•Tells City People
Popular Filmmaker, Tunde Kelani has done it again. He is about to complete work on his new movie project, Ayinla. He has just completed the shooting of the epic movie in Abeokuta. He recently told City People how he put together the Cast & Crew together for the new movie which is based on the life and times of Alhaji Ayinla Omowura which is expected to hit the Cinema in a few months.
Let’s quickly tell you about the late music legend, popularly called “EGUNMOGAJI” Just in case you don’t know, the late Ayinla Omowura was born in Abeokuta, Ogun State in the late 30’s. The exact date is unknown, as no record was kept at that time. His musical career took root when he started with a brand of music called “Olalomi” in the early 50’s. This brand of music was so popular that he became the darling of the young people both in Nigeria and the west coast of Africa. This brand faded with time.
His musical career took a new dimension when he joined EMI NIGERIA in 1970 and recorded a single titled “AJATO FOJU D’EJO” in June of that year. The tremendous success attained by the single was quickly followed by 3 other extended play records. One was recorded in September 1970-HNEP 506 titled “EMA FOWO S’OYA SI WAMO” and the other two, HNEP 533 TITLED “DANFO O SI ERE”/”EMA TORI OWO PA’NIA and HNEP 534 titled “ANJONU ELERE” were recorded on the 20th of July 1971.
His first album HNLX 5068 which was recorded in the same year was a chartbuster, with a release of over 50,000 copies.
His success was so overwhelming that he became an idol of the masses – particularly among the public transport drivers, and the traders to mention a few.
He left for MECCA and MEDINAT to perform the Muslim Holy Pilgrimage in 1975 and became Alhaji Ayinla Omowura.
In the 10 years that he was on EMI NIGERIA label, all his 20 albums sold a minimum of 50,000 copies on the first day of release. Acutely popular, Omowura’s day of release was always a carnival at garages, Beer parlors and even at parties.
He recorded 2 albums at the same time in 1980, unfortunately only one NEMI (LP) 0490 titled “AWA KISE OLODE WON” was released before his tragic death that year. The second one, NEMI (LP) 0515 titled “25+40″ was released posthumously in 1981.
He was married with many wives and children.
A few days back, City People stormed Abeokuta to interview Tunde Kelani, and for 2 hours, he recounted his experience. Kelani & Ayinla Omowura, the late musician are both from Abeokuta. He spoke to City People team of SEYE KEHINDE, SUNDAY ADIGUN, JIMMY and OLU VIDEO. Below are excerpts of the interview.
Congratulations on the successful shooting of Ayinla, the movie on Ayinla Omowura. How many days did it take you to shoot?
If its shooting process, we had planned for an 18-day shoot. But we went slightly over the schedule. We spent 22 days of day, night, day night. No off day. We just spent straight 22 days. But if you talk about from when it came to my mind to do something about that and then it went on progressively I think it took almost 5 years.
Why did it take that long?
First of all, you have to develop some kind of Empathy for the story itself. And since I grew up in Abeokuta here, it was not just an Ayinla story. Abeokuta itself is a principal character in this film. I know from History that Abeokuta is a nation before the 1914 Amalgamation Ayinla Omowura died slightly more than 40 years ago. There was very little left about him. He was never recorded or captured on video or film. But he left a robust body of work and from there we started to piece his story together. And I am aware that other scholars like Prof. Kola Adesina & Festus Adedayo have worked extensively on Ayinla Omowura. I have interviewed about 20 people myself over time. I asked my lawyer Jide Bello to write a letter to the family years ago and he gave me the exact date. It was in 2014. Anyway, I am happy that I was able to accomplish that in my lifetime. This was the only time I felt we should do it. If we didn’t attempt it this time, it might be difficult to do it. I had a feeling it will never have happened. That would have been the end of the idea.
How did 2020 provide you with the opportunity to work on the project?
It allowed us all to come together with other producers like Jide Bello, Seun Alli to put the project on a platform to attract investors to the project. I have never worked like that. Externally we have always produced in Mainframe and shouldered all the burden. But as it is, things no longer work like that. Things have changed. This is the first time I am working with a Producer, a lady Producer, a life Producer. We went for the A Cast List, the top cast that could do justice to the story and I am telling you that I am not disappointed at all.
