In this piece, however, what engages me is why and how stardom has become a huge graveyard replete with the skeletons of once burnished stars, whose prematurely killed stardom resulted from their vacuous acts of buga and indiscretion. This is aside their inability to manage the glowing fire of their successes… in his “Zion Train” track, Marley warns superstars not to be lost in the cryptic maze of stardom. “Don’t gain the world and lose your soul, wisdom is better than silver and gold,” he advises.
Asked to write an essay in Professor of Psychology, Scott Allison’s “Heroes & Villains” class at the University of Richmond, Virginia, Corinne Devaney chose Bob Marley. Marley was a mulatto born in a crime-infested slum in the neighborhood of St. Anne, Jamaica. He was the product of a liaison between a black mother, then 18-year old Miss Cedella Malcom, and Norval Sinclair Marley, a white father from Crowborough, East Sussex, UK. The older Marley was then about 60 years of age. Sinclair and Cedella had met and later married while she was working as a supervisor on a Jamaican plantation. Norval later abandoned both Cedella and her son, after his less-than-illustrious Second World War military expedition to Jamaica, and died in 1955 while Bob was ten years old.
In spite of the horror of his upbringing, Marley made a heroic transformation from the slum to the pinnacle of stardom, becoming one of the best-selling global artists of all time. His signature look was a queer assortment of unkempt dreadlocks. This was flavoured by an anti-imperialist, Pan-Africanist, asceticism-prescribing Rastafari religion that venerates the despotic Ras Tafari Makonnen, otherwise known as Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia as the “King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah.” This was woven round an obsessive fascination with the smoking of marijuana as a sacramental object of religious worship. Marley died in May of 1981 while battling melanoma.
While the Rastafari religion, whose major precepts are taken from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s liturgy, tempered Jamaican musical stars from manifesting weird traits associated with musical stars all over the world, it is not the same elsewhere.
Rising from rejection in an audition by the London-based Decca Records company on 1 January 1962, after performing 15 songs in about an hour, Decca’s assessment report was that the guitar group, The Beatles, was not up to standard. Indeed, Decca said it couldn’t see a future in the group. However, a few years after, The Beatles became very famous, ruling the world. It sold 1.6 billion singles and and 177 million albums in the United States, with 600 million albums sold worldwide, and 21 Number One “Billboard Hot 100” tracks, which was “the most any band has ever” recorded.
Apparently basking in the euphoria of this stardom, in March 1966, John Lennon, a member of the band, during an interview with an Evening Standard reporter, Maureen Cleave, had remarked that, “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink … We’re more popular than Jesus now – I don’t know which will go first, rock and roll or Christianity.” Not long after, the rock and roll group, made up of Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr became separated and Lennon himself got shot in the evening of December 8, 1980. He was fatally wounded in the attack, which occurred besides his New York residence by a Mark David Chapman, who claimed to have been incensed by his lavish lifestyle and the unconscionable 1966 comment about Christ attributed to him.
The recent spat between celebrated Nigerian hip-hop musician and “Buga” hit song-maker, Oluwatobiloba Daniel Anidugbe, widely known by his stage name, Kizz Daniel, and organisers of the Summer Amplified Show in Tanzania last Sunday, has opened the byzantine world of musical stars for examination. Daniel’s absence had courted the ire of the Tanzanian fans who thronged the venue to see his widely admired eclectic performance. Irked by this act, the show promoter, Steven Uwa, had to report his absence to the police. Uwa, who claimed to have expended about $300,000 on organising the show, with a booking of the musician for $60,000, said that the “flimsy” excuse offered by Kizz Daniel was that his baggage containing his gold chain was not brought on time by the airline he flew with.
The phenomenon of stardom, as a feature of popular culture, has been explored by several scholars. One of the issues that engage research works on it is whether stardom is innate or artificial; what leads to it and its impact on society. Issues of explanation are sought round the way stardom valorises the identity of its holders, shoots them to celebrity status, while opening and closing doors for them. Is stardom natural or predestined? This has provoked an examination of that famous statement, “a star is born”, with questions arising on the probability of the attainment of star status without the input of the individual.
