ANOTHER RANT AT NOLLYWOOD

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Don’t get me wrong, I support the entrepreneurial spirit that pushed a bunch of not-so- literate, video-tape marketers, to forego the expensive but usual route of making movies on celluloid and instead shot straight on video, thereby birthing Nollywood. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t watch them home videos. They are mostly crap.

In the week where it was announced that the auction of the iconic piano from 1942’s Casablanca is projected to get over 1 million dollars from Sotheby’s, a stark contrast is thrown up of what film as art is supposed to represent, against the business model of Nollywood. Yes, Nollywood generates in excess of 20 million Euros per annum, but just making money is not the sole criteria for defining movies, which are first and foremost a work of art. The film industry started off initially as a novelty and distraction, with the ‘peeping hole’ Kinetoscopes and short, silent movies of seven to ten minutes, of the pioneers, but almost immediately quality was sought after and auteurs identified the potential of the new medium to make classics even before the advent of the ‘talkies.’ Today, seventy years later, Casablanca, a movie that won an Oscar for Best Picture in its day still holds a place in people’s hearts because it was well made, very well made; so well made that someone will shell out over a million dollars for a seventy year old prop from the production.

This is the challenge for Nollywood – to move beyond the comical, ‘peeping Tom’ stage and start making solid, creatively wrought and artistically driven motion pictures. It’s a long time since the trendsetting Living in Bondage and Nollywood must break the bondage of mediocrity, for quality still lasts long.

@sirwebs

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My big, fat, gizmo wedding

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I went to Port Harcourt, the evergreen garden city, yesterday, to attend a wedding. Hadn’t been to ‘Pitakwa’ since the days when I was unemployed and visited the City to do a couple of interviews.  The wedding, a typical Nigerian one, was ‘full’ of energetic and enthusiastic dancing, spraying of money, eating and all round Technicolor that showed why, inspite of all the obvious and ever-present odds, Nigerians are the happiest people in the world.

As is the case today, the wedding inculcated the social media experience. In the pre social media world, it took ‘ages’ for those not near the couple to see the wedding pictures and videos. But as this wedding was going on, beautiful pictures of the couple in radiant poses were been circulated on Facebook and Instagram for members of the family in the Diaspora, unable to come and even those (read me) right there in the church to ‘Like’ and ‘Comment.’  This, now ubiquitous, use of social media at weddings, birthdays and various ceremonies is an enchantment because of its interactive and user-friendly nature. Here, one begins to wonder, if the advent of platforms like Facebook, where people post pictures of their ‘occasions’ and tag friends, isn’t the cause of the death of a magazine like Ovation, which was  so popular about a decade ago that appearance there bestowed near celebrity status, even if for the proverbial ’15 minutes.’

The proximity and ever-presence of social media tools reminds me of a groom once, who was a ‘diehard’ Manchester United fan, and while the wedding reception was on, on a Saturday afternoon, he continuously kept himself updated on the score of a the United game at Old Trafford via his mobile. To the chagrin of his bride? I can’t say. Ask her.

@sirwebs

The Last of the Mohicans

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Yesterday, I walked into a bookshop we used to frequent as kids. The place was full of books as usual: from tomes like The Last of the Mohicans to Chinua Achebe’s latest, There was a Country. But unlike when we were kids, the place was empty of the usual buzz of people, apart from the few who came to look at the religious books on display. This scene is not novel, Nigerians don’t read anymore and the ubiquity of e-books is threatening to close bookshops.

Even though I enjoyed saving my lunch money to acquire the latest James Hardly Chase classic available in my favourite bookstore, I would still have preferred growing up in today’s age with the opportunity of downloading endless books on my Smartphone or Tablet PC. But what about the kids who go to school today? Are they leveraging on the opportunity of living in a Knowledge Age where access to Information Communication Technologies makes learning easy. Unfortunately, the allure and the endless chatter on Social Networks prevent young people from maximizing the benefits for academic purposes.  Sharing pictures, latest videos and the hottest gossip around are the default uses of social media. But I enthusiastically read in a blog recently of a boy who had a study group going on in his BBM network. Such practical use of social networks can deliver great academic dividends.