In fact, I am excited that Nigeria is really blessed, by the quality of the actors & actresses and the technical crew that worked on the project.
Can you tell us some of the cast?
Many of them are people I have never worked with like the principal character of the movie which is Ayinla himself which was acted by Lateef Adedimeji. I have never really worked with him. I have only seen him from afar. Some of those I call the Ayinla stars are: Ayinla-Lateef Adedimeji, Ajala-Kunle Afolayan, Jaiye-Ade Laoye, Bayowa-Debo Adedayo, Deborah-Omowunmi Dada.
Dimeji is a look-alike of Ayinla Omowura himself. Not only that, I think he is a very humble and highly talented young man. I look at him and I think this guy will go places because he is prepared to learn and he submitted himself to the huge challenges which demanded time and concentration on his part and commitment. Then working with Mowunmi Dada made me know there is hope for our industry.
Kunle Afolayan was involved. Our plot is not a day-to-date biography or story of Ayinla Omowura. No, we had a plot. We had a story, what we were acting out about Ayinla Omowura is fiction, basically. But drawing on the personality and the music, the prowess of Ayinla Omowura. And we had a plot, and the plot is simply that a Promoter has a project of taking Apala to London because the normal parlance in Yoruba when we were growing up is that ki lo nse e, ko ma si a ye apala ni London, but this guy says No, a ma gbe Apala wo London.
And he says, Yes, Ayinla Omowura is his star that shouldered this idea and he approached the band, and they agreed. They had a contract they signed. And that was the project. So, this is bringing back the memory of the late Olabisi Ajala himself. As you know, he did some kind of Public Relations work. Basically, that is the story. We went back to Journalism of those days. We went back to Iwe Irohin which was published in Abeokuta as far back and once the news broke that Ajala was planning the trip, then the Publisher/Editor of the paper gave a young lady reporter the responsibility to get an interview with Ayinla Omowura before they embarked on the London trip. So, everybody had their motivation for this story. But at the end of it, unfortunately, he died. Tragically, which was totally unexpected, so everybody failed at their aspiration.
So what is the next stage?
We are already in post-production to be able to get the film ready in the first quarter of 2021. Already, there is a buzz on this film, everybody wants to see it, what is in it, and what it is about. All I can promise is that it is entertaining, it has drama & comedy in it. The movie is on Ayinla Omowura’s legacy. I think this is likely to rekindle more interest in Ayinla’s music.
You also did a musical concert during the shoot. Was this also part of it?
Yes. It was part of the scene. What happened was, once Ajala was able to get the attention of Ayinla, it all had to do with the need to repackage the act in a way as to reflect and meet some international standard. We had about 4 or 5 performances. But the climax, the highlight was the final show at the Century Hall, in Abeokuta. That was why we needed everybody to come and have fun. We designed it as a Sunday Jump and we called it Ayinla Koku. In fact, before we started the film, we tried, if not for COVID-19, we tried to start The Ayinla Koku series as Jumps at several venues. We even planned to hold it at the Freedom Park in Lagos and then in 2 or 3 venues in Abeokuta. We said every Sunday we would do Ayinla Koku jump, where people will come in from 6 pm to 10 pm and we would play nothing but Ayinla’s music.
How close were you to him when he was alive?
I really never met him, when he was alive. I think I had one or 2 glimpses of him. One night at the University of Ibadan during Havana Night, he was playing. I saw him sitting down playing with the band. That was my 1st impression of him and then somewhere in our neighbourhood there was sort of a fight and I remember he was very furious, annoyed at something I don’t know. I saw a woman who was kneeling down to try to placate him. That was all I saw. Otherwise, I have never really seen Ayinla perform before.
Are you going to start work on other projects now that you are done with the Ayinla project? At least you have accomplished the project.
Well, accomplished is half of the story. Once you finish the shooting and completed the digital photography, the work has just started because at that point, you can say film making is like construction, building a structure or a house. What you have done at that point is to provide sand, gravel, iron rod, wood, electrical. It is now somebody’s work to now start to use all these to really construct this building, this massive structure. That is the point at which we are now. It may go on for a few weeks or months, like 2 months or 3 months. That is when we can say the work has been accomplished.