Sunday, 21 March 2010

A talk with Funmi, Chris Dada

Funmi on a ride with Area Fada, Charley Boy


THIS morning, she looked sweet. She’s just had a production meeting and was relaxed. She appeared as sweet as morning angel.
For so many years, she had come to the living room of every NTA watcher with the best of television presentation. Her interviews had drawn many to her side. Suddenly, when the ovation was getting loud, she announced she was quitting the show. Many wondered why.
Was it the end of a dream to see quality talk show? May be yes. May be no.
Suddenly, the news filtered across that Funmi was indeed cooking a new meal. What was it?
Talk With Funmi, which was premiered exclusively on DStv’s Africa Magic channel on February 7, at 7pm.
The first time I called to fix this interview, Funmi Iyanda didn’t take the call that day. Suspecting that she might belong to the growing list of Nigerians, who don’t pick ‘unknown’ mobile phone numbers, I decided to send her a text, detailing clearly my aim of ringing her that early morning.
Few minutes later, my phone rang. Just as I predicted, the broadcaster said.
“I’m really sorry, I’m always careful with unknown phone numbers.” And she adds: “It’s ok, we can do the interview, but I will give you a phone number to call in case there’s any change in plan. I will send you the address right now.”
Just as she promised, we scheduled to meet in two days time, but she added, “I will also like you to speak to the producer of the show (Talk With Funmi); I will get him to be part of the chat.”
Her Maryland, Ikeja, Lagos office, is an insight to the taste of the team; simple but detailed. In fact, if care is not taken, one could easily mistake the well-kept apartment for a home; there was no signpost.
Not long after we stepped into the reception, the secretary ushered us into an office, where Chris Dada, producer of the TV show, Talk With Funmi, was waiting with about two laptops and a desktop system on, ready to show clips of the show; he’s more like a practical guy; no long story.

THE first child of her parents, Funmi was born and bred in Lagos. After her secondary education at the Methodist Girls’ High School, she proceeded to the University of Ibadan for a degree in Geography.
Yes, Funmi studied Geography not broadcasting, though she had a stint with studying International Law and Diplomacy.
Fresh out of university, Funmi explored her deep passion for sports and, for people when, between 1995 and 2003, she became an active member of the NFA. It was during this time that she was consulted to act as chaperon to Nigerian sports legend, Charity Okpara as well as Chioma Ajunwa, who, two years later, went on to win an Olympic gold medal.
She reported the 1999 female World Cup, the All Africa Games in Zimbabwe, as well as the Sydney Olympics in Australia. She also worked on a documentary on the team that participated in the African Cup of Nations in South Africa 1996.
However, with encouragement from the likes of Tunde Kelani and Tunde Agboola, Funmi subsequently took up TV production and presentation, starting with a syndicated programme, Good Morning Nigeria, on NTA. She was a presenter with Saturday Sports, Milo World of Sports and Guinness World of Sports. Funmi had also done Concert Fever, Heart To Heart, and a musical programme that ran for over a year before she moved to MITV, where she presented MITV live for more than two years. Her adventurous spirit soon moved her to leave MITV for the NTA where she anchored the breakfast show, New Dawn On 10, a show that introduced a new era in breakfast television.

AFTER eight years of producing and hosting the acclaimed studio talk show, Funmi announced the end of the New Dawn, with a broadcast of the final show in September last year.
“What I’d like to say though is this: I was done on the Dawn, done with inspiring people (which I never set out to but honoured to have achieved). I am set now to ignite those who would like to come along with me to exciting new possibilities the beginning of which will be a brand new show,” she wrote on her blog.
Funmi’s decision to rest New Dawn was a thing of concern to her fans. But just as many were still wondering if she’s retiring from broadcasting, she returned with yet another show tagged, Talk With Funmi, which was premiered exclusively on DStv’s Africa Magic channel on February 7, 2010 at 7pm.
“When we stopped New Dawn, I thought of what next to do. I wanted something else, but I wasn’t clear on what I wanted to do. I wasn’t sure of what to do, but I knew that the best thing to do was find the right producer and director to work with. You might have a great idea on you mind, but most times, it’s better to find someone who can help actualise those ideas.”
Just as Funmi was still toying with the idea, a close friend linked her up with Chris Dada, who as at then, was based in London.
Chris, a Nigerian born producer had always wanted to return to the country to do some productions and here’s a Funmi, searching for the right partner.
“He flew in from London and we started talking. I had this idea of a road show, but I didn’t really know how it was going to work. How it all started and got this far, is his idea. I wanted to do outdoor, but it wouldn’t have worked without him; I think he wanted to do something similar, I don’t know… Chris talk now,” Funmi busted into laughter, nudging Chris to speak.
“From my point of view, when she came to see me, and we started talking, I thought to myself that the original idea Funmi had in her head was fine. But I kind of wanted her to do more, because she could actually do more. We were seeing a situation where we kind of go out on some road show to bring out things people don’t usually bother to do or show to the world. We talked for three days and then finally arrived at a conclusion. I was like, ‘let’s get rid of the constraints and just go out and meet the people.”
He continued: “I really didn’t know much about Funmi until I met her. But looking at New Dawn… the things that really struck me were the obvious kind of fan base she had built for herself and I told myself, ‘she was worth it and good to work with,” Chris said.
On his own part, Chris had always wanted to tell the stories of those people whose stories don’t normally get told. Meeting Funmi was like a lifeline to that idea.
“I saw her as someone who was doing just that, and that kind of informed the marriage of ideas. It was one of the main things that brought me back to Nigeria and I felt it was a way to get at it.”

