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Abba on their extraordinary reunion


Abba on their extraordinary reunion: ‘We are confronted by our younger selves all the time’

It started with a mysterious image on billboards all over the world. The sun rising above four dark planets; the only words Abba: Voyage. By the time an announcement was made on 2 September, it had fair claim to call itself the most anticipated comeback in pop history.

Here we go again! After nearly 40 years, Benny, Björn, Agnetha and Anni-Frid are back together. We get the inside story of the greatest reunion in pop

And the details exceeded expectations. Not only was there a new album, Voyage, the first in 40 years: 10 new songs that brought the original band together in the studio for the first time since a split that had been precipitated by the couples in the band divorcing.

Not only that, but there was to be a new “immersive live experience”, in a bespoke stadium in London – nobody seemed to have noticed the planning application being published online – featuring futuristic de-aged “Abbatars” playing a potentially never-ending series of gigs. In the depths of a miserable year, it seemed, Abba were coming to rescue 2021.

The promotion machine went into full swing. The Sydney Harbour Bridge was illuminated in their honour (Abba were always huge in Australia) and BBC radio moved their 6pm news bulletin in order to premiere two new tracks, I Still Have Faith in You and Don’t Shut Me Down. Online, there was footage of crowds listening to the songs for the first time: in a hot spring in Iceland; in Stockholm’s Gröna Lund amusement park; in front of St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna.

Some of them were in tears. Somewhere in London, there were Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, being interviewed by Zoe Ball, Andersson allowing himself a rare moment of self-congratulation while discussing how they wrote Mamma Mia in 1975 when the band were still widely assumed to be a one-hit wonder, boosted to brief fame by winning the Eurovision song contest. The chorus, he enthused, where they had the idea of dropping all the music out and just leaving the vocals, “it was,” he smiled, “so clever.” Within three days, the album received 80,000 pre-orders in the UK alone.

It all made for a striking contrast with footage of Abba’s final public appearance, in November 1982, on Noel Edmonds’ Late Late Breakfast Show. Ostensibly promoting a new greatest hits album, it is five of the most uncomfortable minutes of music television ever broadcast.

They sit, twitchy and oddly un-Abba-like, in their 80s clothes (skinny ties, headbands and, in the case of Anni-Frid Lyngstad, spiky, purple hair), gamely denying they are splitting up, despite the fact that the greatest hits collection has been released in lieu of a new Abba album they have abandoned, unfinished; despite the evident waning of their commercial success (their new single has struggled into the lower reaches of the Top 40, an unthinkable state of affairs even a year before, when they were enjoying their 18th consecutive Top 10 hit); and despite the fact that Abba visibly aren’t enjoying being in Abba very much.

When asked for his favourite Abba song, Ulvaeus wearily notes that he’s been told by the TV producers what to pick: The Winner Takes It All. Agnetha Fältskog is clearly sick of her pin-up status: “I’m not only a sexy bottom, you know,” she complains. When the subject turns to Ulvaeus and Andersson’s songwriting prowess, it precipitates an icy, brittle exchange between the recently divorced Andersson and Lyngstad. Benny and Björn wrote so many wonderful songs, she says. “Well, you never said that,” snaps her ex-husband. “OK,” she responds, with a mirthless chuckle. “So it’s the first time.” A few weeks later, Abba broke up, although a split was never publicly announced.

And that was supposed to be that. Hugely successful but critically reviled, Abba were not a band that anyone assumed would have any kind of afterlife, or be remembered as anything other than a joke – evidence that the 1970s were, as the Face magazine memorably put it, The Decade That Taste Forgot.

“In the 80s, it felt as if Abba was completely done. It was so uncool to like us”

Today, talking via Zoom in their first press interview since the Grand Reveal, Ulvaeus and Andersson say they thought exactly the same thing. “In the beginning of the 80s, when we stopped recording, it felt as though Abba was completely done, and there would be no more talk about it,” Ulvaeus says. “It was actually dead. It was so uncool to like Abba.”

“We had a little company, the four of us together,” Andersson says. “Everything Abba earned went into that company and we split it four ways, no matter who did what. And then, when we said, ‘Well, this is it, guys, let’s do something else for a bit and then we can go back perhaps in a couple of years and see if we’re still alive’, that was that: we sold the company. We did not expect Abba to continue, I can promise you that.”

