Monday, 6 April 2009
BY GREGORY AUSTIN NWAKUNOR
HE is one of the artistes often referred to as ‘Renaissance men’. ‘They’ve worn many hats and captured much territory —film, stage, television and music’. They are very few in the world. Eddie Murphy, Will Smith, Jamie Foxx and Tunji Sotimirin, among others.
Sotimirin is a talented actor, dancer, comedian, director, university lecturer and musician. His resume is just one indication of why he is rated like others in the A-list of ‘Renaissance’ men.
But he has a different name for that expression, renaissance men — Konkere, a Yoruba word for a formidable concrete solution; an admix of different strong earthly components put together for building structures.
“I see myself as somebody ,who has different talents, and exhibits them with ease. And these talents are perfect,” Sotimirin says.
In addition to his involvement in playwriting, comedy, music and teaching; he also presents radio and television shows.
This afternoon, he is dressed down in loon pants and a poncho. He has on his feet a pair of plim sole shoes. In fact, he is in what he calls ‘rehearsal gear’. A whole lot of his students are around him, all trying to gain attention.
“Anytime we have a workshop ensemble class, expect to see me in this casual gear. No Otunba costume. I like being ready for theatre work, not playing,” says Sotimirin, in the type of deep voice coveted by many Hollywood actors.
Sotimirin is a creative soul. Very comfortable on stage, as he is on screen.
How did he find himself in the music world?
He says, “I was inspired by my mother. She was the Iya Egbe of a Were group in Mushin, you know were is the fore runner of fuji.”
Sotimirin says he has completed works on his third album, Stori Repete.
According to him, “it took three years to do a follow-up album, because I have been engaged in academic work coupled with the fact that the band has been busy performing live, both within and outside the country. The new album contains two fully loaded examining topical issues in an exciting, hilarious and entertaining manner.”
The band — made up of 20 experienced young men — according to Sotimirin, is fully recharged to make bolder statements to achieve greater impact in the music scene.
This new album is produced by one of his students, Ishola Michael, a young and talented Music and Theatre student in the Department of Creative Arts, University of Lagos and assisted by Desmond Ogunjimi.
All things equal, the album launch is fixed for April 26 at the Main Auditorium of the University of Lagos, 2p.m. Samba Records market the new album.
His first two albums, In My Time and Opeleke, recorded appreciable successes.
So, what kind of music does he sing?
“This uncommon genre of music is a fusion of Fuji, Apala, Highlife, Afro and folk songs with heavy percussion. This music is suitable for the young and old, black or white.”
A friend of his, Wale Obadeyi, an artiste and film communicator, says, “it is not uncommon to see university dons, considering what Prof. Wole Soyinka did in the early 80s, expressing his thoughts on the goings-on in his society with a musical social commentary on vinyl like I Love My Country, I No Go Lie, even one of Nigeria’s most sure-voiced actors and folk musicians, Tunji Oyelana, now in exile in the United Kingdom, following his exploits as an Artiste-in-residence at the University of badan titillated the Nigerian nation with a series of musical releases, which either lampooned societal ills or sought to speak truth to power.”
According to Obadeyi, “it is against this background that Sotimirin’s Konkere music can be better appreciated. With Stori Repete, his latest effort, he has only shown the degree of his commitment to this style of music that’s remarkably, his own. Listening, from the first track to the very last, is an ardent invitation to Sotimirin’s eclectic nature and a persuasive attempt at speaking in the registers of the streets.”
He adds, “to be sure, the album’s a fine blend of juju, apala, fuji of the saje kind, afrobeat and a general feel of Alujo. But over and above all else; it is the role of the social reformer and validator that Sotimirin takes on, especially in the title track, Stori Repete that recommends his whole effort as compelling.”
Deploying the demagogic style, Sotimirin takes a group of children — those in whom immense knowledge are invested in today to arrive at a worthy future-through the nitty gritty of the Yar’ Adua administration’s 7-point agenda.
HOW did Sotimirin find himself in acting? “While at the campus of University of Lagos, I met one of the first inspirations in my life, the late Bode Osanyin, he was producing and directing a play that he had written, Omo Odo, and when I showed interest, he encouraged me to get involved. I participated there and then, that’s how I started out. His doggedness to the commitment of promoting culture was stimulating and I learned a lot from him.”
Since then, he has had series of comprehensive training, after having worked with some top professionals from different backgrounds.
“My education and training have afforded me the opportunity to work with theatre practitioners such as Soyinka, Professor Dapo Adelugba, the late Professor Ola Rotimi, Dr. Jide Malomo and Femi Fatoba; and some other good and talented icons in the country,” he says. “By virtue of my training, I can act in both English and Yoruba movies. I have performed and directed many stage plays including Supples Blues. I directed the laudable play The King Must Dance Naked by Fred Agbeyegbe of the University of Lagos, The Gods are not to Blame and quite a number of others I have done as projects.”
Late 2007, Sotimirin was invited to Dublin to star in a play, At Peace, written by Declan Gorman, the associate artistic director of Upstate Theatre Project. Upstate is an independent performing arts organisation located in Drogheda, County Louth, Dublin. The event was a three-month tour of major theatres in Ireland.
The humour merchant was almost going to end up in jail when he was coming home because of his ‘bad verse’ like Cinna, the poet in William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
“Everything happened at the Amsterdam Airport, I was stripped naked and locked up in a dingy cell as a result of a joke, which failed to impress the officers when I was asked to submit myself for a search,” he says.
Sotimirin reflects, “when they wanted to search me, I told them that they could go on, but I added, jokingly, that my ‘bum bum’ was very precious to me. Immediately I said that, they told me to step aside; and they called in the police. There was chaos in the airport and I started wondering what I had done. I was curious and I asked what I did. They said I must not repeat it again, that what I said was something that shouldn’t be said at any airport. They said they would delay me, delay the flight and search the plane. They did all that while I was still waiting, thinking that I would still board. I later found out from an immigration officer that they thought that I said bomb and that I had come to blow up the airport!”