CHRIS left Nigeria many years ago, working in the production sector. He had toyed with the idea of bringing back his wealth of experience back home and Talk With Funmi did just that.
“It was strange, everything was happening at the same time and within a week, I got a phone call. I knew that she (Funmi) is somebody, who shared my ideas and I could confidently work with,” Chris said.
No doubt, there’s so much life in the show.
“Its not like the Nigerian thing where people take stuff for granted. We are looking at a situation where people will meet us, watch and hear things about themselves and have the ability to pick up the next question and not be emotional,” Chris said.
“I think that was also a joint effort thing,” Funmi added. “I remember when we started talking in the house and I said I wanted to know what Joel (her gateman) thinks, what the baba next door thinks, what Umoru thinks and what’s going on in their own world. At a time with New Dawn, I just wanted to hear from everybody; everyone was important.”
The idea of featuring Charly Boy on the show was actually by accident.
“I actually wanted to do Okada in Lagos and someone said, ‘ha, Charly Boy, Area Fada of Okada riders.’ That was how the idea came and we followed up. The principle behind it is to give a voice to everyone, especially those without a voice; usually not heard. I sat in the studio for years talking to politicians and celebrities. No matter how skillful you are, there is something they are not going to tell you, even sometimes, they have an agenda and they want to come and use you to push such agenda. It’s all well and good. I also want to hear from those who don’t have anything to lose in their mind,” Funmi said.

TO prove that the show is actually for all no matter the social class, Talk With Funmi was also in Ajegunle. Till date, a lot of people still wonder how Funmi and group coped in that jungle part of Lagos.
“We had finished Lagos and gone to other states and he (Chris) was like objecting. Initially, Ajegunle wasn’t in our plan, but he kept saying we have to shoot Ajegunle. Even Ifee (my assistant producer) kept talking about Ajegunle; the different dancing styles that have evolved from there and the creativity of the people from that locality.”
“At a point, you discover that much of the talent of Nigeria have evolved from that locality,” Chris said. “At least, five of the national football stars are from there. You talk about their music, their life style … I just wanted to show these beautiful people to the world. It was a burning dream. For example, the reigning alanta dance, I heard evolved from there and has its origin by reason of many mosquitoes in the area. You know the steps and how you kill mosquitoes,” he said with laughter.
You might think that Ajegunle residents are hostile, but Talk With Funmi has a different story having recorded in that location.
“The people are also friendly,” Funmi quipped. “I remember in 1995 when we went there; some boys came together to form a vigilante group and we had gone to film in the night. They saw us and started shooting at us. I didn’t know what Ajegunle was like then, but what followed was interesting then. I grew up in Mile 2, so, I know much about AJ,” Funmi disclosed.
“Even in their poverty and unhealthy environment, they are some of the most happy Nigerians and are always happy to be doing what they are doing,” Chris observed. “I remember a situation in which we had to go there to record at the football field, a jolly young fellow brought her wine. He opened it and was so happy to be entertaining us; it’s amazing the kind of life you experienced when you go there.”
To Funmi, Ajegunle is a place full of strength.
“The women are always so cool in their gele. Every Sunday, you see them proud and happy not minding the slum and swamp. I remember this girl I had an encounter with, so pretty, looking beautiful in her dress and I was like, ‘where did you get this dress from.’ She said, ‘na Okrika, second hand now, from boundary market.’ The pride and dignity with which she said it alone was amazing. I attend a lot of celebrity parties and the women there in all their affluence and wealth don’t exhibit the kind of carriage you see these poor Ajegunle women exhibit. I think we ought to do an urban renewal of that community. It also reminds me of the story of Nigeria where the average people are the most inspiring and hard working.”
According to Chris, the show, which is currently running on DSTV, will definitely get to terrestrial TV stations.
“It’s in our plan, we will definitely show it on TV stations across the country. We are still talking to them, but expect it on either NTA or AIT.”
“If we have our way, we will put the show in all the TV stations in the country,” Funmi said. “We want everyone to see the show because it’s for the people.”
For your information, this is not a re-branding Nigeria project.
“Before the government came up with the idea, we had already started conceptualizing the programme. We are interested in telling the true story of Nigeria to the world. When you travel out of Nigeria, you see proud Nigerians working hard. Nigeria is not about bad news; there are more good people here than bad ones. You can’t believe the development in some of the states we’ve visited just because of this show. This is not re-branding Nigeria; we are just telling the true story of Nigeria.”
For those who are excited about the show so far, just fasten your seat belt; the best is yet to come.
“I don’t even know where the show is going; we can’t say now. But what we are promising is quality and interesting productions,” Funmi said.

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