Fältskog and Lyngstad, alas, are nowhere to be seen. Nor did they turn up to the announcement of Abba’s return in London, instead releasing a couple of prepared quotes (“Such joy it was to work with the group again,” Lyngstad offered). They are, I’m told, deeply involved with the Voyage live show, but the assurance that they wouldn’t have to take part in promotional activities pertaining to Abba’s reunion was part of their reason for agreeing to it in the first place. “They didn’t take much persuasion, but we did have to tell both of them that they don’t need to speak to you, Alexis,” Andersson offers. “Not you personally,” he adds, hastily, “but the media.”

You have to say that this “trend-blind” approach appears to have worked. I Still Have Faith in You and Don’t Shut Me Down were greeted with a peculiar combination of elation and a kind of collective sigh of relief: the former a big, bittersweet ballad in the vein of Thank You for the Music or The Winner Takes It All, the latter a fresh example of Abba’s idiosyncratic approach to disco, à la Dancing Queen.

Perhaps their rapturous reception was potentiated by events of the preceding 18 months, a musical equivalent of the line that keeps appearing on posters outside West End theatres at the moment: “The show we all need right now.” We live in very uncertain times, and there’s a distinct sense that people want something comforting and reliable from entertainment. And here were Abba, 40 years on, sounding exactly like Abba, the way you remembered them from your childhood or your youth.

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Our Unity is Forged by Our Cultural Traditions – Shettima

L-R: The Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Tajudeen Abass; Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello; Vice President, Kashim Shettima; Ogun State Governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun; former governor of Ogun State, Aremo Olusegun Osoba and Ogun State Deputy Governor, Engr. Noimot Salako-Oyedele at this year's Akesan Day festival in Iperu Remo, Ogun State on Saturday.

The Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima, on Saturday said the unity of the people of the country lies in their cultures and traditions.

Senator Shettima made this known during the celebration of the 37th edition of the Akesan day held at the Christ Apostolic Grammar School, Iperu-Remo, Ogun State, where he also said the Akesan day is a testimony to the potential that lies with the citizens of the country when they unite under the banner of their shared heritage.

The Vice President, who also called on the people of the country to harness the past to show a brighter future for generations to come, added that Nigerians should also learn from Iperu-Remo the spirit of unity for operational determination.

Shettima while thanking Governor Dapo Abiodun and the people of Iperu-Remo for reminding the government and people of the country of the sociology and economics of culture in nation building through the preservation of beautiful tradition, added that in celebrating culture, the people also celebrate their identity and pride.

While noting that the country would forever cherish the sacrifices Governor Abiodun and the people of Iperu-Remo have made serving as guardians of tradition, preserving cultural legacy and forstering unity among the people of the country, noted that the festival like previous ones before it speaks of the essence of the unity the people have forged as a nation.

“The Akesan festival stands as a testimony to the potential that lies within us when we unite under the banner of our shared heritage.

“This edition of the festival like the ones before it speaks of the essence of the unity we have forged as a nation, it symbolizes the heart beat of our nation.

“I commend you for investing significant time and resources to establish Iperu-Remo on the map and to remind us of this heritage.

“You have reinforced the identities and pride of our communities, forstering their patriotism and their commitment to persuing our collective progress and nurturing the bonds that bind us as a people,” he said.

The Akarigbo and Chairman of the Ogun State Council of Oba’s, Oba Babatunde Ajayi congratulated Governor Abiodun on his victory at the Court of Appeal, calling on all parties involved in the legal battle to sheath their swords and come together for a more prosperous state.

On his part, Governor Yahaya Bello said the people of Kogi and Ogun states have inter-married, describing the Akesan day celebration as a wonderful event that would continue to forster unity among the people of the state and the country as a whole.

In his remarks, Governor Abiodun disclosed that the people of Iperu-Remo share cultural affinity with the people of Ife, Oyo and Ijebu Ode, adding that his administration would continue to promote culture and tradition.

Governor Abiodun noted that commercial operation would soon begin at the Ogun State Agro Cargo Airport, which is nearing completion,saying that his administration would continue to build on the successes of the first term.

Abiodun, while commending the judiciary for upholding the rule of law, promised not to betray the trust of the people of the state.