To fit into the knowledge economy of today, Nigerians must learn to effectively take advantage of the great store of educational information available online. This is the fastest means of bridging the knowledge divide between us and the West. Now to download a copy of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, one of the classics I never got around to reading.

@sirwebs

News goes Social

“Retweets are not endorsements, they are the news.” – Sirwebs

@Jesseoguns proudly announced on Twitter that he had bought a newspaper this November for the first time in two years. Honestly, he is not in the minority anymore as more and more people access their news from the internet through websites, RSS feeds, news aggregators (read Google) and Social Media sites (Twitter, Facebook, BBM, etc). Newspapers are not the only traditional news outlets affected by the online evolution; for me the television is no more a primary source too as video feeds are all over the internet and one can, for example, catch Ibrahimovic’s wonder goal or the funeral of the slain Hamas leader at their convenience via YouTube or Yahoo to name the leading destinations.

This is old news though, what is new about news is the influence of social networking on the content an individual receives. In the old days nearly everybody received the information editors and producers published or put in the newscast, today we see or read what our friends and the friends of our friends ‘recommend.’ Newsfeeds on Facebook, Twitter and the BBM network are what the average connected person is heavily exposed to. Also most news websites from Yahoo to the New York Times have ‘social’ integration that ‘broadcast’ information we have seen to our friends. Thus the old adage, “tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are,” is still evergreen and has become relevant in a post-modern world where who you follow literally determines the news you get.

The distinctiveness of news becoming social is that one can get restricted content if a person’s network is made up of like-minded people with niche interests. So once again, @jesseoguns can access the latest goings on in programming language, API’s, mobile apps etc and miss the death of say, an Olusola Saraki. Inaccuracy and misinformation is unfortunately a bane of news carried in the virtual social sphere. The BBM is notorious for spreading wrong information and sometimes falsehoods and the recent misreport of the death of Governor Suntai, in the immediate aftermath of his plane crash, was heavily influenced by Twitter and social messaging portals.  

News will increasingly become social and the concept of the ‘gatekeeper’ continually redefined. Apps like Flipboard that aggregate news from various social networks are the future. A future ‘tweeps’ like @jesseoguns can influence what is news.

@sirwebs

 

From Fuel Subsidy to a Missing iPad: The Year of Twitter

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“What do they even do on Twitter? When I tell my friends that I don’t see them on BBM or Facebook, they say they’re on Twitter.” – Anonymous

2011 year was the year of instant messaging services with the BBM the unrivalled leader. The year before it not being on Facebook was basically uncool. 2012 is undisputedly the year of Twitter. The microblogging service that allows only 140 characters was slow to take off in Nigeria for a social network site founded as far back as 2006. But in that inexplicable way in which fashions and fads rise and wane, Twitter has finally conquered the virtual social space of Nigeria, unleashing the unique attributes of the brash, bold and belligerent people of Naija – in 140 characters only. From organizing protests, crowd-funding and political mobilization, to ethnic and religious mudslinging, and getting an airline to replace a missing iPad, #Nigeria has continued to trend in the “Twitterverse.”

The utility of Twitter is such that it has become the number one aggregator of news – international and local, general and specialized and made citizen journalists of all of us; it has become the number one customer care portal with @MTN180 notoriously apologizing to someone every minute; political rallying point with the untiring @dino_melaye commanding his ‘loyal’ band of professional dissenters and the conscience of the nation with the unparalleled outcry over the #Aluu4 prompting the Police to fish out the barbarians in CSI fashion. Beautifully, Twitter has been deployed in crowdfunding to aid cancer patients and other terribly sick Nigerians in a manner unprecedented in a country with a torrid history of distrust and unrepentant internet scammers.

But for me most importantly, I see Twitter as an intellectually stimulating social media, where the conversation is always on-going and the youth of the nation – the future leaders – are getting a novel education and driving social-reengineering. This conversation is rich because of the diversity of participants which only social media can aggregate. Unlike Facebook which a has been described as a little town where everybody knows everybody, Twitter is the big city – the ‘Big Apple’ of the Social Media universe – with its dangers and delights, its @MrsGiroud’s and @Gidi_Traffic, its @ekekeee’s and @jesseoguns among a plethora of colourful, disparate and unique handles. That’s what they do on Twitter. Join the evolution.

