Veteran Fuji musician, Isiaka Iyanda Sawaba, popularly known as “Easy Sawaba”, was in the 1970s and 1980s a force to reckon with in Fuji music. In this exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ Oladeinde Olawoyin, the musician narrates how the acclaimed king of Fuji music, Wasiu Ayinde Marshal, betrayed him after they both abused the late Sikiru Ayinde Barrister in Ibadan in 1985. He also spoke about Wasiu Ayinde’s (K1 de Ultimate) claim about the origin of Fuji, his smash hit ‘Pata Olokun’, the facts behind the controversy between him and the late Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, among other issues.
PT: What do you think about the face of Fuji in this age of near-total takeover of the industry by pop artistes? Has Fuji been sidelined?
No, no no, they never pushed Fuji away. Nobody can sideline Fuji. It’s about time factor. Fuji is in town and, besides, hip-hop is generated from Fuji. Fuji exists side-by-side with hip-hop. Most of the keys they (pop artistes) play are from Fuji. So it’s about time. No music can take Fuji off the scene; it has grown beyond that.
PT: As an artiste, do you still perform actively like before?
I do not have any other job; this is the only job I have. So I still perform.
PT: What about album release plans?
I had to soft-pedal on the issue of album release. It’s like one is being defrauded. Once you get to a level in this job, you have to pray to be blessed with enough resources to release your records yourself. But before I release another album, it will be after I come back from America. I will be in America by the end of this month and when I come back, I will release a new album myself.
PT: What’s the relationship between you and other Fuji artistes, especially your contemporaries?
My contemporaries are numerous. Among them are Ramon Akanni, Bokoote Raimi Ayinde, Fancy Aye Alamu, Waidi Akangbe, Love Azeez l’Agege, among many others. If we shift to other places, you’d have so many others – in Ilorin and other places.
PT: How’s the relationship between…?
(Cuts in) Ah, our relationship is smooth. Very, very smooth. We had a meeting recently and even elected another president, Sikiru Ayinde, and we were all there.
PT: There are people who said Wasiu Ayinde is your contemporary and others who said he belongs to the generation after yours. Can you clarify that angle?
Well, if they say he was my contemporary, there’s no lie about it. Again if people say he came behind me, there is no lie about it too. You know, age is inconsequential when it comes to friendship. So, we were all together and we rolled together ––Wasiu, myself and those I mentioned.
PT: What do you think about the various innovations artistes are bringing into Fuji sound today?
Many of our people do not know that they are selling off their birthright, when people who claim to be singing Fuji are doing hip-hop. Fuji goes in line with almost all of the genres of music we have today; it’s a combination of all genres. I am not against the idea of people singing hip-hop, but it shouldn’t be done in a way that it would affect what they do originally. Fuji is a combination of all sounds so there’s nothing new about anything that comes now. I am not saying they shouldn’t play hip-hop but they shouldn’t push it beyond their own (Fuji) line.
PT: Do you have any plan to delve into pop music?
No, no, no. I have no plan to bring anything into the genre. I play Fuji and I have no plan to play hip-hop. We have also done something pertaining to that but we simply did it at the time by singing in English and we never abandoned Fuji to face hip-hop.
PT: Why is there always disagreement among Fuji artistes?
The job is naturally about proverbs and jibes. Anyone who sings without proverbs; the songs are bound to be uninteresting because proverbs beget words and words beget music. S. Aka and Yusuf Olatunji fought in their heyday. (Sings S. Aka and Yusuf Olatunji songs). In this job, when people insult themselves, it is part of advert. In Ibadan for instance, people do not follow gentle masquerades; they only go with the violent ones. Some years ago in Chicago, two musicians killed each other and their fans also killed themselves. So, that’s how it is worldwide. Now, talk of Pasuma and Saidi Osupa, that’s how the (disagreement) will linger. King Sunny Ade and Ebenezer also had disagreements, ditto Haruna Ishola and Kasumu Adio. So, proverbs beget music and if there is no proverbs, people would not listen. People enjoy controversies and even I did it in the past.
PT:Which artiste did you have disagreement with?
It happened between myself and Sikiru Ayinde Barrister. We did it in the past. They (Pasuma et al) are the one in town now and that’s what their fans desire. If there is no controversy, you may not hear about them and that’s why Fuji has remained in vogue.
