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Interrogating Segun Sofowote’s Went Forth a Whisper

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You may also call this book: To Steal The Royal Bugle. Written by ‘baba’ Segun Sofowote, it is 132 pages of conflicts and drama. Set in the late 40s, acts in the book such as, Adisa Anifowose, Oso, Ayinde, Jagun, Omontayo, Balogun Fagbamin, Morenike, Ajibike as well as Agbenti and Finonsi live in two imaginary towns — Oroki and Arigbajo.

Spread into 33 sequences, the book is rendered in a language simple enough for straight comprehension, yet displays a sophisticated elegance, which allows lines that are falling in place as prose to be arranged and rendered poetically.

Published by Ariya Productions, Went Forth a Whisper requires a well-horned cast to produce on stage. Lovers of plays and drama should fish out this book and include it in their collection.The power of Sofowote’s pen is easily felt by his deployment of a telling poetic prose as can be seen in these lines forming part of the book’s prologue…

“Uncouth power, child! The gleaming axe in the hands of a tree-feller is a tempter, a challenge to his quality, his pedigree! In muscle, mind and moral, is he man enough/ man enough over his weapon? Is he the slave of the master? The wielder or the wielded? The herder or the herded? Does the man ride the horse or the horse the man? On his high horse, feels he competent to assault fellow dependants and guests of Time and the Earth, the all-hosting stoics who admit, nurture and retire muscle and weapon?”

The essence of Went Forth a Whisper is not introduced to readers, thus, forcing a conscious readership of its pages to have an idea of its story as you read on. So, in this case, the taste of the pudding is in the eating!

However, I have put some words and phrases in the introduction of sequence 1, (lifted and rendered below) in italics, to provide a glimpse into the setting and “meal” being served in Went Forth a Whisper and form your own picture of what the book is all about.

Note what is in italic: “Daybreak. Aninfowose’s palour in Oroki town. From outside, sounds of peaceful neighbourhood striving. As the scene opens, Oso prostrates himself and then assumes a squatting posture before Aninfowose who is emerging from the inner recesses of the house, his sleeping wrapper draped from his left shoulder across the chest and back, a bowl of water in his left hand and a chew-stick in the other. His delight is quite apparent as he stops to accord his son the full complement of their family citatory poetry”.

Since the Moonlight Playgroup, founded by Segun Sofowote in 1977, he has not looked back. He sure knows what it means to be active. Baba Sofowote knows that the man who retires quickly becomes dead alive!

Earlier than that, precisely in 1971, Ariya Productions had been born and with it, the creativity of Sofowote as a producer was to unfold with many artistes benefitting from same.

I know him as the grand master of the arts, a man who is nicely put together in gait, expression and demeanour. But in the words of others perhaps more discerning and more researching and who had earlier experienced him in the service of his calling, he is actually a cat with nine lives. Indeed, one reviewer of Sofowote’s works once shed light on Atoka the Yoruba photoplay series as well as The Magnet, maintaining that Sofowote became “the first dramatist/production director/editor in Nigeria to produce dramatic works in the medium of plays in photos and running text of dialogue and captions”.

To most of those reviewers, Sofowote is a theatre and literature guru, actor, dramatist, director, dancer and choreographer, writer, and even humourist. Of course, more appendages include: Producer, presenter, script writer and trainer, music composer, lyricist arranger, singer, choral director, percussionist, record producer, broadcaster, presenter, graphic artist, elocutionist, public speaker copywriter and art critic among others of similar hue.

This poet and lyricist hails from Irolu-Remo in Ogun State of Nigeria. But the globe has been his canvass. Like him, his drum dance drama, The Arbiter is much travelled. As we celebrate him today, we remember Sofowote’s other works which include: Sailor Boy In Town, The Royal Pigeon’s Perch, The Square Ring (an adaptation of Anton Chekov’s The Proposal), and another of his The Bear, (children’s musicals 🙂 On The Hill, Going Home, Working Together, The Singing Bone). Also a number of Yoruba titles including Eiye Melo? and Asiko Non To. Apart from his English as She is Spoke: A Non-native Speaker’s Speech Companion, there is also Three Tales of the Tortoise (retold and retouched) which was on the Nomination List for the 2008 Noma Award for Literature in Africa. Sofowote, who will turn 81 in the last quarter of 2020, is a tireless old war horse who is perhaps one of the unsung performers and artistic content creator and curator of our time.


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