Benedict Murray-Bruce (OON), founder of Silverbird Group, has reviewed the Nigerian entertainment industry in the last six decades, saying it has always been a significant employer of labour.
The Nigerian business magnate and politician gave the view in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos, described the entertainment industry as a gold mine.
He said that the sector had helped the government to tackle unemployment bottlenecks.
Speaking on the challenges of unemployment, Bruce who was a former senator, said that the courts of the royal fathers were agog with drummers, praise singers, dancers and even jesters in pre- and post-colonial days.
He said the trend of entertainment providing employment since post-independence has not changed even as the colonial experience introduced another layer of employment of persons in entertainment.
“This was when entertainment was expanded beyond the kings’ courts and village square community festivals to commercial random entertainment in hotels, night clubs and private celebrations.
“The formal exploitation of entertainment was further boosted when music recording companies started operations in Nigeria.
“A culture of tea time dances, night club entertainment, travelling theatre troupes and live bands, which took root in colonial times, persisted and bloomed past 1960 when we attained independence.
“The entertainment industry gradually started to be revived soon after the end of the civil war.
“The foreign recording companies like Polygram, EMI and Decca were signing up many Nigerian artistes,’’ he said.
According to the entertainment boss, even as indigenous records bloomed as they concentrated on contemporary indigenous music forms like Juju, Hi-life, Apala and other beats, more artists got engaged.
He noted that television played a pivotal role in bringing drama closer to the population and hitherto travelling theatre troupes converted to TV drama groups.
“Television drama later became the first generation of indigenous filmmakers like Moses Olaiya (Baba Sala), Hubert Ogunde and several other veterans.
“Between the music industry and its ancillary marketing services, hospitality establishments and the TV/ theatre industry, thousands of people were gainfully employed until the advent of economic setback.
“This lull persisted until the renaissance of the home video revolution kicked in around the mid-nineties.
“The home video phenomenon threw up a new vista of possibilities for youths.
“The music industry also caught some courageous young men like Don Jazzy and others, who without the help of formal recording companies, jump-started the revival of our music industry.
“The contribution of independent broadcasting stations greatly assisted in popularising the new music form of Afro Beats and our local movies, the emergence of which saw the employment of many young persons,’’ NAN quotes Murray-Bruce as saying.
“We must also give kudos to cable and satellite TV operators for training thousands of youths in TV/ film production through commissioning programmes.
“Today, our music and film content rules the airwaves all over Africa,” he added.
He also noted the revival of the cinema culture by his organisation, Silverbird Cinemas, greatly added value to the entertainment industry.
Ben Bruce said that the entertainment industry could, however, be expanded by the intervention of the private sector and government as it is presently being sustained by the passion of young Nigerians.
He lamented that government interventions had not been sufficiently supportive of the entertainment industry.
He, therefore, advised that subsequent interventions should involve key players in the industry.
“The formal capital market and the government have largely stayed away from the industry.
“However, the time has come for a formal intervention by the organised private sector and government.
“For a group of determined young persons, using passion and grit sparked a global cultural revival, there is a need for more business operatives to step in for maximized gains.
“Government interventions have sometimes, turned out to be unsupportive.
“The reason for this is that most government officials see their roles as headmasters rather than equal allies in a collaborative enterprise.”
On how entertainment could help tackle insecurity, Murray-Bruce said the least the media could do was help reshape the people by promoting peace and tranquility.
“It would be a stretch to claim that the entertainment industry on its own can improve the security of a nation.
“However, when one considers that the mass media are an integral part of the entertainment industry, its significance to the security architecture greatly increases.
“The content of our music and drama narratives disseminated via the media has the power of dominating the psyche of the audience.
“In effect, if the narrative of our music and drama content promote peace and development then that will most likely be the prevailing societal sentiment.
“So, in that regard, the entertainment industry is pivotal in the promotion of peace in any society,’’ he said.
He noted that the present administration hasn’t had sufficient impact on the entertainment industry.
He, however, expressed hope that the low-interest funds made available would generate positive feedback with time.