BY OMIKO AWA
AS Nigeria gets set to celebrate 10 years of uninterrupted democracy on May 29, AfroCultour, in collaboration with the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA 2, Channel 5, is planning a musical fiesta — Songs of Nigeria Festival (SONIFES) — to celebrate the event.
The delegates of the group led by the chief executive officer, Chuks Akamadu, recently visited The Guardian as a way to intimate and sensitise the media of its project.
Akamadu said it is the first time Nigeria as a nation would be marking a decade of unbroken democratic rule, which has necessitated the art and culture community to think of an event to celebrate it, and to “lavishly showcase our boundless cultural and tourism strength.”
He added that the historic event is carefully designed to contribute, considerably towards the deepening of democracy.
Akamadu, who was once the secretary of Performing Musician Association of Nigeria (PMAN), informed that the festival is going to feature a three-track album, selected through a participatory and competitive process, to be rendered by 100 Nigerian musicians from across generation; a special democracy dance by the National Troupe of Nigeria; and SONIFES Gold Award to the best male and female Nigerian musicians respectively in the past 10 years of democratic rule; and the special recognition award to pillars and heroes of democracy in the country.
He noted that the album would be close to what some American musicians did for Africa — We are the world — in the 80s. However, “SONIFES is going to be much better than what the Americans presented to the world, as the fiesta’s songs are strictly written by Nigerians for Nigeria’s democracy to be sung by musicians.”
To achieve this, entries were called for in the six geopolitical zones to compose a not-more-than-five-minute song, and summit to SONIFES zonal offices in their region, who would select the best three for the national event.
For the winners, outside rendering their songs by an all-star music group will go home with various amount of money as prizes among other consolations, which include automatic free entrance to the festival venue.
The fiesta’s chief executive officer said the selection of the three best artistes male and female, who have made positive impact on the country within the 10-year period, would be done by Nigerians via short messages (SMs). He said that they have already received three nominees for the male and female artistes; for the males, he mentioned D’banj, 2face, and P’Square while for the female, Asa, Sasha, and Weird MC; and for the pillar of democracy, he informed that The Guardian Newspaper has been nominated and the presentation has been schedule for May 31 at the Eagle Square, Abuja.
AKAMADU informed that the various ministries such as Culture, FCT, and Information are in support of the project outside such bodies as the Performing Musician Association of Nigeria (PMAN), Society for Performing Arts of Nigeria (SPAN), Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN), and Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN). He equally revealed that Cuba would be one of the countries to be visited in cause of the project
While responding to the question why it took the group such a long time to make a statement in the art and culture sector on the nation’s democracy and what they hope to do next with the group, Akamadu said the group has been on ground for 14 to 15 months, and that it took them time to make a statement because they have to carefully plan for the festival that will give tribute to the nation’s fallen heroes while bringing cultural renewal and making a lasting tourism statement for the nation. So, we took time to put the best hand to work, to bring out something. This they did and having seen the good work, we decided to tie it around some event that will transcend the borders of our culture and tourism. It was at this point that the major stakeholders decided it should be tied to our democratic practice and sustenance .It was at that point that the group chose cultural tool such as music to showcase it.
“Politicians can talk about politics, even soldiers, yet the people would not listen, but with music, there is no division; for it is the only thing that can unite the nation more than soccer, as it cuts across religion, class, and other inhibiting factors that may stop other genres of entertaining art. It is like a weapon to further express and model our democracy beyond Africa,” he said.
He emphasized that SONIFES is going to use music to lavishly celebrate our democracy. “We are giving Nigeria and her people a double delicacy — music and celebration. We are lavishly celebrating music as an indispensable tool to showcase our culture and democracy,” he stated.
“The art and culture committee for this reason are made up of seasoned hands such as Ejike Asiegbu of The Actors Guild; Prof. Ahmed Yerima, director general of Actor Guild of Nigeria, director general Nigerian Football Association, and the National Coordinator Abuja Carnival is the chairman of the advisory board; We have PMAN and others. And by the time all these groups come together, we would have succeed at making a statement that will deepen democracy and thereby attracting other segment of the society such as the banking sector, NBA, and other investors to the art and culture sector of the nation. It is a clarion call for one to contribute to the preservation, and deepening of Nigeria’s democracy,” he stressed.
ON how SONIFES will project other genres of art, the project’s spokesman said, “ outside the 100 Nigerian musicians singing the democratic song, and the National Troupe doing a democratic dance; the group is going to promote tourism through the various presentation of dance from different culture alongside the performance of musicians from outside the country. As we go along, other segment of the art and culture will begin to fall in, because of the saleable nature of the project. It is a brand that is relevant to Nigerians and our culture, which is the main reason the federal ministry of information and communication is interested in it.
“Take it or leave it, the project will surely take the nation to a greater height at re-branding the country because its going to tell the world that Nigerians are good people, and the country is worth visiting and investing in,” he affirmed.
On the promised library, Akamadu said: “The proceeds from the event will be used to build a world class tourist centre that would comprise a library, a recording studio, art gallery adorning the faces of Nigerian music icons, and a guest house among others. The estimated budget for it, is N25 billion, so, we need to successful deliver the festival on May 30, before going into it.”
How did you select the musicians?
SONIFES CEO said they were all from the grassroots. We used actresses with grassroots appeal to create the awareness as well as source for artistes because of the limitation of Internet and the various media, which are readily available in the rural communities as in the big cities.
Other gains of the project, he pointed is to promote the non-oil sector, tourism and to make government develop interest in festivals as a way of boasting our Gross National Product (GNP), and National Product (NP)