Kabira’s tears turn into song in Ekun Iyawo
Lagos-based actress, Kabira Kafidipe, speaks on her experience starring in Ekun Iyawo, a new video on Yoruba bridal poetry, AKEEM LASISI reports
Celebrated actress, Kabira Kafidipe, has, in recent years, had a unique experience in her career. The Abeokuta, Ogun State-born actress, who came into limelight when she acted as Araparegangan – one whose arms were made to dance gangan drumbeat – in Tunde Kelani’s film, Saworo Ide, came in professional encounter with oral performance as she is the bride in Ekun Iyawo. It is a musical video recreation of old Yoruba bride’s poetry that goes by the same name.
An offshoot of a 2001 documentary on the oral form, Ekun Iyawo, produced by Full Point and Alaby Communications and Publications, brings together Nollywood acts, singers and promoters of Yoruba culture who believe that it is possible to reinvent some of the elements of the people’s cultural heritage that are threatened by modernity.
Apart from the 40-minute video, whose promo has been on some TV stations, the recreation package comes in three products. The first is a three-track audio CD – Ekun Iyawo, Sewele Iyawo and Ekun Iyawo Remix. Then there is the video itself and a book, which is a collection of Ekun Iyawo chants in Yoruba and English. According to Kafidipe, who is also the star of the recently released Malaika, a film she co-produced with her sister, Ayisat, the outcome of the experiment has deepened her knowledge of, and love for Yoruba culture.
She says, “Before the production started, my knowledge about Ekun Iyawo was scanty, so to say. I am sure that is the situation with many young people too. Indeed, many of the members of the cast, most of who are graduates and Lagos-based, had never heard anything about it before. But when I listened to the old women who first chanted it in the documentary, and I discovered that the message in it is a beautiful expression of Yoruba culture, I fell in love with it. The language use in Ekun Iyawo is so rich that any bonafide Yoruba son or daughter will appreciate it.
“I was also moved by the fact that Ekun Iyawo gives the chanter an opportunity to make case for women. It affords the bride the opportunity to appreciate her mother and father. She uses the opportunity of the performance to recall the good things the parents have done for her. But she also exploits the chanting and songs to criticise male chauvinists who carry all kinds of propaganda against young girls and women alike. Honestly, acting as the bride in Ekun Iyawo has broadened my perspective on Yoruba oral heritage. It is all about acting, but in terms of cultural education, the experience has been very rewarding for me.”
While another seasoned actress and broadcaster, Feyikemi Olayinka, who is the star of Kelani’s O Le Ku, adapted from Akinwumi Isola’s popular novel by the same title, is the bride’s mother in Ekun Iyawo, other members of the cast include Bimpe Popoola, Opeyemi Ajenifuja, Allwell, Edaoto, Tolu Coker, hip hop act A Shine and Awoko.
Shot around Lagos and directed by Sunday Ogunyemi, Ekun Iyawo also features dancers such as Eebudola and Kofiivii.
On why the production was set in Lagos and not in a village arena, Kafidipe explains that while it is important to be loyal to the past, it is also instructive to give the work a touch that can make it relevant to contemporary thinking and performances.
“In the video, we try to capture our cultural values as much as possible. But we also try to accommodate some reality of our modern existence. That is why we do not insist that everyone must dress exactly the way the old bride and her friends and guests used to dress. That is why the producers did not insist that everyone must carry suku, kojusoko or any other kind of traditional hairdo on her head before she can chant Ekun Iyawo.
The reality is that no matter how hard we try, we cannot take our people back to where we came from. We can dream it, but it is just not possible again. But in spite of the change in cultural orientation, we can still be what we are now and take some vital aspects of our tradition along. That is the lesson that, I think, the modernisation of Ekun Iyawo is teaching all of us,” she enthuses.
She adds that the responses she has, so far, got on the Ekun Iyawo promo on air indicates that many people really like the job, which has also attracted the attention of some promoters that include Ibadan, Oyo State-based Kingsize Entertainment.