I grew up in a neighborhood where music from loudspeakers was some kind of competition
On our street was a record store which attracted customers by how loud the music was. Adjacent to our house was a palm wine shop that sold its product by playing the rave of the moment in the music industry on a loop.
In the neighborhood were also other residents who regaled everyone with their rich collection of music albums.
It was a permanent cacophony.
There was one artist in this confusion that stood out, Chief Ebenezar Obey, the Juju maestro. I did not start off liking his music. As a young boy with latent adrenalin, I was drawn to faster paced music played by the likes of King Sunny Ade and Afrobeat King, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Except for such classics as The Horseman and Board Members, Obey’s music hardly appealed to me.
As the years have passed,I have learned to appreciate why the older generation chose Obey as their favorite musician. His music tempers the tumult of daily pressure. It is a soothing balm for a society that is in turmoil.
But most importantly, his music and message have transcended generations.
Obey has consistently been a musician of conscience. His compositions speak to all social ills and offer succour to the bereaved, the aggrieved and the frustrated. In political circles, he has demonstrated an attribute not common in our climes. On a number of occasions,he turned down generous offers to play live at functions set up by politicians against those whom he had publicly identified with.
His legacy as a musician will be remembered with gratitude and affection by future generations. If you are in doubt, consider how his classics like the special tracks on Christmas, Board members, Marriage etc are still in popular demand, decades after their initial release.
Happy 79th Birthday to the Chief Commander, Ebenezer Remilekun Aremu Olasupo Obey-Fabiyi, MFR.
Long may the good times roll.
Professor Adeolu Akande, a Journalist, Author, Scholar, Political Scientist and Chairman, NCC wrote from Ibadan
Burna Boy as Nigerian musicians’ gutters-to-Grammy story | By Festus Adedayo
When he voiced his ambition to be a standup comedian, Jewish American, Samuel Levenson’s mother was aghast. For a boy who grew up in a large Jewish immigrant family in New York’s Brooklyn, Madam Levenson’s disdain for standup comedy as a profession was understandable. “My son, you mean, you stand, you talk and people laugh?” the mother demanded incredulously, breaking her son’s queer ambition into cynical smithereens. Levenson said this much in his book of jokes entitled, You don’t have to be in Who is Who to know what is what.
Levenson had been a teacher. He however had a very noticeable talent for cracking ribs, which was becoming appreciated by the family’s Brooklyn neighbourhood. To now seek to make this second-rate comedy – something associated with indolent dregs of society – a lifelong occupation, was absolutely demeaning to Madam Levenson. Born on December 28, 1911, till his death on August 27, 1980, Levenson held the wave and rose to become one of America’s most authoritative humorists, writer, teacher, television host and journalist. That conversation young Levenson had with his mother is similar to the conversations, borne out of conservatism and ethnic pride, traded in many Nigerian homes.
Last week, Nigeria’s name reverberated all over the world again, this time not for opaque-minded leadership, corruption, banditry, Boko Haram or Fulani herdsmen’s violence. In far away Los Angeles, at the 63rd annual Grammy awards, Burna Boy, real name Damini Ogulu, won the Best Global Music Album category with his Twice as Tall traack, while Wizkid won the Best Video for his song with Beyonce. Certifying this as the path to tread by Nigeria, World Trade Organization DG, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, commended the awardees for their music, stating that “they were an example of services we can export. We are exporting so much of our creative arts abroad and this seems to be encourag(ing).”
Nigerian streets are littered with people who, if they had followed the path of their passions, endowments and natural gifts/talents, they could have been greater assets to themselves and mankind. Predominant in the immediate period when western education began to open doors according to professions, certain acclaims, privileges and social status were ascribed to some professions ahead of others. It was thus more socially befitting to be a lawyer, judge, medical doctor, than to be a teacher, for instance. Down the ladder, same level of social ostracism abounded and still abounds. In societies which predicated statuses on hard work, some professions, occupations and preoccupations were literally anathema.
In the Yoruba pre-colonial, colonial and immediate post-colonial society, for instance, you were worse than a leper if you chose music or performing arts as a profession. Many of those musicians who later rode to the crest of acclaim, wealth and fame fought titanic battles with society, their parents and families before they gained any modicum of respect and regards. One of such was Haruna Bello Ishola, popularly known as Baba Gani Agba.. Born in 1919, he became very consequential in his musical career. As one of the foremost, if not the foremost singer of the Yoruba music genre of Apala, he was awarded the national award of Member of the Order of the Niger (MON). His renown in western region social circuit was such that he carved a reputation for himself as the foremost in-demand entertainer at parties by the nouveau riche Yoruba elite of the time.