PT: Another controversial topic in Fuji discourse is about the origin of Fuji music. What’s your take on this controversial topic?
Anyone who sings Fuji today does not know what Barrister imagined before creating Fuji. You know it’s not easy for the son to tell the story of the father. It’s impossible. So every soul that claims to be singing Fuji, with whatever system, is tapping from Barrister’s. Only Barrister knew what he saw before naming it Fuji. And Wasiu Ayinde himself even; Barrister said there was no way he (Wasiu) would talk about his life trajectory without mentioning his (Barrister’s) name. Before now, Wasiu Ayinde was called ‘Wasiu Ayinde Barrister’. So if he now says Barrister didn’t create Fuji, which line did he tread before becoming a star? Is it now possible for him to recant Barrister’s history? It is impossible.
One, by age, and everything, Barrister was his boss. So if he says anything about Fuji, he is saying that to himself. One should remember one very day; one very day someone does something good to you. So we shouldn’t assume that because someone is dead, or because one is in a certain position, we can say anything. We should remember we are all going to get reward for our actions.
For me and my people, Barrister created Fuji himself. It was after we stopped ‘Were’ performance that we began to follow him––and later with Kollington. We followed both of them. Where was he (Wasiu)? Is it possible for me to stand up and recant Barrister’s history? Do I know when he was born in actuality? Meanwhile, whatever one would say with repercussion, one should be cautious. Sooner or later they would talk about him too.
PT: But it appears the disagreement is also between Barrister and Kollington..?
(Cuts in) That’s just for the sake of competition. The likes of Saka Laigbade, Ajadi Ewenla, Bashiru Abinuwaye (Barrister’s brother) and others, I once competed with them in 1968 at Ona’la. That year I rode a horse into Ona’la. But they never sang Fuji there; what they sang was a mixture of Sakara and all that. When Kollington disputed Barrister’s claim (on Fuji origin), it was out of competition. They were fighting at the time. Even Alhaji Kollington himself can’t dispute Barrister because he made us know that it was Barrister that came to invite him in Abeokuta, imploring him to join him in Lagos. Both of them hadn’t left the military at the time; it was after Fuji became big that they resigned from the military. So whenever we mention Barrister, we must mention Kollington. So let us be mindful of what we say. Whatever God would do, he has done. Where is the same person we are talking about? And every one of us will eventually go to the same place he went.
PT: Can you recall what the Fuji scene was in the 1980s, especially because Wasiu Ayinde sang about the days you were in Ebutte Metta and he was on the Island and…?
See, I am not his (Wasiu Ayinde’s) contemporary because I started ‘Were’ in 1964, and throughout the period I was actively involved in ‘Were’ performances, I never met him. I left ‘Were’ performances around 1976. I never met him; I went out to Lagos, Agege, Mushin (performing)… I never met him. Meanwhile, how would you (Wasiu) that I never met, sing in live performances that we were contemporaries? Where did we meet? We never met during ‘Were’ days. Those I met include Alhaji Jelani Oriade… we were many.
There was a man called Sunday Ijero, a protegee of Kollington (Ayinla). It was Sunday Ijero that gave birth to Remi Aluko. His name was Sunday Aluko but we called him ‘Sunday Ijero’ because he lived in Ijero area, at Apapa Road. He was the first Christian that sang ‘Were’. So if Remi sings today, he met it at ‘home’ because his father was a musician too. Meanwhile, there were many others.
Those that were my senior include Alhaji Kehinde Adaramaja (now a lawmaker), Barrister Aremu Ago-egba, Amoo Barrister Olufade, so many of them. There was also Taju Ajilekege; including a butcher in Oyingbo named Ajadi. Those were my contemporaries. I never met him (Wasiu). Why would he now say he was in Isale-eko; I was in Ebute-metta? Do you (Wasiu) even know where I lived in Ebute-metta? Yes, we later became friends shortly before we met at (Saliu) Adetunji’s record company. That was at the height of Barrister and Kollington’s ‘war’. So, the likes of Isiaka Olorunoje, Ramoni Akanni, Bokote Raimi and other, we met when Fuji began and not when we were performing ‘Were’. I never met him. I was even asking my contemporaries whether, truly, ‘did Wasiu (Ayinde) perform ‘Were’? These are what I know. But when God place people in certain positions, they often use it to ‘ride’ others.
