Avoa Gazebo, The Artistes’ ‘Mess’

-By: Olawale Obadeyi


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Yinka Davies

In truth, like every creative effort ,the task of spending several hours in the vocal booth can be so involving and tedious. It is , therefore , very thoughtful  of  AVOA  officials  to create the space for work and leisure, under the same roof. So, it is expected that, after those gruelling sessions in the studio, the next port of call should be the gazebo. And why not ?

Majek Fashek

Majek Fashek

Open every day of the week to AVOA members, their friends and associates, the gazebo is not a bad place for unwinding. But, it is on Fridays that the AVOA fun spot  offers the most exhilarating experience. What also sets the gazebo apart from other watering holes , is the high population of artistes among its patrons. From Nollywood actors/ actresses to notable musicians (Indeed some members of AVOA are also great stage and screen actors ). I recall that, in the last few years, the gazebo had played host to late Fatai Rolling Dollars, Sonny Neji and not too long ago, Majek Fashek and Yinka Davies.

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Sunny Nneji

It is not something out of the ordinary, therefore , to find yourself seated next to your favourite role – interpreter  or musician on a visit to the gazebo. But, this  is not the first time that artistes will favour congregating at a particular spot where they can share ideas , drinks and food , in a relaxed environment. The National Theatre at Iganmu ( abe igi ) , used to be the go-to hang-out for artistes between the early 80s and late 90s. But, no sooner had AVOA got itself a befitting place at 1, Okanlawon Ajayi street , Surulere, than a good number of artistes began to gravitate towards it.

Fatai Rolling Dollars

Fatai Rolling Dollars

Indeed,while Freedom Park , on Lagos Island , is believed to hold the aces, as the artistes’ preferred relaxation spot , the  AVOA gazebo , arguably ,takes the cake as the  mainland’s dominant  Artistes’  ‘Mess’ ( to borrow that expression from the Army and Navy ).

Little wonder that some of the artistes, who had left the country and  are on a short vacation, seek to reconnect with their kindred spirits at the AVOA gazebo. And this was exactly the case on Friday , 20th , 2015. At the behest of Bukola Alagbe-Okedara , once an active voice-over artiste and actress, who has been sojourning in Canada since 2009, the AVOA gazebo came doubly alive. Apart from the fact that it was Bukola’s birthday, another surprise guest ,who added more zing to the day, was Albert Odulate, a stage manager  of note, who left Lagos a long time ago to live in Jos and set up business in Abuja. Incidentally, Bukola, Albert, this writer  and some AVOA members belong among the crowd of artistes who used to congregate at the ‘abe igi’ of National Theatre, back in the day.
In the midst of such infectious  merry-making, back-slapping and sharing the joy of re-union, friends and associates of  Bukola ( the birthday girl ) found time  to speak glowingly about her. In his own tribute to Bukola, Ehi Omokhuale , the President of AVOA recalled the incident that took place when he met her, at a radio drama recording, years back. According to Ehi, a man was trying to get fresh with Bukky-perhaps out of the erroneous thinking that all artistes are loose – only to get the shock of his life when the girl landed a hot slap on the lecher’s face !. That single experience, Ehi said impressed him  a great deal about Bukola’s sense self-worth and discipline.

In her response, the ‘birthday girl’, after thanking everyone present for doing her such honour of gathering to celebrate her birthday , recounted her bittersweet experience in the six years she spent in Canada. Her words : ‘There is really, no place like home. In spite of the hostility I encountered, I still carried myself with dignity. I held my head high. I only travelled to explore possibilities not to surrender my pride to anyone’. After all the speeches , from the emotional to the comical, the night wore on with a lot of dancing.

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