Tue. Dec 5th, 2023
Toni Kan

Celebrating Nigerian Entertainment Icons: A Tribute – Toni Kan

“That night the King could not sleep: so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him.” Esther 6: 1 (NIV)

In ancient times, before Martin Luther and Gothenburg, there existed a select group of individuals whose duties were to record, dutifully and in painstaking detail, significant events that were taking place.

Their writings were called Chronicles or Annals.

Those men were called Scribes and they were an essential part of a King’s court. In today’s world, a Scribe would approximate to a personal lawyer who would prepare a man’s last will and testament or a Confidential Secretary who is privy to all that concerns his principal.

But above all, in the more democratic times that we live in, the modern day Scribe is the journalist, the man or woman who through his writings, records (almost always in a hurry) for posterity, the doings of the people.

And because the kings and royalty of old have been largely displaced and replaced by a different breed, a breed born not into royalty but who are no strangers to adulation and loyalty on account of their God-given talents. This breed we call stars; actors, musicians, artistes and celebrities of different stripes.

In the past two decades, Nigerians have come to canonize their own special breed of stars and these are young men and women drawn from the common pool and transformed into creatures of adulation, envy and mass appeal. These creatures have been spawned by our blossoming movie and music industries.

Before the coming of the seminal Living in Bondage and the birth of Nollywood as well as Kennis Music which opened up a fresh new vista in the Nigerian music scene, Nigerian celebrities were practically the well-heeled.

In those days when you opened the society pages of our newspapers, the stories revolved mostly around people like MKO Abiola and many other rich men and women of his ilk.

I recall now how comprehensively the early tabloids chronicled the sexual peccadilloes of MKO Abiola as well as his famed generosity. I still recall stories about Bola Kuforii Olubi and her many husbands or the reams of newsprint wasted reporting on the latest addition to Fred Ajudua, Godwin Anabor or Eze Ego’s fleet. In those days, money was a major factor in determining celebrity and it was easy to see why.

The music and TV stars of those days were ordinary folks who just happened to have talent and their talent never really translated into wealth. I still remember reading a glowing report about Ras Kimono buying a brand new TOKUNBO Datsun, or Orits Williki moving into a 3 bedroom apartment and I still remember, (I hope correctly) that Barabara Soky (who would approximate to today’s Genevieve) didn’t even own a car even at the height of her celebrity.

In those days to be an artist almost meant a pact with poverty and privation but all that changed in many ways with the coming of “Living in Bondage” and Nollywood, Kennis Music and The Remedies, endorsement deals from telecom companies as well entertainment channels like Channel O, SoundCity, Nigezie, MTV and Trace. Suddenly, people who had talent and who thrilled us on TV or on concert stages were becoming rich to boot.

And nothing shines as bright as wealth and fame! In no time, the merely rich had been pushed off the front pages of our tabloids into the gossip columns and the images of young nubile belles and well-chiseled hunks were adorning the covers of our magazines.

Many years on, one is compelled to ask a pressing question – would there have been a Ras Kimono or Orits Wiliki, a Lagbaja or Stella Monye, a Kate Henshaw or Omotola Jolade Ekeinde, an Idris Abdulkareem or Weird MC, a Dolly Unachukwu or Sam Loco Efe, a Ramsey Nouah or Genevieve Nnaji, a Blacky or Danny Wilson, a Daddy Showkey or Junior & Pretty if there was no Femi Akintunde Johnson, Azuka Jebose, Jude Arijaje, Kunle Bakare, Mayor Akinpelu, Chris Nwandu, Kenny Ogungbe and DI Adeneye, Azuh Arinze, Azuh Amatus, Sunny Okim, Dayo Olomu, Mike Effiong, Kayode Ajala, Don Pedro Okojie, Staggerlee, Kunle Onime, Oyin Onime, Lolu Durojaiye, Edi Lawani, Toyin Oshinibosi, Chris Ubosi, Obi Asika, Kunle Hamilton, Moji Danisa, Dada Eriye, Skid Ikemefuna, Danladi Bako, Biodun Kupoluyi, Niran Adedokun, Ayeni Adekunle, Osagie Alonge and many many others.

These were the veritable midwives who helped birth contemporary Nigerian Entertainment

Tomorrow, at a hotel in GRA Ikeja, a number of these men and women who championed the birth of Nigerian entertainment would be gathered in what is billed as a reunion under the umbrella of Nigerian Entertainment icons.

In the hall would be those who made Prime and Vintage People stand out in the waning years of the 80s.

In that room would be the young men who brought us Encyclopaedia Gossipica and those whose restless imagination gave birth to or helped to blossom magazines like Fame, National Encomium, HINTS City People, Today’s Choice, Hearts, Global Excellence, Ovation and now Yes magazine, QED, CKN, Daylight, E247mag, etc.

In that space would be gathered artiste managers and label owners, those like Chris Kehinde Nwandu and Kenny Ogungbe, whose exertions at Sony Music and Kennis Music paved the way for what the likes of OBO and YBNL and Star Music and Chocolate City are now reaping.

The planned gathering would be paying tribute to those without whom there would be no chronicles of Nollywood or the Nigerian music industry. In that hall, tomorrow would be seated many whose names ought to be in the Nigerian Entertainment Hall of fame as pioneers and vanguards of a new epoch.

This is a salute and a tribute to Nigerian Entertainment Icons.

(This piece was initially written to commemorate the 3rd anniversary of NETng. It has been adapted as a tribute to Nigerian Entertainment Icons.)

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