Akeem Lasisi: Novel ride through musical poetry, video
Phenomenon Lagos Goes Live
On the Nigerian cultural scene, poetry is being reborn in many interesting guises. No longer is it satisfied with just being confined and read on the pages of a book or social media. Its mutation has been on the rise. And so from the regular rendition, it became a performance art. Not content with that the spoken word poets entered the scene and seemingly rewrote the rules and poetry perched on eagles’ wings and simply took flight in its sweeping engagement of the personal, the social and the political. Spoken word poetry relies largely on melodious tonality and ability to meld words in seamless flow and still pluck at the audience’s heartstrings.
Now a new poetic variant is afoot, indeed it has been on for a while now, with the recent release of Oshodi by journalist and poet, Mr. Akeem Lasisi. His poetry seduces with its rich Yoruba ijala (chant) quality that he blends with the folksy, spoken oration. Night of My Flight announced Mr. Lasisi arrival on the poetic stage back in 2006. Ever since he has combined his journalistic practice with his performance poetry to quite appreciable applause and swooning fans.
Having put print journalism behind him, Mr. Lasisi has turned his attention full time to, unarguably, his first love – making and performing poetry. Although he has a couple of his new babe – poetic videos – on many TV channels, Lasisi only recently formally launched out his new passion. Mr. Lasisi, who still retains his English language teaching column in The Punch, has cut for himself a new path in poetic video making – a blend of poetry mixed with songs that go with a telling, expository video.
His latest effort centres on the sprawling and notorious Oshodi bus stop in Lagos. One of Mr. Lasisi’s poetic video experimentations, Udeme, is a politically charged piece that satirises the legislature and its fixation with constituency projects that interchanges with a woman at its core, as she becomes the politician’s main constituency project to whom he expends his allowances all through his term in office. It is as hilarious as it is sobering as it takes a jibe at the buffoonery that characterises the Nigerian political experience.
With Oshodi, Mr. Lasisi has extended the metaphor to include all aspects of living, from the beautiful to the ugly and incongruous.
“Oshodi will strengthen the poetry we’ve been doing before now,” he said at his Isheri-Magodo, Lagos, outfit. “The Oshodi in the video is the same as the much loved, much hated in our beloved Lagos. It’s in a series called ‘Lagos Poetry Video’ as part of Phenomenon Lagos. It arose from the poems I composed about aspects of the city that is notorious, usually spoken of negatively, until now that there’s massive renewal.”
Mr. Lasisi assured his fans that the composition is not in praise of Lagos State Government, as he had earlier written a poem about Oshodi while it was still a jungle, but that he’d lost it. However, upon the renewal still ongoing, “It made me reflect more and think and compose a better one. The video poem happened during governor Raji Fashola’s era and what governor Akinwunmi Ambode is doing.”
The journalist also explained that the poetic video also arose from a book project he did with a colleague at The Guardian, Alhaji Kabir Alabi Garba, last year during Lagos@50 celebration. The book details 50 outstanding landmarks to which Mr. Lasisi composed 50 expository poems in celebration. It is largely these poems that he is compiling with accompanying videos that serve as tour guides to the smart city in the making.
“Oshodi, too, falls among the 50 monuments in the book,” he explained. “We’ve shot seven of those poems on the monuments and hope to shoot more. So, we’ve seen three generations of Oshodi – the pre-mega city, mega city during Fashola and now.”
Ever a promoter of culture, Mr. Lasisi situated the project under the ambit of labouring to further the interest of his first love, literature, as he noted, “This is a labour of literature. I believe the series will make impact on the appreciation of literature. We hope it will inspire others to do experimental poetry with music. This is not done for government; it’s personally inspired. We hope to do more.”
In another poetic video titled ‘BRT,’ Mr. Lasisi asserts, “Poetry has come to the stock exchange!” as it explores the story of young people coming to Lagos to try out their dreams, starting from hustling on the streets till they gradually make their way to the stock exchange summit. In it Mr. Lasisi seeks higher elevation for the arts and its practitioners.
Working on the poetic video, according to Mr. Lasisi, brought him into contact with creatives from other sectors like Nollywood, theatre, dance, etc. Edaoto is one of his strongest allies on Mr. Lasisi’s melding of poetry and music as a popular art. Freed now from the daily rigours of editorial deadlines, Mr. Lasisi will devote himself more to his creative craft, which he has stringed alongside his media practice. He hopes to revive his poetry performance troupe that has dormant for quite some time now.
Although retired from print journalism, Mr. Lasisi has turned his attention to online publishing – the media rave of the moment. Phenomenonlagos.com is his new online newspaper creation, which has since gone live. He said the publication project is Lagos-centric in its focus as it serves news on the economy, politics, arts, culture, tourism and much more.
In spite of the new direction, Mr. Lasisi will not lose focus on his first love – poetry: “In everything I do, I want to give more time to poetry. We want to be involved in more artistic productions. I’ve also got involved in training people in communication – English language. This is a platform for colleagues on what we can do together; we need to explore more areas that involve our special talents.”