Long before his first album was produced in 1948, which he entitled Late Oba Adeboye, (Orimolusi Of Ijebu Igbo) and which was released under the label of His Masters Voice (HMV), Ishola faced the raw odium of a Yoruba society which perceived musicians as alagbe (beggars) and lazy drones. In one of his songs when fame, wealth and recognition had come in a spurious surge, Ishola rendered the battle he fought with society in one of his songs thus: “When we started long ago, colleague musicians who didn’t know this job would be a money-spinner quit and fell by the wayside…That was when singers, drummers were called lazy, indolent people…Many ran away.” It went thus in Yoruba: Nigba ti a bere lojo ojosi// Awon ti o mo pe ise ola ni ninu wa, nse ni won yeri// Igba yen ni won np’olorin l’ole, won np’onilu lole//To m’elomi sa pata.
That same musician was to later have one of the tracks in what is regarded as his titular album, named Oroki Social Club on Decca Records. The track was an ode to popular and prestigious Osogbo, present Osun State-based club members, who gathered in a nightclub where Ishola performed concerts and entertained sold-out audiences. Oroki Social Club became the most outstanding album of Ishola’s singing career, selling over five million copies, even in his lifetime. He later established his own record label called Phonodisk, after failed label partnership with IK Dairo and later with a colossus music industry investor, Nurudeen Omotayo Alowonle, with whom he established the Express Record Dealers Association in 1964. That venture later became a celebrated court case on intellectual property right. Before Ishola’s death in 1983, he was one of the first set of musicians to tour prominent places in the world, travelling to Benin Republic, United Kingdom, France, West Germany and Italy.
Ask many of those musicians, standup comedians who later rose to fame and acclaim and they will tell you the tortuous road of societal disdain and rejection they journeyed to the top. It was inconceivable to their societies that, in a world where people strove to become doctors, lawyers, engineers and pharmacists, a right-thinking person could embark on awada (comedy), footaballing, athletics, for a living or entertaining crowds and wait for dole-outs before they could get their daily bread. Many of those jokes that made standup comedians reap mega-bucks today were ones that provoked mirthless guffaws over palmwine. Such artists never rose beyond cracking the ribs of their friends at beer parlours. These A-list artists were once perceived as dregs of society. Women fled from them for fear of being recipients of the odium of society and those who associated with them took huge slices of such disregard. Their parents were not proud of them and dithered from publicly identifying with them.
Particularly in southern Nigeria, where a life of dependency on dole-outs was an anathema, anyone associated with entertainment and arts was seldom respected. In fact, they believed such life was a precursor to becoming a thief. In an interview in December last year, centenarian Mrs. Morenike Owomoyela, mother of Kennery music boss, Oladipupo Owomoyela, Orlando Owoh, said she was furious when her son abandoned school for the dancehall. She said: “Initially, I was very furious. I asked him why he would take such a decision because I could not understand why he would abandon school and be singing about. But later, people came to appeal to me to let him pursue his dreams, that he could also make it in life through music. After much thought, I stopped discouraging and I allowed him.”
Yet, music constitutes the fabric of the African’s way of life. As I wrote in my book, Ayinla Omowura: Life and Times of an Apala Legend (page 19): “Music forms a major aspect of the typical life of an African. Indeed, it cannot be divorced from the core constitution of the fabric of the African. From wake-up at dawn to retiring to his bed at dusk, the African interfaces with music in virtually all segments of his existence. The interface is so sweeping that it would be difficult to describe the African life without amply stating the minutest details of how he is shaped by a life of music… music is actually central to the three phases of his existence, which are joy, sadness and relaxation. At those crucial moments, music acts as a consul, a companion, with which he is able to explain or live through those critical moments of his existence.”
Today, however, perceptions are changing and the Nigerian society is moving at a supersonic speed with the rest of the world. All around the globe, entertainers are given kudos for their works as entrepreneurs who performed their civically-minded, problem-solving roles in society, as well as acting as agents for social change. Artists, for instance, play huge roles in community change, development and placemaking. They earn multiple of millions of dollars for their acts and have their fames reverberating all over the world. It is same for artists in Nigeria. Take for example one of the most influential artistes in Africa, 28-year old Nigerian-American singer, songwriter and record producer, David Adedeji Adeleke, who is better known as Davido. Though son of billionaire Deji Adeleke, at such young age, Davido duds the wealth and fame of his father, personally making mega fame, acclaim and wealth from creative arts. He is estimated to have a net worth of $16 million, coasting home as the richest musician in Nigeria. He has garnered wealth from music and endorsement projects, chief among which is the $78,296 (N30 million) MTN endorsement deal, Guinness Nigeria, and Infinix mobile. He was said to have bought a Bentley for his father a couple of years ago.
