Former president of the Performing Musicians’ Association of Nigeria (PMAN), Bolaji Rosiji, is also the Executive Director of Gauranga Foundation. Recently, he and some of his colleagues in the music and film industry set up an organisation named FAMECORP, with core practitioners in the entertainment industry as stakeholders. In this interview, with TONY OKUYEME talks about the coalition, and the need to reposition the nation’s entertainment industry in Nigeria,
IT is a wet afternoon in Lagos, as the rain which began in morning in some areas and gradually spread to other parts of the city has barely subsided, giving way to a light traffic. However the terrible state of the roads in the Apapa area of the State makes every motorist to make a detour to through the adjoining street so as not to be caught in the traffic. Getting to the GRA Apapa residence of Rosiji was dramatic as it offered a chanced view of the area, and you arrived and he ushers you into his expansive office.
His humility, commitment to the course of improving the lots of Nigerian artistes are palpable. And as he respond to questions he picks his words with characteristic finesse, his voice resonating with engaging cadences, even as he offers his opinion on developments in PMAN. But beyond his engagement with music, Rosiji is a painter.
“Whatever I did as PMAN president is way over-flogged, and I think that the mark of a successful leader is that you leave something for the next generation, for he next administration to perform. So I will consider that a success,” he began, and added, “I think right now there is a vacuum in the leadership of Performing Musicians Employers Association of Nigeria (PMAN). We have heard of the numerous court cases, we do not need to go there. But the important thing right now is the way forward.”
Rosiji disclosed that he and some practitioners in the movie, music, and other sectors of the entertainment industry have initiated an organisation aimed at reposition the industry.
“Myself, Teemac and Kanayo O. Kanayo have come together to form an organisation called FAMECORP – all the entertainment industry in Nigeria came together to form a platform. This does not replace the Actors Build of Nigeria (AGN), this is a business with a course, and to also re-brand Nigeria to the international community.
We have over 70 Nollywood stars, music stars, who are already a part of this establishment. And it is being midwifed by BGL, Nigeria's foremost asset management firm. It is similar to what Chalic chaplain did, and this is what I think we can do to a number of entertainment unions in Nigeria,” he said, adding that FAMECORP was inspired by a similar in the U.S.
“In the 1920s, Chalie Chaplain, when he discovered that other artistes - actors and actresses - were being exploited in Hollywood, they formed the United Artistes. And that platform was used to invite professionals, consultants, accountants to do all of the left brain work, while the artistes focus on their creativity, writing and acting.
In this way the artistes were protected. I think that we don't need to play roles that we are not suited to. We should remain our union, but we should find professionals to do the work of professionals.”
On his single titled Heart of Gold which received wide acclaim, Rosiji said the idea is to pass the message of love to the people. According to him, work on the album is in progress.
“We are getting our messages across to the whole of Nigerians. You know love your neighbour as yourself. Wherever you are in the society, what ever you belong, there is a message for you in that song. And the whole of the album is going to feature various inspiring songs from the various perspectives. We are going to be talking about philanthropy, in various types of music styles, we are going to be talking about how to empower yourself.”
On why it took him time to come out with the single, Rosiji said music has been there all along and it was only a matter of time. “It has been fighting to come from the inside. I got myself caught up in a lot of things that ultimately buries my creativity and doesn't allow me time to do other things that I really want to do. So I feel very much in my elements performing the song, and you know that for a long time it was in contention whether or not I was actually an artiste.”
Responding to a question on why he has not thought of gone into acting Rosiji hinted that he actually began his creative expression as a painter and that his message is more easily conveyed through the medium of music
“There is a general principle that believe that if you are an actor, you can be a writer; you can paint and act. It is the right brain function, and if you are a right brain personality you can a lot of them.
I am actually a painter, and I am hoping that I would be able to a lot of that. But the point is that I have never even acted before, and I am not really seeking to act, I am not trying to do everything. The little that I can do, I really do. I think that my message is more easily conveyed through the medium of music, therefore I chose that as my medium.
“I have not painted for over 15 years. My preferred genre is impressionism. I was drawn into impressionism from the age of 16. So that is what I thought I would be doing. I thought I will be here in any middle age, old age, just painting away. And that is what you have as a young man; you have a dream and you just see yourself going through to fulfill that dream into your old age.
But as soon as you get caught up with the necessities of life - bills to pay and so many other things - you actually lose those dreams. So am speaking for myself and am also speaking for a lot of people out there who have dreams. My brother, my sister, don't let your dream die o because you dey pursue money to buy bread and butter o.
“I do sculpting. I remember when I first painted in Nigeria, it was compared to be rather odd because of the difference in styles and I try to confirm and to paint the way painters do paint, it is ok but it don't work for me. I use oils and had very interesting experience once in the South of Spain in a place called Andelutia, where I was working on Cathedrals, I love ancient architectures in Cathedrals, and I choose a very unlike a medium because I couldn't get the oil paints I wanted. I work in Pastel, and I was shocked that how come. And what I like about pastels, is the ability to layer. So if you are a lazy artist like me, and you are always making mistakes, just take your pastel and paste over it and you are done.
The former PMAN president said that the visual art do not enjoy the kind of patronage that music and film enjoy and that the number of connoisseurs in that genre of art are few. “It is just like between football and swim. You might get a very few people to watch your swim competition, everybody wants to watch football and that is what it is like. And I think we need to encourage this because we have a lot of talent in visual art in Nigeria. It needs to be encouraged.
“Post colonial Nigeria left a culture of sophistication so to speak in certain areas of entertainment. After the 60s and 70s we moved from a leisurely society into a desperado society where everybody is just trying to survive. When you are trying to survive you don't want to walk into a gallery to start appreciating art. It is not like music that you just casually sit in your car and driving home while you listen to it. You have to go out of your way to appreciate the visual artists. So that class of people are not available and will be building up a younger generation to appreciate the visual arts.”