HOW I GOT THE STAGE NAME, OJOPAGOGO IN 1986 POPULAR YORUBA ACTOR, RASAQ OLAYIWOLA
HOW I GOT THE STAGE NAME, OJOPAGOGO IN 1986 POPULAR YORUBA ACTOR, RASAQ OLAYIWOLA
Why He Likes To Act An Old Man’s Role
He is very popular in the Yoruba Movie industry for playing elderly roles. In most movies, where he features, if not all, Ojopagogo usually plays the role of an old man spotting grey hair And he has a peculiar way of trembling on his feet like an old man who is in his 80s. In real life, however, Rasaq Olasunkanmi Olayiwola is a young man, who started acting at an early age.
A few weeks back, City People’s Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE, spoke with him about his career. Below are excerpts of the interview.
You have been acting, for many years now. How did it start?
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I started acting on stage in Iseyin, many years ago, but I am from Oyo town. But, I was born in Iseyin. I grew up there. When I got to Ibadan, I joined a group.
Alao Sorunke was the group I joined to come to Ibadan. Then, the group I left in Iseyin was called Ilumokin Theatre Group. The leader was Jelili Raji Aboderin. He is the Baale of Larinka (Ifakeu) in Ibadan. He is one of the board members of trado medical association.
When I got to Ibadan, some people discovered that a boy had just come to Ibadan who acted with Alao at Idikan then. That was Labake Theatre Group. I went to act with the group.
At that time they were about to go to Oyo to act for Alaafin. I acted Eru Oba.
While acting, somebody began to shout Omo Ojopasekere and he started hailing me. Another person shouted him down. Shut up Ojo Pa Sekere Ko, Ojo Pa Gogo ni. It was funny to Baba Alaafin then. He then gave me money. Since then, people, who travelled with us began to call me Ojopagogo. That was in 1986. I didn’t first use that name on stage, people just used to call me that as an alias. Later, theatre people began to use it on stage. That was how I got the name.
How did you start acting?
I started theatre from the Koranic School (Ile-Kewu). The school was owned by my brother. It was run in the same house we lived in. We now wanted to do Malud Nabib. They said we should organise a drama play then. We did.
Then, in primary school, I used to participate in entertainment and cultural activities. When we did the Koranic school play, many people attended. The man I mentioned Jelili Raji Aboderin of Ilumokin Theatre is a friend of my brother so, he also came.
When we finished the play, he called me and asked if I could act with him, adding that he has a play he is working on. That he needed a small boy like me to act in it. That was in 1983. I agreed. I went to the location. They auditioned me. That was how I started. That was how we did rehearsals and travelled with the play all over the schools in Iseyin, showbiz play. That was how I became popular. As I walked on the street, people would be hailing me, Adekunle Omo Adeoye.
All the art theatre producers and directors, then wanted me to act with them in their stage performances. Things now changed positively for me. Oga Alao lives in Ibadan.
He used to tour and travel all over Oke Ogun and other neighbouring towns and villages. On this one member of cast disappointed him in one play in Iseyin. That was how they called on me from school that I should come and play that role.
So, I went to join them and I saw that they were more professional than my main group. They also appreciated me more than the group I acted with. That Oga now began to take care of me. At a point, he sat me down. He asked me what work I wanted to do when I grow up. When he came the 2nd time, to stage a play, I was already in Form 5. I was preparing to sit for my WASC then. I told him that I was thinking of going to do Law. He now advised me that it seemed I was good in acting, that I should keep to Theatre Line. He said I had the gift for acting, but that he would encourage me to read my books and get educated. I said ok, should I follow him after my school cert. He said No No. No. He said I should read more. I said No problem.
But the man I was in his group at Iseyin said he was going on tour, that we should go together that once we started staging the particular play we would leave Iseyin for Ibadan. In those days when they mention Ibadan, it’s like a visa to London. That was how I rushed and followed them. I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t pack all my things I just left for Ibadan. That was how we began moving from Village to village, all the towns between Ibadan and Oyo. After 2 weeks, he said he was going back home. I told him I can’t go back because of the way I left home. I said I was not going back. There are some young people like me who came with this same Oga Alao to Iseyin, who said they were going to Ibadan. So, I followed them to Ibadan. That was how I, found myself at Labakes place in Idikan. They have their own group but they did not function. I asked them why. They said because there was no poster, there was nobody who could book, there was nobody who could go round to schools to book or come in to stage plays. I did posters for them. I was into sign writing then. I was into artistic work. I did posters for them. That is how my name became popular. Members of the group said there was a young boy in Ibadan, who could do posters. Other theatre people who couldn’t pay for printing press came to me. I did for Olofa Ina. That was how the man discovered me. the 1st-day Olofa Ina saw me, he embraced me. He said I should start coming for rehearsals, performances. It was from there that we went to act for Alaafin and the stage name, Ojopagogo came out.
Why do you like to act the role of an elderly man in movies?
I am a travelling theatre actor. That was how I learnt on the job. When I worked for 4 to 5 years with my Oga, I fell sick. They now sent me back home. I spent months at home. After I got better my parents now sat me down to talk to me. When you fell ill, we took care of you. We didn’t see any of your ogas to bring money to take care of you.
They said after this, if you leave this town again to say you want to go and meet Oga Alao again, you would see what would happen to you. I felt sad. I thought about it again and I felt, well what they said was that I shouldn’t go back to Oga Alao. They didn’t say I should not act again.
I didn’t plan to set up my own group. At that time, all my friends in Iseyin who were actors had begun setting up groups. They had become champions, while I was away. So when they heard I was back, they began to use me. I was acting for them and they were giving me peanuts.
One of my brothers now called me and advised me to, organise my own group. That’s how I started off. All my younger sisters rallied round. I took drums from our house. That was how I started, that’s how I made it. That’s how I began to travel.
Now, when we travelled to a town, we used to find ways of saving money to enable us to cover our cost. I thought of a scenario about mothers who give their sons wives’ problems. I now imagined that what would it feel like if we have a father who gives his sons wives’ problems. That was how I wrote the story. When we staged it, many people came to watch it. By popular demand, we did it the next day. On the 2nd day, we had more people. Some of those who watched the stage play said I should turn it into a film. When I decided to do a film I played an old man’s role. When Alade Aromire saw it he appreciated it. But he did not support me to come out with the performance, then because he didn’t think too many people would come out to watch one old man shaking and trembling.
But my mind told me that if I could produce the play, something tangible would come out of it. Then, I tried to do the first film in 1995/1996 and it came out in 1997. It was based on that storyline. It is called Baba No Go Die, that’s how it became big. That’s how I began to take on the role of an old man. That’s how I took to playing that role and people began to call me. I don’t like to be stereotyped into one role. I want to be able to act so many roles. But I was not discovered that way. I am gifted to act so many roles. I used to tell them playing an Arugbo role is not my focus.