe Internationale sponsored by Chevron. It will be a befitting occasion to celebrate our iconic Nobel Laureate and master playwright.
“On Sunday, October 23, we will formally inaugurate our planned Sunday Musical Brunches in La Scala Restaurant. This follows the successful experiment conducted some months ago. During the brunch, our talented musicians from the Diploma School will provide a continuous concert. Hopefully, this will thereafter become a monthly event. On Tuesday, October 25, we shall hold our traditional MUSON Day. It is the occasion when we celebrate the birthday of MUSON, with a concert by our talented MUSON artistes. A special feature of this day will be a memorial in honour of our late founder/trustee, Mrs. Oto Lijadu who sadly passed away a couple of years ago.
“We shall celebrate the 70th birthday of Senator Daisy Danjuma, the wife of our distinguished Patron, General T.Y. Danjuma, with the performance of the opera Cavalliera Rusticana in her honour on October 29. As always, we express our sincere gratitude to General Danjuma who has sponsored our operatic productions for several years. We conclude (the festival) as usual with a Gala Concert on Sunday, October 30, sponsored by Total Energies. The concert will feature the MUSON Choir, directed as usual by the incomparable Sir Emeka Nwokedi, as well as the MUSON Symphony Orchestra conducted by our visiting maestro, Walter-Michael Vollhardt.”
Of all the brand sponsors of MUSON Festival 2022, only Lord’s Dry Gin, distilled by Grand Oak Ltd, had its Brand Manager, Mr. Agada Amar present at the briefing. Amar restated the commitment his brand to MUSON philosophy of unalloyed cultural offering, adding that Lord’s Dry Gin would continue to support MUSON Festival in its drive to promote Nigerian and global culture.