CALL MR ROBESON AT MUSON: ROBESON IS SPIRIT, ALUKO IS SOUL

Filed in General by on February 19, 2010

Call Mr Robeson at MUSON: Robeson is Spirit, Aluko is Soul
By SOLA BALOGUN
Friday, February 19, 2010

Like a prophet who was never honoured in his homestead, Paul Robeson, the late American actor, singer and civil rights activist recently reincarnated in Nigeria through his admirer, Tayo Aluko.

The younger admirer who was intrigued by Robeson’s life is the youngest son of Nigeria’s celebrated writer, T.M Aluko. The latter, having been inspired by the quality of Robeson’s life decided to put himself into his hero’s character.

He created a drama and a somewhat tragic-comedy out of Robeson’s short, but eventually life. The drama, entitled Call Mr Robinson has traveled far in Europe and America, before the US Consulate General in Lagos decided to bring it to Nigeria and to enable Aluko thrill his kinsmen with the story of Robeson for the first time at Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos.

In this long but highly inspiring drama, Aluko traced the life and times of the authentic American genius, alternating his presentation with songs, talks and mime. The drama piece sponsored by the Public Affairs Section of the U S Consulate General in Lagos came alive on a stage littered with books, newspapers, magazines and a wooden box.
Aluko stormed the stage with a symbolic burden – a chair on his back and a tortuous walk that typified the painful, yet heroic life of Robeson.

In the words of Jennifer Wash who gave background information to the life of Robeson, the fallen American hero suffered in the 50s after his visit to the Soviet Union in the 1930s. His passport was seized and he had to make personal sacrifices for being un- American in his lifestyle and beliefs. However, the same US Public Affairs Department, which seized Paul’s passport in the 1950s was the same that celebrated him through Tayo Aluko’s drama.

A significant part of Aluko’s play was his perfect baritone voice, which he brought to bear on stage. Although his natural voice is soft, he adopted the baritone which he used as a dramatic element to boost and sustain his commemorative drama.
And so, the audience savoured many aspects of Paul Robeson’s life, right from his early days as a Law student at Columbia University, to his marriage at 23 to an older wife of 26 years. Robeson was among others, known as a radical, a non-conformist who resisted all forms of humiliation from the American system of those days.

Essentially, the audience encountered a true hero through Robeson who as a Negro, chose freedom instead of slavery. He was a man of many parts whose movie career in England gave him greater freedom to reject his second-class citizenship in America.
Robeson in Aluko’s play is depicted as a talented singer, movie star, creative person and politician who loved reading, writing and traveling. He was always speaking on behalf of his people – the Negros- particularly on the need for the wealth of America to be shared equally, irrespective of class, colour or race.

And as a political figure, Aluko mirrors the life of a civil rights activist who demanded full integrity and equality for progress.
The one-man drama ended symbolically as its opened, but with a strong message that reminded one of the heroic exploits of Paul Robeson that invoked the spirit of other Negros like Malcom X and Patrick Lumumba.

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