Now, the province of creative art is being rudely barged into by children brought up with silver spoons. First daughter of billionaire Femi Otedola, Olawunmi Christy, better known as Tolani, born on April 21, 1986, has also joined the league by becoming one of Nigeria’s singers and songwriters. In tow is Folarin, stage name Falz, another popular Nigerian rapper, singer, online comedian and actor and lawyer son of activist, Femi Falana.
This is a wakeup call on those parents who criminalize and demonize the arts, whose children must be doctors, lawyers, engineers or nothing else. They should painstakingly identify their wards’ endowments, talents and prod them up with proper education. On a lighter note, why should it be that, when law, engineering, medicine, pharmacy etc. were the vogue of professions, the elite and nouveau riche children were quick to be found in that theatre and now that creative arts has taken over, same set of people must be the controllers!
Banky W, wife announce delivery of baby boy
Popular Nigerian singer and songwriter, Olubankole Wellington popularly known as Banky W, and wife, Adesua Etomi have announced the delivery of their first child, a baby boy.
The couple, who took to their Instagram pages to share photos of their maternity shoot in celebration of Adesua’s birthday, today, February 22.
It will be recalled that the couple got married in November 2017 at a destination white wedding in Cape Town, South Africa after they shut down Lagos with their star-studded traditional wedding.
In her post, Adesua disclosed that their bundle of joy arrived four weeks ago.
“You have a track record of keeping your word. Ọlọrun Agbaye o, you are mighty.
“4 weeks ago I received the best birthday gift ever. Our Son,” Adesua said in her post.
Also, Banky W while announcing the birth of their baby boy paid tributes to his wife describing her as beautiful and strong.
He also appreciated God for turning their tears into triumph and for making everything beautiful in his time.
The post read, “Happy birthday to my lady, my love and Purpose Partner,
My world, my wife and Baby Mama.
I didn’t think it was possible for you to be more beautiful than you already were… but I was wrong.
“Because you’re not just beautiful, you’re strong.
“You’re grace and favour personified, and you’re so much more.
Words cannot properly express how grateful I am for you, how much I love you, or what we’ve been through.
I’m thankful that you’re mine
“And that God made everything beautiful in His time
“He turned our tears into triumph, and our loss into laughter
“He’s changed our lives forever, here’s to the next (and best) chapter
Nothing I can say or do can top what He gave us
“My baby had a baby and he’s everything we prayed for
“Happy birthday “Mama Zaiah”
I love you SCATTER”, the post concluded.
‘Juju music is still active’, says Toye Ajagun’
Far-famed veteran musician, Uncle Toye Ajagun has revealed that Juju music in Nigeria is not dead, maintaining that it is still potent and meaningful as it was in the past decades.
The Juju maestro insisted that the advent of Fuji has not overshadowed Juju music in the country describing it as “a mistake and wrong assumption if we say Fuji has swallowed Juju music.”
Ajagun stated this while featuring on a radio show in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital on Monday
Speaking further, the ‘Magbe-Magbe’ creator tackled the self acclaimed Fuji lord, Wasiu Ayinde Marshal, popularly known as K1 and others like him who have infused different strings into their musical arrangements saying that they have deviated from the ‘standards.’
He said the introduction of string instruments by these fuji musicians is a total departure from the standard laid down by the creator of fuji music, late Sikiru Ayinde Barrister.
According to him, “Wasiu Ayinde Marshall knows that Juju music in Nigeria is not dead. He still gives us our due respect. I listened to one of his recently released albums where he praised me, King Sunny Ade, Idowu Animashaun, Ebenezer Obey and others”.
The juju singer also disclosed that his own style of music is aimed at promoting peace and love among his followers and listeners in the country.
“I use my music to promote peace; I do not use it to cause acrimony among people”.
Justifying his style of music, the Egba-born musician explained that the album he released in 1976 was targeted at restoring the frosty relationship between two top juju musicians of that time, Admiral Dele Abiodun and Emperor Pick Peter.
He charged the present-day musicians and youths to work and pray hard and not to allow frivolities to deprive them of their glorious future. He specifically advised them not to allow current enjoyment to deprive them of the better things waiting ahead of them in the future.
Ajagun, however assured his numerous fans to expect him in the studio soon as plans are in top gear for the release of his next album.