I, as a person, will speak the truth till I die. Whatever I would say behind anyone and wouldn’t say to his face, I would not say it. When we talk about Barrister, we were all close to him. We all returned to Fuji Chambers whenever we went out. But we also knew our contemporaries… but, No, No, No, I never met him during ‘Were’. Of course, there was no basis for competition between us. When we were with Adetunji, he eulogized me in his records and I did same in mine, until things changed and we both stayed on our lanes.
PT: So many things have been said about you and Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, what exactly are the issues ––the disagreements, the tribulations, the Kamoru Ayansola angle and all?
First, we should understand that there is no one without his own personal tribulations. But my elder brother (Sikiru Ayinde Barrister) – May God forgive him – had a way of implicating himself in other people’s affairs. There are some people who may want to harm someone but would not do the harm directly; they would rather hide behind those with whom you are fighting. So whenever there is any tribulation, people would quickly refer to him meanwhile the real evil doer is behind. But at the end of the day, after we settled the disputes, the day he was honored with MFR and he came to Ibadan, Alhaji (Sikiru Barrister) said so many curses to affirm that he knew nothing about what happened to me. He said it was over and I also said it was over. Everyone had his own cross to bear, including the prophets of God.
PT: What happened exactly with regard to Ayansola?
I never took Ayansola away from Barrister. Myself, Ayansola and Barrister’s fan boys were all friends. I was not Barrister’s apprentice but we were so close that we were like siblings, including Barrister. Whenever I entered Fuji Chamber, if I took the food Barrister was eating, he would not complain. But what I want people to know is that why I was angry with Barrister was that when the Fuji ’78 left, it was only Kamoru Ayansola that was left as drummer with Alhaji Barrister. At the time, Alhaji Kamo had to come to Ibadan, to pick up the band members of Baba Tatalo (Alamu) to Lagos. Everyone had left at the time; only Alhaji Kamo was left. To be candid, Alhaji Kamo was battling with ‘severe cough’ but it wasn’t that bad to the point of being directed to become a back-up drummer for another member. I reckoned that rather than order him to become a backup drummer, being a ‘captain’ in the band, he ought to have been kept somewhere respectfully. That was the cause of the rift that made Ayansola exit Barrister’s band and come to Ibadan. I remember there was a similar case in Liberty (Stadium) where Alhaji Kamo was ordered to play ‘Sakara’ as backup to Bashiru. I think he couldn’t cope; so he came back to Ibadan.
When he came back, I told him Barrister was angry and would later accept pleas. Yet when it got to a stage, it was evident Barrister would not bulge, yet this man had no other job. Besides, I wasn’t the only one he beat the drum for in Ibadan––if you meet Tiri Ajao, Nure Bonanza and others, you could confirm. It wasn’t that he deliberately left Barrister to drum for me, No! All the lead drummers you know –Obey’s Alhaji Tiamiyu; Sunny Ade’s Mutiu; Razaq that’s in America now; Segun Adewale and Shina Peter’s Kabiru; all of them – are my friends. Whenever I had recording in the studio, they were always there. The Pata Olokun we just spoke about, many of the drummers were there, even their bosses were aware they were there. Alhaji Kamo led the drummers in Pata Olokun, Barrister never knew till he died because he never mentioned it. My own drummer, Shakiru was there too.
So when he (Kamoru Ayansola) came back to Ibadan, he was closer to me. You know, a generous person isn’t in the same league with miser; he was closer to me than every other person which led to the insinuation that I snatched him. What Barrister was thinking at the time, I don’t understand and the worse part of it was the car he (Barrister) retrieved from him. He collected 504 car from him in Mushin and I bought another car for him. We were both in Ibadan at the time but he had a house in Oloruntosi in Mushin. They asked people to come snatch the car from him and I came to Ibadan to get him another car. So that was how it happened.
