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Ben Tomoloju and his 100 songs of hope

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Tomoloju, Ewenla and Badejo

Yesterday, Concrete Communications Studios hosted the virtual unveiling of the Ben Tomoloju’s 100 songs. The event, which attracted a hosted of culture practitioners, academic and high networth guests, was intended to archive some of Tomoloju’s song. The project will also further help the cultural evangelism of Benson Omowafola Tomoloju.

Speaking at the unveiling, Semore Badejo, CEO Concrete Studios, said, “if the name, Ben Tomoloju, comes strange to you, it’s either you are not in the art of Arts or you are not an arts enthusiast. We have combined fun with work, recording 100 songs of Ben Tomoloju in our studios. And trust Pappy Ben, a master that he is, reeling out songs over songs, with that sonorous cannery-like voice you will love to hear. You will certainly find your choice of genre in this compilation that I choose to call a reference in Literature. Where else can you find a package of 100 songs in one, which will also come with the lyrics and the inspiration behind each song? This is a collectors’ item. A product I am proud to be associated with. You’ve got to have access to it.”

According to him, “it started with Ropo Ewenla. We wanted to create publicity for the studio.”

And to do this, some of the songs of Ben Tomoloju were recreated. “He was deeply involved in it and fired us. He composed some of the songs and we felt why can’t we document this? Even Showcase the enormous potential of the icon.”

Badejo said, “If not for COVID-19, it would have been done earlier than this.”

The producer, Ewenla, said the songs mine more than 40 years of creative exploration to bring a variety of songs in a variety of genres. “It is, to say the least, a collector’s item. This is not just art. This is history and we hope that in times to come, we would be able to get the necessary support to do a lot more for Nigerian artistes and art,” he added.

The songs, Ben Tomoloju said, is reflection of “the Choral polyphony of Ilaje people.”

According to him, “it is quite significant and exciting that Concrete Communications and her partners have deemed it necessary to compile these songs. They are a hundred in number. But the hundred are just a fraction — between a quarter and a third — of my entire repertoire of original compositions. I’m not sure we can recover all. But we’ll try. So far, in quality and magnitude, and also for its combination of the philosophical and the popular, I think we have here a bumper harvest of music with a crossover appeal.

He continued, “this collection is dedicated to that big family known and referred to as Kakaaki, to everyone who has been positively connected with her from the cradle on June 8, 1980, till the present moment. It is not just about Ben Tomoloju. I am only doing what I love to do with an unwavering passion. Rather, it is about humanity, about fellow human beings growing spiritually, intellectually and materially.”

For the culture communicator, “one other point I shouldn’t miss out is the relief I’m going to have now from singing these songs live day-in-day-out to recorder-wielding project and research students from our universities and colleges of education who are working on any of my numerous plays. They travel from various parts of the country to my home or Theatre Base and I’m singing as they record. Until now I also explored recording on my own and sending it to students on-line. Yeah, I love the interaction with the young people. Could be very exciting. But right now, I think I can do without the stress. They only need to log in on 100 Songs of Ben Tomoloju and harvest whatever songs they require from Jankariwo, Mujemuje, Askari, Iphigenia Finds Aiyelala, Amona, This Proverb and any other play of mine.”

Tomoloju is a multi-talented, iconic creative personality and a master in many respects.

Born in Ilaje Council, the coastal and riverine belt of Ondo State, Nigeria, in 1954, Tomoloju attended various elementary schools in the old Western Region of Nigeria. He moved to Christ’s School, Ado-Ekiti in 1968-72-74 for his School Certificate and Higher School Certificate.

It was in this secondary school that he began to exhibit his potentials as an all-round artist with great prospects. He wrote his first play, The Son Of A Witch And Sweet Poison, at the age of 18, under the tutelage of the now globally renowned poet, Distinguished Professor Niyi Osundare.

He later obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Literary Studies from the University of Ibadan (1975-78) where he also had comprehensive training in Theatre Arts.

Thereafter, Tomoloju was engaged in numerous occupations, especially in the areas of education and journalism. He taught English Language and Literature in English at Saka Tinubu Memorial High School, Orile-Agege, Lagos between 1979 and 82, even as a freelance journalist.

As a teacher, he established the Kakaaki Performers on exactly June 8, 1980 for the development of young talents from his school and other institutions in Lagos State. Quite a good number of those budding talents are icons in their own rights in the performing arts and the media today. They include Jahman Anikulapo, Antar Laniyan, L’oni Spak Awoyokun, Ola Tehinse, Leo Onwordi, Bayo Fayaman Adesewo, Kay Tomoloju, Akeem Anisere, Abiodun Ayoyinka (Papa Ajasco), Kola Olawoyin, Sunday Adewale and a much younger generation, which includes Salome Eketunde, Omo-Oba Jerry Adesewo, Tomi Ogunjobi and Toyin Adewale. Kakaaki, having been founded 40 years ago, is actually the milestone for this project on Ben Tomoloju’s 40 years of creative exploration. There is a whole lot of artistes that have hit the limelight through the influence of BT that space would not permit a mention here, but they maintain a strong bond of solidarity.

Beyond cultural pedagogy as a tutor, Tomoloju is a pace-setting journalist, by virtue of which he was cited in Who Is Who In Nigeria in 1988 as the pioneer of professional arts journalism in Nigeria.

He is a renowned playwright and theatre director, and some of his plays have been performed on the international stage just as he has also represented Nigeria in various cultural missions in Europe, the USA, Latin America, and parts of Africa.

Tomoloju’s published plays include Jankariwo, Askari, Flowers’ Introspect, We Only Went In Search Of Happiness, Let The Vanguards Come To Town, Just Married, Aminatu: The Legendary Queen of Zazzau. He co-authored A Vote For Tolerance with Jahman Anikulapo Anikulapo and also has to his credit a book of Yoruba folktales Ogorun-Un Itan Lati Ile Yoruba, sponsored by Dr. Bukar Usman Foundation.


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