Agbako @ 95:

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In the pantheon of Yoruba Cinema’s urban villainy, there are numerous blackguards. First, there is Ajigijaga a.k.a Broken Bottles, whose strength lies not essentially in brawn but in empty braggadocio. What the late Ajigi (Mufutau Sanni) lacked in actual terrorist’s instinct, he made up for in his coarse voice, artificial gap tooth and weather-beaten face.
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There is the bearded Saudi Kosomona, the one who relies essentially on his cute yet scary ex-convict persona. There is Radical, whose untreated dreadlocks effortlessly advertises blood, terror, death and all things in-between. Radical shares the same physique with the rascally Baraka (Oluwole Coker), the new kid on the block. Between Radical and Baraka (a.k.a Emir), there is Soji Taiwo Omo Banke, the lazy, pigeon-hearted, loquacious braggart who elevated hyperboles and endless name-dropping to an enduring art.
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Of course, there is Sir K-Kamoru (Kamal Adebayo), the fair-skinned giant better known as Taiwo Hassan Ogogo’s perpetual punching bag. He is almost in the same league as the loudmouthed Kelvin Ikeduba, but for his far better understanding of the zeitgeist.
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Between Ajigi and Radical, between Saudi and Kamoru, between Baraka and Banke, there is a frail-looking Charlie Agbako whose longevity has remained a phenomenal, if unacknowledged, source of inspiration in the business of (cinematic) terror.
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For me, Charlie Agbako remains a delight on the big screen primarily because of his autarchic flirtation with grammar: while the Queen of England has her own lexical rules for English expressions, Charlie Agbako had his. Both rules flow in radically contrasting directions and, at the height of Charlie’s reign on the big screen, the rules remained mutually exclusive. For Charlie, language isn’t just spoken as mere symbol of expression, it must be delivered primarily as an enabler of terror. Of course, there is only one rule in Charles Olumo Agbako’s world of linguistic terrorism: every syllable, every word, every sentence, every statement must carry along with it that extra burden of fear, of terror, of catastrophe, of Armageddon.
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“‘Anybody that tackles me, ta-ku-la-ya,” Charlie says quite often, at the slightest provocation. The violence that accompanies that line often rubs it of its genius yet it has taken on a life of its own in informal parleys. That inventive line, delivered with a somewhat comedic Egba accent, comes forth only when the concern is threat, coercion, or, ultimately, violent submission. It’s the psychological precursor to a physical assault or, in most cases, full blown terror. For Agbako, the psychological supersedes the physical and power isn’t earned by what(ever) is merely said; it’s indeed earned by how things are said.
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If the inventive linguistic ambush fails to tame Charles Olumo’s potential prey, the fear of his inseparable shotgun pistol would do the magic. In any case, every potential victim in Yoruba Cinema knows the gun is as short as the length of Charlie’s temper.
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Small (non-)revelation: In Yoruba cinema, once you escape the life-threatening voodoo in traditional village setting, Agbako’s shotgun remains the ultimate means of violent transit to that other world, the smoothest way to “taku-laya”.
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Excerpt from an abandoned/unpublished piece, ‘Charlie and the enduring art of Terror’
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****Alhaji Abdulsalam Sanyaolu Charles Olumo turned 95 some days ago or so and I’m here watching his performance in that classic, Ogbori Elemosho. Of course, I realise now how difficult it is to maintain practiced indifference to these things. Futile attempt. I am wondering whether it is fair to have phenomenal performers of Agbako’s ilk transit to that other space largely under-appreciated, their heroic feats/performances on the big stage/screen undocumented.
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Er, (Ethical) Journalism is one of the surest pathways to poverty in this clime; literary/culture writing is the expressway. Even for practicing journos doing it as mere ‘supplement’, it’s one thankless (nay poverty-inducing***🤣) job that comes with what folks—within and without—say nah passion. But again and again, even Brymo has since realised that Lagos tax collectors don’t accept 20 trillion passion-dollar whenever they show up. Neither do designers of 2020 Lamborgini Veneno. So, every minute the question pops up in the face of grinding poverty: what would local man do with a reservoir of passion, pray? Heeheheehe🤣***
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But hey, old man Charley Agbako inspires today: the amusing gymnastics, the gait, the energy, the arty braggadocio—–oh the energy. Baba may have rekindled this spirit to document. For the art, for culture, for history and posterity. Ah, Charlie is a delight on the big screen.
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Elemosho de, Eni ori yo odile o… eni ori yo odile o!

 

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