By Anote Ajeluorou
THE start of the cultural explosion in dance, music and drama, Saro the Musical 2 yesterday at the MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos lived up to expectation as lovers and enthusiasts of creative package are beginning to feel what producers of the Broadway style musical product tagged a December to Remember.
Running till Sunday, December 28, the total culture presentation boasts of three directors, who have been working on the three-pronged, but harmonised departments of drama, music and dance. The three directors have effectively fused together these three elements of stage to create incredible spectacle.
Last week, The Guardian engaged the three directors – Mr. Kenneth Uphopho (drama), Ayo Ajayi (music) and Gbenga Yusuf (dance) as rehearsals peaked for the performance designed to thrill audiences this Christmas.
To Kenneth Uphopho, the journey has been great. “It’s a tremendous effort in scriptwriting that is robust. Saro 2 has more elements to play with. We wanted to make the characters stronger and distinct because we want to carry the audience along. What we’re selling to people is a lifestyle. The theme of Saro is liberty to achieve, to excel, to achieve what you hope to achieve! That is what we want people to buy into. It’s the story of four young boys who want to achieve something for themselves, musically. Fate takes them to Don Ceeto. Lagos city influences them and impacts their lives. At the end they come out triumphant. There’s also a love story, as a sub-plot. So, there’s a thin line between dream and love.
“Of course, we’re looking forward to a good show. The three directors are working six hours a day to ensure everything works out well. It’s a combination of all efforts. Saro 2 the Musical is a fantastic way to celebrate Christmas. We’re asking all to come enjoy Saro 2; bring the entire family. Saro is child-friendly; the language is simple.
“The hard part is the rehearsals; a 100-man cast and crew is not a joke. We’re trying to micromanage everything; managing the emotions of people takes a lot. But the cast has been amazing and supportive. There’s no laid back approach; everyone is ever ready to play his part.
“I’ve done musicals before – Cinderela, Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Rubiewe –an African adaptation of Beauty and the Beast and then Beauty and the Beast proper. But Saro is more challenging; it has bigger cast and crew. Luckily, I was part of the script development process; I can only say it’s been tough all through, but absolutely enjoyable!
“Of course, Lagosians and Nigerians should look out for Saro 2. It’s the biggest thing after our elections. In fact, this is bigger than elections; elections leave us hungrier and frustrated. Saro will bring joy and smiles to Nigerians. It will provide a beautiful escape from all the election hardship and excesses of our governments.”
IN the reckoning of the music director, Ayo Ajayi, Saro the Musical 2 has been a trying journey that is, however, worth the while. “We didn’t just want to repeat what we offered last year, but to refine and produce the best performance so far in Lagos and Nigeria. A lot of hard work has gone into it, and we’re determined to get the result we want. What we had last year was good; this year we’re taking it through the necessary process, through fire, through the forge to make it the best performance ever.
“You know, last year, it was a great show, but now we have to infuse many things into it to make a great product. We have refined the three departments – drama, dance and music – and the effect on the audience will be whaoh! In music, so many original songs have been incorporated to meet the demands of popular hip-hop artistes and listeners alike; the standard of music we have in Saro 2 is higher than what we have in current Naija hip-hop. Like last year, we only had Magba gbe mi, but now there are so many other original songs. The audience will have to sit tight or else they will be thrown off balance. For me, the audience must have goose pimples from the effect of music or else just scrap it. There’s so much musical content for Saro 2 than we have on the streets because we are schooled and professionals in what we do.
“Don’t forget, we didn’t quite bring out Don Ceeto’s musical project last year. Don Ceeto is the man who discovered the four young men and gave their music career a lift. Now we’re bringing out his musical project for it to stand out on its own. We have five tracks of Don Ceeto’s musical project incorporated in Saro 2 and made up of different genres and styles – jazz, soul, Naija music. Three of the tracks have already been recorded.
“My job essentially is that of music arranger and composer. Several musicals have sprung up after Saro the Musical since last year; it’s a pacesetting production. We’re trying to set the pace, a turnaround in Nigeria. Nigerian music at the moment doesn’t seem to have focus; it’s just about rhythm, but bad sound and silly language. On the contrary, Saro music is attractive and different in language and lyrical content. Hip-hop artistes in Nigeria will learn how to make good music after listening to Saro 2. Indeed, Saro songs make sense unlike most of the music we have on the streets.”
“PREPARATIONS are going on but very hectic,” says the dance director, Gbenga Yusuf rather enthusiastically. The goal this time around, Yusuf insisted, is “to beat Saro the Musical we produced last year. Of course, we can’t give the same thing. So, it’s been challenging. Saro 2 will definitely be better; the dances are spectacular. They will take audiences unaware by their very breadth and depth. We have more indigenous, cultural dances infused with modern dances. Then, there is that grand performance of the four young men this time, which didn’t quite happen last year.
“In Saro last year, there was no circus, acrobatic displays, no skaters on stage; Saro 2 has all these spectacular elements in it. There’s also the use of props, things that will give that whaoh effect.
“And you know, dance is wide in form and style; imagine bata drumming infused with jazz or ballerina and wange; the range is very wide. The team I’m working with this year is unique; we will give something unique as well. We will use certain dance forms we didn’t use last year; there’s the use of circus and props. The Saro boys this year are really digging it; they will really sing, dance and act.
“In fact, Saro message is clearer this year; everybody will now understand why we have Saro. In Saro 2 audience will be able to follow the story of the four boys from the village to the city, to Don Ceeto’s house. We’re taking the audience through Lagos State and different locations, which the audience can relate to as part of their own Lagos experience. Saro envisages the future of music.”