Many superstars never heeded this advice and fell into the precipice associated with stardom. Surrounded by the quadrupedal infamies of alcohol, women, cash and glitz, many stars allowed themselves to be driven by the whims of these infamies and down to their ruins. In my piece entitled, “Our Water Bottle Children Are Here” (October 18, 2017)… I used the song of another street hip-hop star musician…to illustrate the pestilence of drugs – which I called the water bottle culture – and how drugs crash stardom.
In December 2020, with the piece I entitled “Ayinde Barrister: In memoriam of a musician who peaked by Ayinla Omowura’s graveside”, I ruptured the ice of that divide of predestination and the natural progression of stardom. With it, I provoked the bile of fans of famous Yoruba fuji music star, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, a known protégé of late Apala music star, Ayinla Omowura, who was killed in 1980 in a bar room squabble. At Ayinla’s departure, Barrister generously filched songs from Ayinla’s live performances without acknowledging their ownership. As such, when I stated in the said piece that if the Omowura had not pre-deceased the Ibadan-born Fuji musician, Barrister would not have garnered the kind of cult-like stardom he got at death, hell was let loose. The African Studies Association (ASA) has asked me to come and articulate the claim I adumbrated at its November conference in Philadelphia, in a paper I entitled “Between Ayinla Omowura and Ayinde Barrister: Conflicting Notions of Stardom in Apala and Fuji.”
In this piece, however, what engages me is why and how stardom has become a huge graveyard replete with the skeletons of once burnished stars, whose prematurely killed stardom resulted from their vacuous acts of buga and indiscretion. This is aside their inability to manage the glowing fire of their successes. In life and death, Marley transcended that profiling. Upon his rise to becoming one of a coterie of music artists who hailed from the Third World and achieved international stardom, Marley’s star never dimmed, even 41 years after his demise. This probably was why in his “Zion Train” track, Marley warns superstars not to be lost in the cryptic maze of stardom. “Don’t gain the world and lose your soul, wisdom is better than silver and gold,” he advises.
Many superstars never heeded this advice and fell into the precipice associated with stardom. Surrounded by the quadrupedal infamies of alcohol, women, cash and glitz, many stars allowed themselves to be driven by the whims of these infamies and down to their ruins. In my piece entitled, “Our Water Bottle Children Are Here” (October 18, 2017), a commentary on the thunderbolt that hit the Nigerian music world as a result of the deaths of associates of hip hop superstar, David Adeleke, a.k.a. Davido, I used the song of another street hip-hop star musician, Temitope Adekunle, a.k.a. Small Doctor, entitled “Penalty”, to illustrate the pestilence of drugs – which I called the water bottle culture – and how drugs crash stardom.
That week, the water bottle culture was implicated in the deaths of Olugbenga Abiodun, aka DJ Olu, son of current governor of Ogun State, “Prince Dr. Dapo,” and Chime Amaechi, who were both found dead inside a BMW car in a garage in Banana Island, Lagos. Three days earlier, another of Davido’s friends, Umeike Tagbo, had reportedly died on his birthday in a bar located in the Lekki area, after an alleged consumption of 10 shots of Tequila. DJ Olu and Chime’s remains were said to be oozing out blood through their nostrils and mouths. The Lagos police command said a preliminary physical examination suggested the deaths were from drug overdose. Substances suspected to be drugs were also recovered by the police from the victims.
In far away South Africa, a star I adored for her nightingale-like voice, Brenda Fassie, also ended in an unmitigated tragedy due to drug overuse. Fassie, whose Xhosa name was Nokuzola, which translates as “quiet, calm or peace,” was a highly talented South African young lady, who was so gifted that the great Nelson Mandela was fascinated by her song and danced with her in a dance hall. Born on November 3, 1964 in Langa, Cape Town, Brenda was a wonder to watch. Her album, “Memeza” (Shout), which was released in 1997, is rated as the apogee of her musical success. It went platinum on the first day of its release. After Yvonne Chaka Chaka, arguably no musician from that country possessed Fassie’s waltz and voice. She also made a huge contribution to Miriam Makeba’s “Sangoma”, as well as to Harry Belafonte’s anti-apartheid song, “Paradise in Gazankulu”. She was once voted 17th of the Top 100 Great South Africans.
