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My jazz gift for Lagos at 50 – Ayoola Sadare, producer, LIJF

By Tony Ogaga

Talk about a man who has passion for jazz music and the name Ayoola Sadare pops up. Arguably the most dynamic jazz promoter in Nigeria, Sadare is the brain behind Lagos International Jazz Festival (LIJF), Labule, NAIJAZZ and many other jazz related shows.
With his Inspiro Productions, Sadare has also produced Bayelsa International Jazz Festival and the popular Muson Jazz Festival. In this chat with TS Weekend, the jazz aficionado reels out plans for this year’s edition the Lagos Int. Jazz Festival.

What’s new on your plate?
Nigeria on my mind all the way and Lagos on my mind as usual. And of course, the progress of Nigeria is also on my mind. I believe that whatever gift one has must be used to further the progress of society, most especially, the fatherland. As one grows older, one begins to reflect and then thoughts of legacy begin to crop up. And you ask yourself, ‘what am I using to project my fatherland?’ For over a decade, we have been doing the Lagos International Jazz Festival. Aside this, we have been privileged to produce MUSON Jazz Festival for about five years. We have also done NAIJAZ and Bayelsa Jazz Festival in 2013. Now, I do get calls from people asking for my help as consultant.

What should we expect at this year’s Lagos International Jazz Festival?
This year, the Lagos International Jazz Festival coincides with the Lagos at 50 celebrations, which climax on May 27 when Lagos will be 50, and it has been a yearlong celebration. Again, how do we highlight this? We are putting together the Lagos at 50-50 Special Jazz Edition. And what we are trying to do is have 50 musicians play 50 Lagos songs in their repertoires for Lagos at 50. I think it is a special celebration for the city. It is evident from the work that is being done in the city of Lagos right now by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode that he truly believes in the power of entertainment. He has a vision for tourism, entertainment and sports, which are some of the pillars of his administration.
Coming back home, we see the Lagos at 50 platform as an opportunity to do something special for Lagos. I see it as our gift to Lagos. I do believe that the Lagos International Jazz Festival has the potential to be number one in Africa as well as put Nigeria on the global map in terms of jazz and jazz related music. Whenever it is time for the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, the traffic to South Africa is awesome! People leave on Friday and come back on Sunday. The amount of traffic and economy of the festival is just awesome. I see Governor Ambode keying into the Lagos International Jazz Festival.

We hear you’re collaborating with people living with Down Syndromes at this year’s festival. What about it?
We are pleased to join forces for good with two charities this year. We look forward to working with Sesor to advance the cause of the displaced and other disaster survivors across Nigeria. We are also partnering with The Down Syndromes Foundation. Both charities do critically important work and we hope that the platform Lagos International Jazz Festival provides for the promotion of these causes will go a long way towards improving the lives of these Nigerians.”

Over the years, you have spoken extensively about the potentials of the Lagos International Jazz Festival. Why is government not keying into it?
We have had assurances this year and we believe Governor Ambode will key into the vision. Like I said, we have 50 jazz and jazz related musicians playing 50 Lagos songs for Lagos at 50, and we are already part of the Lagos at 50 event. So, going by the utterances of the governor, I believe through what he has been doing including his hosting of the International Jazz Day last year, he has shown a commitment towards that. And we also believe that this year, we may be able to showcase the best of Lagos. But for us, it is not a short term thing, it is a marathon in that Lagos is not going to be the number one jazz destination in Africa in one year, it has to grow organically. We have to build it from the ground up. We have to see how we can adapt what we have as a product for the international market, because you cannot do exactly what they do abroad here. You have to involve local content and market it internationally so that people can be attracted.

Since 2008, you have been doing this festival. How has the journey been so far?
Honestly, the journey has been very tough. But then, it has also been fulfilling, because what I know now in terms of activation and experience is not what I knew when we started years ago. Back then I was like ‘if South Africa can do this, then Lagos must also have it’. There was a lot of passion, but over the last 12 years we have been able to learn really how that dream can come to pass. I am talking about each component, what is achievable and what is not, and what is adaptable and what is not. We have gone full circle to learn all this, but that has also strengthened our resolve, because with the emergence of social media, it has made it more possible that, with a festival like the Lagos International Jazz Festival, and I say it boldly, if properly planned and launched, we will be having over 100,000 visitors; and you can imagine the economy around that. I want to believe that Governor Ambode is looking in this direction because his responses have been giving us assurances that the issue is being looked into.

How vibrant is jazz music in Nigeria and what do you think is its future?
Anything can be commercialised. Aside being a jazz promoter, remember that I am also a brand marketing person, operating in the creative economy. Anything can be commercialised. It is either you do it mass marketing or niche marketing. Now, you also have to sit down and look at the product, package it, develop it and position it for the target market. Jazz may not be popular like mainstream music, but in a city of 16 million people, the sky is the limit. We are not just enriching your pocket; we are also creating an economy. I believe that we could have five jazz festivals in Lagos and it is happening already. Apart from the Lagos International Jazz Festival, we equally have Lagos Jazz Series, Runway Jazz, and Sachmo Jazz all in one city, and it is a welcome development.
The future of live music is bright. The world is moving from digital music to live music; it is becoming the marqui. It is an experience and the Lagos International Jazz Festival is not just a show, it is also an experience. Imagine one or two venues, four stages with artistes playing simultaneously, and when you go there, you are like wow! So, 50 artistes doing 50 Lagos songs for Lagos at 50, it is something you will want to market internationally, and you would say this is happening in the mega city of Lagos and people will be like ‘wow, we have to be there!’ So, my belief is that in years to come, Lagos would be a popular destination for jazz and live music on the continent. We also believe strongly that the administration of Governor Ambode will support the dream.

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