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Unveiling “Brutally Frank” – Autobiography by Dr. Edwin Kiagbodo Clark

Dr. Edwin Kiagbodo Clark

The Local Organizing Committee (LOC) extends a cordial invitation to the unveiling of “Brutally Frank,” the captivating autobiography penned by the distinguished Ijaw leader and esteemed National Statesman, Chief, Senator, Dr. Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, OFR, CON. This momentous occasion is slated for Tuesday, November 21, 2023, at the prestigious MUSON Centre in Onikan, Lagos, commencing at 10 am.

An illustrious gathering of notable personalities is set to grace the event, with the Governors of Lagos, Ogun, and Oyo States serving as special hosts. The eminent presence of Professor Wole Soyinka as the Special Guest of Honour adds to the event’s prestige. His Royal Majesty, Oba Riliwan Akiolu (CFR), will preside as the Royal Father of the Day, accompanied by the esteemed Pa Ayo Adebanjo in the role of Father of the Day. Distinguished Senator Anthony Adefuye will chair the ceremony.

The unveiling, according to statement signed by Professor Hope Eghagha, Chairman, Local Organizing Committee and Ambassador Godknows Boladei Igali, National Coordinator, will include an insightful discussion about the autobiography by a panel of esteemed discussants, consisting of Professors Odion Akhaine, Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika, and Edward Agbai, moderated by the adept Professor Hope Eghagha.

Professor Hope Eghagha expressed deep excitement for this unique opportunity to honour and celebrate the exceptional life and contributions of Dr. Edwin Kiagbodo Clark, emphasizing his unwavering commitment to Nigeria’s service.

The event promises a memorable experience, offering profound storytelling, cultural richness, and the wisdom of an esteemed statesman.

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Preserving Heritage: Kiriji War Performance to Ignite Unity and Cultural Revival

In a bid to revive history and culture, a mesmerizing stage performance recounting the epic Kiriji War of the 19th century, one of the longest civil wars in human history, is set to captivate audiences across the South West in the coming months.
The ambitious project, a collaboration between the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN) and Legendary Productions, an esteemed international art and culture concern, is helmed by renowned artist Abiodun Abe, whose artistic contributions have garnered acclaim in Nollywood and international film festivals.
According to a press statement signed by Adewale Adeoye and Segun Balogun, Chairman and Secretary of the Publicity Committee respectively, the project will feature over 50 top artists from around the world, joined by over 10,000 participants at various levels.
Described as a massive undertaking that will involve months of an artist residency, the performance serves as a stepping stone toward the establishment of the first Yoruba Museum of War History. The statement emphasized the significance of the Kiriji War as a pivotal event in Yoruba history, encompassing struggles for justice, liberty, and an egalitarian society. It further stressed the aim of the project to bring together artefacts, weaponry, and historic materials associated with the war, currently dispersed and disorganized, within the proposed museum.
Highlighting the rich and remarkable civilization of the Yoruba people, the press statement acknowledged the extensive documentation of their history dating back to the 9th century. It underscored the unique role of Yoruba history in shaping African and black heritage, instilling a sense of dignity, respect, and recognition worldwide.
The Kiriji War, spanning from 1776 to 1886, stands as a notable cultural, political, social, and economic milestone in Yoruba history. The press statement emphasized that wars are not waged by the impoverished, but by brave and heroic individuals and nations with prosperous economies.
The media team emphasized the unique characteristics of the Kiriji War, such as the preservation of innocent lives, including children, pregnant women, and the elderly. Cease fires lasting for months were observed, demonstrating principles of diplomacy and humanity. The statement highlighted the war’s diverse aspects, ranging from political unity, preference for federalism, and cultural significance to military science, intelligence gathering, and tales of courage and resilience.
Technological innovations and scientific advancements played a pivotal role in the Kiriji War, with both parties employing creative strategies, military tactics, and imported weapons from Europe, particularly Hamburg in Germany. The signing of the peace treaty in 1886 united prominent Yoruba Obas and revitalized the Yoruba Nation with a renewed sense of brotherhood and common ancestry.
The press statement concluded with thought-provoking questions about the burial grounds of the war heroes, the locations and syllabi of military schools, and the impact of the war on global diplomacy. These inquiries shed light on the extensive influence of the conflict, including the involvement of British intelligence and its subsequent impact on expeditions in Africa and Asia.

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