For many years, critics and experts have believed that the Nigerian entertainment sector represents a goldmine for both the economy and international diplomacy. Within the past decade, contemporary African stars have made a massive impact on global music and culture, achieving far-reaching recognition through mainstream awakening and radio plays of Afro-pop (a wide variety of contemporary urban and electric dance music), Oldies, Hip-hop/Rap, and other popular genres.
Expectedly, with Nigeria’s vast wealth of history, culture, and stories, Nigeria’s entertainment and media sector is expected to be the fastest-growing globally in 2020, even with persistent challenges attributable to its informal structure and piracy. Though drastically limited by policies, a resurgence largely spurred by private investment and change in consumer taste has created a massive opportunity to leverage potentials and profits in the industry thoroughly, while also securing the buy-in of policy-makers, consumers, and other stakeholders.
Amstel Malta, produced by the country’s largest brewing company Nigerian Breweries has always been a partner of the Nigerian entertainment sector – either through its support for the Amstel Malta Box Office (AMBO), Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA), including the Bolanle Austen-Peters’ reloaded stage play, Fela’s Republic and the Kalakuta Queens, Ajibayo Akinkugbe Foundation’s Mamma Mia and the Kemi ‘Lala’ Akindoju-led musical, Ada the Country.
Fela’s Republic and the Kalakuta Queens is a compelling musical narrative of the honest and incomparable love and connection the icon had with his dancers (queens), who left their homes to follow him, believing in his vision of building a better community through arts and music. Naturally, one would expect jaw-dropping choreography and musical performances, but this goes far beyond that. What the stage performance offered was a celebration of Africa’s cultural transformation and success, and Fela’s legacy and position in Nigeria’s contemporary music landscape.
Interestingly, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s fusion of traditional Nigerian and Ghanaian music, jazz, funk, and Caribbean musical styles, referred to as ‘Afrobeat,’ has become a global focus. It has started a new conversation about the continent’s position in leading the culture and expanding into entertainment through the theatre arts. While nostalgia and the consistent change in audience taste have been essential for the success of the industry, the current resurgence of the music and even the theatre culture in the country can be traced to the public-private partnerships and investments, talents of the creatives, and the unrelenting attitude of various stakeholders.
From December last year till 3 January, theatre-goers gathered in droves to watch the musical drama, Mamma Mia, an adaptation of the ninth longest-running Broadway show in the United States. With a cast of amazing singers, dancers, and actors, Ajibayo Akinkugbe Foundation, with support from Amstel Malta, delivered a story of epic proportions and memory.
Produced by Soji Akinkugbe and Ireti Bakare-Yusuf, and directed by Najite Dede, Mamma Mia – which has been performed in 6 Continents, 50 Countries, 300 Cities, and translated into 26 languages – was brought into Nigeria for the first time ever, and with an all-Nigerian cast and crew.
Ada The Country, the country’s first all-women cast and crew musical, also came alive this January, which was a celebration of hope and friendship amid loneliness, loss, tragedy, and despair. Featuring Joke Silva, Bimbo Akintola, Patience Ozokwor, Chigul, Oludara Egerton-Shyngle, Oluchi Odii, among others, the play is written by award-winning writer and performer, Titilope Shonuga, and produced and directed by Kemi Lala Akindoju.
Gradually, the theatre has also become an option for many lovers of the arts, with stage plays sponsored by Amstel Malta providing the audience with an opportunity to catch a glimpse of critical moments in the nation’s history or celebrate Nigerian literary giants. Fela’s impact on both music and socio-political consciousness has consistently captured many hearts and interests, and tales of his fearless and colourful life serves as an opportunity to reflect on the ideals of an individual who truly embodies Africa’s excellence. While Amstel Malta continues to leverage exciting ways to reward consumer loyalty with initiatives that drive home its message of celebrating life to the fullest, its storytelling also celebrates the Nigerian Theatre Arts culture and remains at the core of its partnerships with platforms in the entertainment industry.
The Nigerian story has often been one characterized by less than flattering headlines, even if its international reputation often does not reflect reality. While there is so much focus on the African culture – music, film, theatre, lifestyle, and its high concentration of unique artistic talent – there are new influential voices that have grown to become prominent in opening the continent, especially Nigeria, to the world.
If the entertainment industry is to truly achieve its potential of becoming a major contributor to the nation’s economy, industry-focused investments and initiatives supported by brands such as Amstel Malta must be encouraged and amplified as it will go a long way to consolidate and preserve the industry while also championing the rebirth of theatre arts in Nigeria.