Feast of music, drama as 20th MUSON Festival

Vice chair, MUSON Louis Mbanefo (SAN) and Mrs Francesca Emanuel.

 Nigerians and foreigners are assured of a great time at the festival whose scope has been increased for maximum satisfaction.


IT will be a rich, tasty offering for people interested in good music, arts, poetry, dance and drama as from October 14 when the 2016 Musical Society of Nigeria’s (MUSON) Festival of Arts starts. Being the 20th edition, the Society has spared no efforts in laying a sumptuous feast for people appreciative of the civilizing and therapeutic qualities of the arts. The Society has in fact formed strategic partnerships with not less than six sister organizations to increase the scope of events and ensure a befitting celebration.

The activities of the festival, themed ‘Celebrating the 20th Festival’ and which runs from October 14 to 30, were unveiled at a news briefing held at the MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos last Wednesday. Society’s Vice Chairman, Louis Mbanefo (SAN); General Manager, Gboyega Banjo; Chair, 20th Festival Planning Committee, Kitoyi Ibare-Akinsan; Francesca Yetunde Emanuel and playwright and director, Ben Tomoloju were among those that spoke at the occasion, which was also used to take stock.

Recalling the roots of the festival, Mbanefo said that he never believed that the little experiment he conceived with support from others like Emanuel and Chief Ayo Rosiji back then would become the MUSON’s centerpiece. He said:  “The MUSON Festival is 20 years old! In the same way that the founders of MUSON never dreamt that their modest aspirations to create an avenue for the enjoyment of classical music would blossom into a highly successful organisation, I never dreamt that the experiment of staging a festival in 1997 (during my Chairmanship of MUSON) would lead to 20 consecutive years of highly successful festivals! Indeed, the annual festival has become the major item in the MUSON Calendar.”

Toeing a similar line, Ibare-Akinsan noted that the festival has since increased its scope to include items for all categories of art lovers before highlighting this year’s offerings. The festival will commence with an art exhibition on Friday, October 14. Coordinated by Treasure House and The Design Museum, the show will run through the duration of the festival at the MUSON’s Function Room.

That same Friday will see a musical, ‘Fela…Arrest the Music’, centered on the life and music of the Afrobeat king, begin its three-day run at the Agip Recital Hall. Musical director of the popular Broadway-styled ‘Saro’ and ‘Waka’, Ayo Ajayi, will direct the musical produced by Declassical Arts & Entertainment Company.  Ajayi, an alumnus of MUSON School of Music said of the production: “Fela’s contributions are numerous and he presented music as communication and awareness. He created Highlife jazz and Afrobeat, so we are producing a musical that’s educative and entertaining. We will give fans an awesome experience.”

Up next is traditional festival fare, My Kind of Music on October 20 at the Agip Recital Hall. It will feature broadcaster and music critic, Benson Idonije who recently clocked 80; broadcaster, music teacher and voice trainer, Princess Banke Ademola; art collector and philanthropist, Prince Yemisi Shyllon and creative director of iOpenEye Productions, Ifeoma Fafunwa.

Another of the innovations introduced into this year’s festival, ‘Block 13’, a dance workshop and concert, coordinated by the Society for Performing Arts in Nigeria, will happen on October 21 while the festival drama sponsored by Chevron, ‘The Wives’ Revolt’ by Professor John Pepper-Clark will be staged on October 22.  The play’s director, Tomoloju, shared a bit about it. “The Wives’ Revolt is JP Clark’s first attempt at comedy in 1984 or thereabouts. It’s a classic about gender relations and also about the Niger Delta issue. It was futuristic when it was written but now contemporaneous now that MUSON has brought it back,” he said.

The MUSON Choir directed by Sir Emeka Nwokedi will present the festival opera, Bedrich Smetana’s ‘The Bartered Bride’ on October 23. Total, which has sponsored the opera since 2002, will still bankroll this year’s event.  The MUSON Day featuring students of the MUSON School will happen on October 25 while the Musiquest/Youth Concert also produced by the MUSON School of Music, takes place the following day.

Another MUSON collaboration with dancer Ice Nweke, ‘Pincode’ (Stars on Earth), based on the life of four struggling dancers, will happen on October 27 and the Jazz Night holds on October 28. The Jazz Night will feature amongst others, Lanre Kunnuji, an alumnus of the MUSON School of Music now based in South Africa, classic soul/jazz vocalist, Debbiesoul, smooth jazz and instrumental soul saxophonist, Perpie and fast rising jazz boy-band, Theosolites.

Several years after poetry last featured at the festival, it returns in a grand manner in 2016 with a performance poetry and music concert on October 29. Directed by Efe Paul Azino, founder of the Lagos International Poetry Festival, it will feature 15 poets from Lagos, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, US and the UK.

The celebration will end on October 30 with the MUSON Symphony Orchestra conducted by Walter Michael Vollhardt at Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina.