|Wasiu Ayinde Marshall|
No kid grew up in my part of Ibadan in the 80's and early 90's, without succumbing to the forceful influence of Fuji, that genre of music which dominated the streets and 'agbo-ile' of Agugu, Beere, Ayeye, Oje, Foko, Agbeni, Gege, Bode, Isale-Alfa, Popo Yemoja, Opopo Yeosa, Labo, Oranyan, Labiran, Yemetu, Ode-Aje, Orita-Aperin, Oremeji, Beyerunka, Atipe, Aremo, Oja'gbo, Oke-Are, Ayeye, Oke-Offa, and other parts of the so-called interior.
The limited media of mass communication notwithstanding - only NTA, BCOS, Radio Nigeria and Radio O.Y.O were available then - those streets bubbled with loud speakers of private sound studios (disk jockeys in their own right) who dished classical and contemporary musics, cutting across genres like Apala, Sakara, Juju, Waka, Fuji, Highlife etc., to the listening pleasure of residents and passersby.
Of these genres, Fuji was the fastest growing in the late 80's and early 90's with the trio of Sikiru Akinde Barrister, Kolawole Ayinla Kollignton and Wasiu Ayinde Marshall releasing "charts busters", back to back - apologies to Olamide.
From Barrister came Fuji Garbage (Series 1, 2 and 3), New Waves, Extravaganza and Fantasia; from Kollignton came Fuji Megastar, Ropopo, Ijo Yo-yo, Lakukulala; while Wasiu did American Tips, Fuji Collection, Ultimate and Consolidation. These albums were completely different from their slow, less-funky predecessors, respectively from these same musicians. Faster, funkier, and more rhythmic. Also noteworthy is their appropriation of musical instruments that were before then exclusive to Juju and Highlife. From Bata-drum to piano, jazz, trumpet and much later guitar, Fuji took a qualitative leap distinguishable in form, from her cousins - Apala and Sakara.
By 1993, Barrister who was just 45 had started addressing himself as Alhaji Agba (roughly translated as Old or Elderly Alhaji), wearing more of agbada than casuals, thus appealing more to the old than the youth. And his archrival-friend Kollignton was not too different in such orientation. In Wasiu however was a bubbling vigour of a superstar in his mid thirties. He continued to reinvent himself, appealing more and more to the educated strata; taking his shows to campuses, and expanding his fan base in the process. This paid off as corporate sponsorships like Benson & Hedges Show started trickling in.
In an elaborate event organized by RATAWU in NTA Ibadan around 1994 or so, he was crowned the "King of Fuji Music". King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal, KWAM 1, as fondly called, was finally born. Wasiu - a protege of Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister; an obscure musician who about 12 years earlier had to use aliases of his master (he was known in the early 80's as Dr. Wasiu Ayinde Barrister) had not only stepped completely out of the shadow of his master, but was also considered worthy of being crowned the king of the same trade. Knowing how influential the master and his arch-rival still were however, he had recognised both as Baba Oba (King's fathers) in Consolidation.
He did not disappoint with his 1996 album titled Legacy, having toured Europe in the preceding year. Featuring Blacky, a popular hip-hop artiste, Legacy was a huge commercial success, used by DJ's in several Top 10 countdowns of that era. Subsequent albums like Fuji Fusion, New Deals were not bad either.
As a young primary schoolboy, growing up in Alafara Oje in the late 80's, Wasiu was a folk hero. His pictures in Calendars, with his punk hairstyle, his French suit (which we called conductor), his necklace and his 'goggle' caught the fancy of my impressionable mind. I, like every other kid around, wanted to be like him. I remember how we (Tolu, omo Iya oni'photo; Segun, omo Iya Nimota; and yours sincerely) played Sakara(a drum), Sekere and Agogo(gong) during Ramadan to entertain Muslim faithfuls while breaking fast in the evening. There were countless 'troupes' of Where, the art form from where Fuji emerged, in our neighborhood.
With tens of album, and hundreds of live plays to his credit, Wasiu's music and influence have spanned 4 consecutive decades, with fans cutting across all strata of society, especially in his Yoruba-dominated Southwest base. He sure was a good manager of fame and fortune.
Unlike Fela and his liberation themes of Afro-Beat, Wasiu, like the rest of Fuji stars, is a darling of powers-that-be. They praise-sing the rich, the powerful, the reigning regimes. To retain their social base among the poor however, they some times reflected the suffering and agonies of our people in their songs, and urged us to persevere the more, as "better dey come", in sharp contrast to Fela's slogan of 'arise and fight'. It was not by accident that Kollignton's decoration as "General" was done by Abacha sometimes in 1992, while the latter served as Babangida's Defence Minister. Wasiu, alongside Shina Peters and co. performed at the infamous Daniel Kanu's 5million-man-march rally, organized in 1998 for Abacha's self succession. This was at the peak of pro-democracy battle against the brutal dictator.
However, to analyse Fuji, solely on its revolutionary essence, is to throw it completely into the trash can. That will be very unjust. Art does not stop being art just because it is not revolutionary. From the poor neighborhood of Mushin in Lagos, to the downtown Sapon in Abeokuta, to the interior of Elekuro in Ibadan, Fuji, as an art form, has for the past 40 years brought out talents in a lot of youth. The ingenuity of Barrister, Kollignton and Wasiu paved way for the Obeseres, Pasumas, Osupas , Ayubas, Sefius, Malaikas, Tope Nauticals, Taye Currencys, Tekoyes, Sina Akannis, Sandokas, Rashidi Ayindes, Rashidi Ayinlas and others too numerous to mention.
As K1 the Ultimate clocks 60, here is a toast to good health, much longer life, and more melodious tunes from your inexhaustible stable.
I have copied friends with whom I have enjoyed cool Fuji music at one point or the other in our lives.
NB: This is not a critique of (Fuji) art. I leave that to the expert. Here is just a "freestyle" of a random Fuji lover.
Omoba Adeleke Adedolapo Awonaike
My late friend, Damilola Ogunmade.
Isiaka Adegbile - an Obesere addict
Ogedengbe Bukola - influenced by friends
Ayodele Emmanuel Olumide