A new order is starting to become apparent in the Nigerian entertainment industry. The connection between two of its wings – the music and movie industries – is becoming more evident with the manifesting career diversification of the likes of Falz and Banky W. And as these successful musicians continue to feature prominently in movie projects – the big budget that later become high grossing movies – it brings both aspects of entertainment closer and creates an interesting but dangerous trend.
Entertainment, even though it exists in different forms, is generally a two-end process that involves the entertainers and the entertained. Entertainers, being creatively wired, in many cases, develop interest in crafts beyond their initial practice. Sometimes having to choose to focus on one at a time, switch between interests or explore their different interests, as many as they may come. Take Janet Jackson, the multi-platinum selling musician and successful actress, for instance. She said: “I enjoy them both (singing and acting) a great deal. I have a passion for both. Maybe acting just a little bit more because it is more of challenge for me, while music comes easily.”
The connection between the music-making and acting has been seen to be particularly close with several instances of entertainers succeeding in both fields. Will Smith, one of the world’s most bankable actors, is credited with 9 music projects – 5 group albums and 4 solo albums – and 4 Grammy Awards for his efforts as a young Hip-Hop artist. Locally, Onyeka Onwenu typifies the career-heterogeneity that is becoming a culture in today’s Nigerian Entertainment circle. The iconic singer after over a decade of building an enviable reputation as a musician, diversified into Nollywood in 1999, on a movie called “Not Your Wealth.” Interestingly, she has managed to stretch her acting career, featuring in some of the recent top movies like “Lion Heart” and “God Calling.”
Like Onyeka Onwenu, Fuji Stars like Pasuma and Saheed Osupa, at a point, made a hubbies out of playing roles in Yoruba-worded movies. More musicians, more frequently, in recent times, are showing interest in playing both fields with Falz and Banky W being prime examples. Banky for instance has been very extensive with his career diversification push which has seen him step into movies, event anchoring, entrepreneurship and politics. Before his promising launch into politics, Banky looked like he had found a new challenge in acting, with his proper acting debut coming in the groundbreaking Mo Abudu-produced film, The Wedding Party, TWP. He played the role of “Dozie” – a wealthy oil magnate’s son who has to defy cultural standards to marry his preferred woman. Interestingly, the conclusion of the story is brought to life as he is married to Adesua Etomi, his partner in the movie.
Initially, it was uncertain whether his appearance in TWP was a one-time occasion as an actor or if it is a start of more to come. However, his role in “Up North” signals that Banky could really be in Nollywood for a career – if so, he would be hoping for one as long and lustrous as that of Richard Mofe Damijo. Banky’s soaring acting profile, however, curiously replicates the case of a musician finding a place in Nollywood. Banky’s career diversification is much similar to Falz’s. Both, having established names as musicians, have/are branching into the film industry.
Falz has been excellent with personating naïf characters like “Sege” in Jenifa’s Diaries, and truly laughable characters like Famzy – the only legitimate son of “Chief Daddy”…with a heavy British accent and a far from promising rap career. The increasing popularity of comedy movies in the industry has also helped Falz’s new career take, making him a busy actor. He has since appeared in moderately successful movies like “Merry Men” and “New Money”. Banky, on the other hand, enjoys acting as a privileged son that makes rebellious choices. That, wrapped around a glossy love story, is a typical Banky movie role.
Other music artists like IllBliss and Reminisce has taken their first steps into Nollywood too. Kemi Adetiba opened the door to the rappers in her popular action thriller, King of Boys, KOB. IllBliss featured as “Odogu Malay”; Reminisce played “Makanaki” in the highly rated movie. Both artists were so convincing in their respective gangster roles that IllBliss has since had a rush of offers since KOB. He told Pulse in an interview – about three months after the launch of the movie – that: “I have about 16 – 20 scripts now.”
The idea behind having music stars feature in movies is more likely about marketing potential than it is about talent or skill. Having a Falz or a Banky in a lead role is sure to bring diversity to the viewership, such that the movie interests more than just movie lovers but the music-loving people – mostly fans of the star artist. This almost guarantees high grossing numbers. Part of the success of “The Wedding Party” is owed to the sensational appearance of Banky in the movie. The announcement of his engagement with his co-star, Adesua, months into the release of the movie, intensified the rave around the film and laid the foundation for the commercial success of the sequel which is the highest grossing movie of all time.
While it might appear that musicians are cutting down on their time in the booth to make more time for their acting ambitions, it should be understood that it isn’t about the money being offered by filmmakers. The more likely reason is that acting offers them opportunities to explore. Reminisce revealed this in an interview: “It is a new experience for me working with actors. They are different people, a different fan base. Their own swag is different from music entirely. I learnt a lot and I understood the movie industry a bit more.”
It is almost certain that more musicians would appear in Nollywood movies in the future. Simi is set for her debut in the forthcoming Kunle Afolayan movie titled “Mekanik”. This trend appears to be the start of an experience that will bring the Nigerian movie and the music industries much closer together; and creating atmospheres for growth in the industries, both respectively and jointly. For one, the events of musicians playing movie roles can be a boost to the export potential of both Nigerian films and music.
However, while this trend particularly creates new possibilities for the music stars, it could also be a basis for their limitation as thespians. While the major leap from music to acting has been established, there has been only little role diversification seen so far from some of these artists. Falz seems to have cracked the code of acting in different character role, still a lot of his colleagues are often held down by their identification with a role-type. IllBliss made a point on this issue in his Pulse interview. He said, “I have about 16-20 scripts now, they are all Odogu Malay archetype, they want to put me in that box, No, I want dynamism.” It is at this junction that seeing musicians in Nollywood movies could lose its excitement and become cliché.
This article was written by Ibironke Oluwatobi. He tweets via: @ibironketweets