Barely two months after the induction of Barrister Fred Agbeyegbe as the first grand Living Legend of the Nigerian theatre by the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP), another Nigerian theatre icon and filmmaker , Moses Olaoluwa Olusanya Adejumo popularly known as Baba Sala was last Friday honoured with the title of Grand Living Legend of Nigerian Theatre.
The event which was Living Legend Series 2, held at the Banquet Hall of the National theatre Iganmu Lagos, last Friday, honoured Baba Sala , the dramatist who is regarded as the father of modern Nigerian comedy and highly placed alongside other dramatists such as, Hubert Ogunde, Kola Ogunmola and Duro Ladipo, for his total commitment to theatre practice, evolution of comedy in Nigeria and impeccable achievements in the industry.
The signature tune in the 70’s which was voices chanting amidst drums, ushered in an over-bloated, fat stomach, teeth painted, alarm clock-wearing, loud large bow tie-tying, baggy trousers-wearing with huge rimless glasses and pipe-smoking clown, Baba Sala a very brilliant and intellectually sound artiste whose creativity and artistry are responsible for his height in the theartre industry.
In spite of the fact that the occasion was solely dedicated to the Ijesha born foremost comedian whose stage name, Baba Sala, was built on the towering evocation of theatre, entertainment and most especially, comedy in the 70’s, the youths that were in attendance, outnumbered guest who were mostly from the yoruba theatre.
Plethora of performances
It was a day that performances totally replaced speech presentations which ordinarily, would have meant a lot of fun for every member but for the fact that every performance ranging from poetry, comedy, music and dance drama, except music by B Sala D Sala an offspring of the celebrant and a Rap and Hip Hop artiste, who sang in English, was rendered in Yoruba Language.
The show, despite being a NANTAP’s affair, turned into an ocassion for only a tribe because of language barrier. It was however, worthwhile as one of the anchor persons, a star actor in the Yoruba movie industry, Yemi Solade kept many who couldn’t flow freely with the performers in line as he piloted mostly in English Language.
The investiture of Elder Adejumo which was marked with series of performances and goodwill messages which was highly attended by dignitaries such as HRH Oba Gbenga Gbadebo Sonuga, the Fadesewa of Simawa, playwright and lawyer Fred Agbeyegbe, Lari Williams, Adejumo Lewis, veteran filmmaker Chief Jimoh Aliu, Afeez Aiyetoro, Dr Victor Ashaolu, kicked off with a High life music performance by the Funkadelic Agidigbo Band.
And after that, Baba Sala radiating in his all white traditional attire was led to the Hall by his wives, Mrs. Temitayo Adejumo and Mrs. Funmilayo Adejumo, as well as his first son Rev. Bamidele Adejumo, with standing ovation.
Thereafter, other performers such as Black Horsetail performing Company took over and dazzled the audience with a dance drama that featured a lot of acrobatic displays. Their colourful costumes added glamour to the entire celebration.
Yoruba comedy by Lanko Omo Oba Dubai from the reaction of the audience who almost got choked up with wild laughter was most outstanding.
Speaking in his capacity as the Father of the day, Nigeria’s cultural ambassador, Chief Olusegun Olusola while recalling the good old days and his encounters with the celebrant, described him as the very best to have come out of Africa.
He noted that NANTAP has taken a good step by initiating the Living Legend Series and for first rewarding Fred Agbeyegbe and now, Moses Olaiya for their exploits in the Nigeria theatre which has birthed many accomplished theartre practitioners in the industry today.
He started his career as a High Life musician in 1964 with his Federal Rhythm Dandies, commenced his comic group which he developed and sustained into a major theatrical force involved in stage performances and later, culminated in the celluloid film medium.
His major productions with the Alwada Group International Limited include, Orun Mooru, Aare Agbaye, Mosebolatan, and many others.
He inspired a generation of theatre artistes that used the “Baba” nomenclature such as Baba Mero, Baba Wande, Baba Sabiko, Baba Suwe etc.
He started a series of Television plays on NTA which took direct materials from the society, ridiculed the society and fed the play back to the society leaving the society to laugh at itself.
Most of his works were comic relief but at the same time, satirical of the Nigerian society. The beauty of Baba sala’s dramaturgy was in his observation and experience which highly paid off as he dug into the weaknesses of the society, allowing it discover a way of escape from the tension of existence. His exaggerated costumes were not just symbols of the people but “man’s attempt at understanding fully, the trappings of colonialism” which has completely overwhelmed the African culture.
Baba Sala indeed, gave Nigerians in his time an opportunity to have a romance with their follies and sometimes, unavoidable foolishness.
The thespian who clocked 74 in May this year, in his response, expressed appreciation to NANTAP for celebrating him and added that he is still ready to climb the set or stage to act any time.
National President of NANTAP, Greg Odutayo in his remarks said that the celebrant’s professional activities which date back to the traveling theatre days still remain largely unsurpassed, adding that “his many stage performances held both in the country and outside, his drama series in photo magazines, his theatre showcase on television and entry into the world of films are no mean feats for a hardworking theatre practitioner whose life has been dedicated to the practice of theatre”.