FUJI NOTE: Ibadan, Ijebu, Lagos – which city-state owns Fuji music? (Part 2)

Sikiru Ayinde Barrister [Photo: Thenet.net]
Sikiru Ayinde Barrister [Photo: Thenet.net]

Wasiu Ayinde’s 1993 coronation as king of Fuji cemented his place in Fuji pantheon, and no less significant was his choice of the premises of NTA Ibadan, Awo’s trail-blazing television station and the first in Africa, as venue. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, an Ibadan indigene, was said to be unaware of Wasiu’s strategic coronation but the artiste ambushed the late icon with a special number in his preceding studio work.

“Congratulations my daddy… Ayinde ade baba Oba,” he sang, in apparent anticipation of a plausible uproar in the wake of the coronation. If Sikiru felt ‘betrayed’, he didn’t show it; the late Baala of Lagos was at best indifferent about the coronation and in the latter years of his career, eulogized Wasiu as ‘king’. Of course, that singular action of 1993, more than anything else in the years prior, marked the genesis of the proliferation of kings in Fuji music, which got to its crescendo with the 2006/2007 controversial kingship of Saidi Osupa.

Yet that special number, plus the historic NTA venue, showed how strategic Wasiu and his handlers have been in positioning themselves in the Fuji scene, and for me, this positioning remains one largely underestimated aspect of the artiste’s success story. In any case, it also shows the place of Ibadan and its various firsts in the evolution of Fuji.

Frankly, while many states could lay claim to Fuji’s success stories, analysts are divided on the contributions of the various city-states even if Ibadan, Lagos, Ijebu and ‘Kwara’ (a loose combination of numerous towns scattered across the state) are often mentioned as strategic among these city-states.

Of course, Ibadan, Ijebu and Kwara are prominent for their many talents; and Lagos for its sociable, enabling environment. Yet the argument still tilts toward Ibadan as the generalissimo among the city-states.

For one, Abass Akande Obesere’s success, in spite of his elevation of ribaldry to core art, is, in a narrower sense, Ibadan’s loud response to doubting Thomases and other recalcitrant cynists: that the city owns the Fuji genre.

Besides, it is a testament to a somewhat plausible, if ‘triumphalist’, claim: that however poorly gifted or heavily criticized any talent the city presents to the Fuji scene is, he/she (it has always been a ‘he’, anyway) would make it to the big screen. In a way, even if we ignore the city’s centrality to the popularity of the genre, it validates Ibadan’s unwitting claim to ‘ownership’ of Fuji.

“Oyo…Ogbomoso…Ijebu…Ilorin nko Fuji, sungbon Ibadan lo ni Fuuuji,” boasts Muri Thunder, the promising artiste with poor sense of judgement, now effectively kicked backstage by time. But Mr. Muri’s romance with obscurity notwithstanding, the naysayer would only ignore the Ibadan-born artiste’s self-inflation at his own peril; or at best, he would be shying away from reality by doing so. Again, the reason, quite frankly, is simple: the naysayers’ delusion would not cut short the long, long, long list of Fuji acts the city has sired.

These artistes are legion in number: from the trailblazing Baala of Lagos, Agbaakin Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, through to the meek but vibrant Rashidi Ayinde Merenge, to the short-lived Gbejo Kamoru, to the self-effacing Ayinla Karashi, all the way to the record shattering Taiye Akande Adebisi Currency.

Of course between Sikiru and Gbejo, between Karashi and Currency, there is a super-long list of Fuji acts, from the obscure to the popular, too legion in number that an attempt at drawing up a list would, quite easily, appear ‘foolhardy’.

Again, Taiye Currency’s incursion into and increasingly significant influence in the Lagos social scene––even when the artiste has consistently maintained his Ibadan flavor, base and identity–––is another testament to the influence of the city on Fuji.

When the discourse swings toward the evolution and popularity of Fuji, it is tempting to look only in the direction of Lagos – Lagos Island, or more appropriately, Isale Eko, precisely. But that singular act is not only tempting, it is equally disingenuous. Why? From Sikiru Abiba to Saka Laigbade to Ajadi Ganiyu and their disciples, all notable names that would pop up if we saunter through Isale-eko, none of them played Fuji, in its real, ‘stricter’ form. Well, except if we want to dress up mischief in the regalia of history, by ostensibly towing the line latter day e-revisionists.

Ibadan, put matter-of-factly, has made the finest contributions to Fuji, and that’s a no-brainer. From Idi-ose to Ayeye, from Beere to Oje-Gate, from ‘Nalende to Itamerin, all the way to Gege/Born-photo/Oja’ba and beyond, the city reeks of raw (Fuji) talents.

Besides, the city easily pops up in any genuine debate as the most important city when discourse swings towards the growth of the genre, standing miles ahead of the oft-mentioned Lagos (Island). Of course, to be sure, there’s a caveat: like it is in almost every aspect of Nigeria’s culture, Lagos has its imprint loudly visible on the evolution of Fuji.

The city, partly because of its swagger and cheap liquor and vibrant social scene, quite admittedly, was where Fuji found its root: Sikiru found his voice here; Wasiu (Marshal) conquered the world from here; Obesere successfully hawked ‘bawdiness’ across the world from here; Pasuma sneaked into the pop scene, too, while plying his trade here; and Osupa revisited our cultures from here. Ditto Iyanda Sawaba Ewenla, Wasiu’s supposed closest rival in his Ebutte-metta years, before retreating to Ibadan.

But since it remains indisputable a fact that Sikiru birthed what is properly known as Fuji, the needless controversies surrounding the “how and when” of his avant-garde feats notwithstanding, and of course because the creator is without dispute the father of the creation, Ibadan ultimately towers above the city in this discourse.

Now, again, the naysayers may be tempted to assume that this claim is, at best, cheeky; or at worse a clear exhibition of triumphalism. But triumphalism isn’t necessarily a crime, especially when it strikes at the heart of a largely indisputable fact of (contemporary) history, is it?

The verdict, put simply, is this: every city-state is important in the evolution and growth of Fuji but some city-states may appear visible than others when all factors are dissected properly. Lagos would show up in terms of growth, evolution, institutional support and enabling environment; Ilorin and other city-states would show up in terms of talents; Ijebu, Abeokuta and others would show up in terms of talent and growth; but Ibadan would most likely show up on all fronts.

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