I never snatched him from Barrister. There are too many drummers already. At the end of the day even, was it not ‘Deroju that led the drummers for Alhaji Barrister’s band before he died? ‘Deroju was Fancy Aye Alamu’s drummer. Since ‘Deroju left Fancy Aye Alamu, he (Fancy Aye Alamu) hasn’t been himself. Today, Ididowo left Obesere and moved behind Pasuma, so what happened? He was his manager, to the core. Now, Morubo, Ayinla Kollington’s manager has moved behind Obesere. Will Kollington kill himself? Or will the other man too not survive? That’s how it is; it’s not as if someone snatched anyone. In fact, empathy is even why many people get into trouble; it was why I did too because I could have left him for fear of the possible controversies. But I felt he needed to survive.
PT: After Ayansola left him and moved into your band, what happened?
I just suddenly discovered that Alhaji was singing abusive songs. (Sings Barrister’s songs) I was wondering whom Alhaji was referring to and at the end of the day, I discovered I was the one Alhaji was referring to.
PT: So you replied him?
Ah, Bismillahi! (Laughs)
PT: So what was the duration of the disagreement?
I did about five albums, all in a spate of four years. It was between 1983 through 1985 when Ayansola died. Ayansola died in 1985; he died in Osogbo on December 31/January 1st, 1985.
PT: So after Ayansola died, was there no ceasefire?
Well, er, music isn’t like you just put it. Many supporters have stood up at the time. It was that same 1985 that I and Wasiu Ayinde Barrister abused Barrister at Liberty Stadium. Immediately after the show, I moved to Ogbomoso for another performance. Alhaji Barrister was playing for Tunde Badmus and co in Oshogbo and that was how he (Wasiu) moved to go prostrate before Barrister, pleading that he was coerced into the act by his fans who allegedly placed guns around his neck and all that. And I know Alhaji Barrister; what he was fond of listening to was ‘first come first served’, he wouldn’t listen to others. So Alhaji Barrister instantly listened to what he told him and that was what intensified the fight.
PT: Was Wasiu Ayinde in any feud with Barrister at the time before you met at Liberty Stadium?
Thank you. We got to Liberty Stadium, I was singing then he arrived. We both sang: ‘Iwo l’Omo Agbaje Salami L’ayeye, iwo ona omo Agbaje Salami l’aiyeye o…’ We were making jest of Barrister on stage. It was that night he went to plead with Barrister so whether he had any rift with Barrister or not, I didn’t know. He got to Lagos and took his family members to plead with Barry and it was that period that Barrister took up my case.
You know, he showed me he was not straightforward because many people had warned me earlier about our relationship but I never listened because of the love I had for him. I think he knew this was the way this guy (me) could fall, so he could help plan it. He did what he wanted to do but then, is this not me now? Everybody knew and knew him and that’s why I also avoided him afterwards and everyone stayed on his lane. In 2004, we settled the rift and we became a little closer but I soon realised this same character hadn’t left him. Wasiu himself loves ‘hearsay’. If told about what anyone says, he wouldn’t ask you; he would rather keep it to himself. You know that’s a very dangerous character. Only a murderer behaves that way.
I used to tell Alhaji Barrister himself that if two people commit offence and one of them comes around to complain, he should endeavor to invite the second person and hear him out. We both offended him and we were supposed to beg him together but someone went behind to plead for mercy; why should I ask him (Wasiu)? Many of those at the Ibadan party were in Oshogbo and they were just exclaiming, screaming ‘Ah! Ah! Ah!
I realised in 2004 after the rift was settled that rather than go away, that same character has become more entrenched in him. That’s how I simply moved back. May God Almighty not frustrate us. May he (Wasiu) face no tribulation; may I also face none. May we remain on the scene for long.
PT: Ayansola died in 1985, the many tribukations you faced came in..?
Those had come earlier before then, before Ayansola’s death. And since then, we thank God there is nothing.
PT: What’s the future of Fuji in your own view?
The future of Fuji is okay. It’s all about time. That’s why I said one can’t own the world, we can only own time. Many people are springing up already. If truly the world will come to an end, Fuji music will continue to be in vogue till the end of the world.
PT: What’s your advice for young Fuji artistes?
They should stay away from violence and controversies. If they abuse one another, they should refrain from abusing their parents. It’s part of advert if artistes abuse themselves but they should refrain from abusing their parents. They should also do their jobs diligently. May God almighty uplift them.