@sirwebs

AZONTO: THE WAY WE WALK, THE WAY WE DANCE

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The local dance of the little known Gaa people of Ghana has in a very short time taken over  West Africa and become a dancing sensation internationally, especially in Britain, buoyed by the popular “Afrobeats” scene which has brought West African dance-hall and hip-pop to the attention of music aficionados in the Queen’s country. Azonto is a freestyle music, where the dancer makes simple shuffling movements with his feet while using his hands to simulate actions like praying, driving, cleaning, boxing, washing etc. In Nigeria, which regularly sees a constant stream of dancing styles rise and wane (read yahoozee etc), the Azonto is infused with a certain swagger and ‘walk,’ which is the trademark of citizens of the most populated black nation of the world, and which has fuelled its popularity and acceptance.

‘Historians’ point to the celebration of a goal with impromptu Azonto steps by Ghanaian footballer, Asamoah Gyan, during the 2010 World cup, as the turning point in the prominence of the dance. But the social media, especially YouTube, has helped stoke the wildfire spread of the dance. YouTube has changed the face of the music video industry, providing a platform for the streaming of videos ‘on demand.’ Videos from established acts and wannabee musicians have equal opportunity of going viral. And so the YouTube video of a white boy doing Azonto on the streets of London earned him a cameo appearance in the official music video of D’banj’s Oliver Twist.

Today, the Azonto has reached saturation point, becoming the dance step of note in clubs, weddings, and parties….and in the church. The cheekily termed “chrizanto” is danced during church services with some pastors being enthusiastic exponents. As the Azonto enjoys its time in the sun, the dancing spirit of the Nigerian is still working overtime and somewhere in the horizon is a Niger-Delta dance step threatening to explode: Over to you, Etighi.

@sirwebs

 

Thank You, Thank You, Thank you…….America

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The Americans have proved once more that they are the leading nation in the world. The civil, smooth and smartly concluded US presidential elections has proved that inspite of the concerted efforts of some peoples, this is not a planet of the apes. The American elections has always given the rest of the world a glimpse of ‘utopia’ and that is why the world watches the proceedings with rapt attention every four years.

Democracy has its shortcomings, but watching it being played out on the biggest stage by sincere actors, it is obvious that this is the best form of governance known to Mankind right now. Thus the lesson of the US elections is that if a people agree to work together with mutual respect and a magnanimous spirit, it is possible that the society can achieve peace and harmony. And this statement is relevant to Nigeria more today than ever at any other time.

The 2012 US elections has gone down in history as the Twitter election, evocative of how Obama leveraged Facebook in 2008 and Goodluck Jonathan last year. Social media has opened the flood gates to political discourse and most importantly energized young men and women (18-35years) to participate in politics and wield their voting power and become agents of change. This is the beauty of the social media experience.

@sirwebs

I ENDORSE BARACK OBAMA

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I ENDORSE BARACK OBAMA

Individuals, the mass media, organizations, associations and even religious groups traditionally endorse a preferred candidate during American elections. For this year’s Presidential campaign, I join the New York Times, the Washington Post, 50 Cent, Ellen DeGeneres and many others to endorse for another four years, the first black President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.

I would not go into details explaining his performance in the past four years. That is not my purpose here and sources for such information are ubiquitous, but I support for another four years the candidacy of the man who against all odds became the first President of colour to live in the White House, who stabilized the US economy after the ‘hurricane’ of the sub-prime induced economic downturn and who made the call in the middle of the night for Osama bin Laden to be taken out. I endorse Obama for he is a beacon of hope; a smart fellow whose emergence and success in politics on the biggest stage of all has helped reshape stereotypes of the black race; I endorse Obama whose ‘journey’ has concretized the notion that with a good education, one cannot only shatter glass ceilings but reach above the skies.

The various polls show Barack Obama in a neck and neck race with his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney: however I don’t foresee a Bush – Gore (2000) type of outcome, more like a Bush-Kerry situation. I foresee Obama, come Tuesday, 6th November winning by anything from five to nine percentage points. I don’t work for Pew research (yet) but that’s my hunch.

Now that is that.

@sirwebs