Brenda was not only highly talented but equally possessed of the tantrums of divas, so much that Time magazine dubbed her the ‘Madonna of the Townships’ and fans affectionately called her MaBrrr or The Black Madonna, basically due to her bold stage antics and outrageous dance steps. My favourite of her songs is “Wedding Day”. As a rights advocate, she was outspoken and held very strong not-so-positive views of the South African system, making frequent visits to the poor townships of Johannesburg. Her songs also mirrored her persuasions, as she sang about life in the townships, thus harvesting for her tremendous popularity among the poor people. In 1989, Brenda released the song entitled “Black President”, a tribute to Nelson Mandela and deployed her music to opposition of the regime of apartheid.
The world, however, began to notice hiccups in Brenda’s life when her weird passions spilled into the limelight. Brenda was found to be a suicidal drug addict, who was also into lesbianism. In 1995, she was found in a hotel room with the remains of her lesbian partner, who had passed on during an orgy, fueled by drug consumption. Her partner had died of an apparent heroin overdose, but Brenda survived. She must have gone in and out of rehab about 30 times and on one occasion, sure she had overcome the demon of drugs, screamed, “I’m going to become the Pope next year. Nothing is impossible!” A few years after, Brenda reportedly collapsed in her brother’s arms, flung her last cocaine straw on the kitchen floor of her home in Buccleuch, fell into a coma and died after suffering from brain damage. Before she passed on, on May 9, 2004, Mandela visited her on her hospital bed. A few days later, post mortem examination reported that she was even HIV-positive at death. The fall of that highly beloved and celebrated Nigerian musical star, Majek Fashek was similar to Brenda’s.
While Daniel Anidugbe a.k.a., Kizz Daniel, has effectively acquitted himself of blame in the Tanzanian show fiasco, he and all stars – whether musical, showbiz, the wealthy, famous, etc – should take a lesson from the aphorism of the Yoruba which says that the man who carries a bucket full of palm oil should be wary of the stony ground – epo ni mo ru, oni yangi, ma ba temi je. Most of the superstars take cognisance of the wealth and fame surrounding them but are oblivious of the huge responsibility to tread the ground softly placed on their shoulders.
Michael Jackson was another superstar who failed to understand the ephemerality of the glitz of stardom. An American singer, songwriter and dancer who was labeled the King of Pop, Jackson was regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century. By the 1980s, he had begun to catch the bug of the ills of stardom due to the array of controversies and speculations that surrounded him. He changed his appearance from a good looking black man and sunk into a controversial lifestyle that caught attention for its awkwardness. Then, he lapsed into child abuse. In 1993, the allegation of sexually abusing a family friend’s child was levelled against him but banking on the lack of evidence, he had to circumvent the lawsuit by settling out of court. The same accusation reared its head again in 2005, but he was however acquitted by the court due to a lack of evidence. Jackson later died on June 25, 2009 from an overdose of propofol administered on him by Conrad Murray, his personal physician. In 2011, Murray was eventually convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
Saibu Ayinde Bakare Ajikobi, popularly known as Ayinde Bakare, was another pioneering Yoruba highlife musician who stardom snuffed out the light of his candlestick. Born in 1912 at Okesuna Lafiaji area of Lagos, to a father who retired as a soldier and hailed from the Ajikobi Compound in Ilorin, Kwara State, Bakare luxuriated as a Juju musician, beginning from 1935 after his apprenticeship to the then famous Tunde King and Alabi Labilu. He was rumoured to have been the first juju musician to make use of an amplified guitar in 1949. Bakare was the king of bandstands and was extremely popular in the social circle of Yorubaland, especially in Lagos and Ibadan of the 1950s and 1960s. His sobriquet was Mr Juju. In 1957, Bakare toured the United Kingdom and in 1968, released an album recorded in Britain, which he entitled “Live the Highlife”.
However, as the words in the tribute done on him posthumously by Ayinla Omowura says, when one is as lowly as to be able to afford eating only ordinary vegetable for dinner, then one has to be as watchful and mindful of danger as the man who is rich – b’eyan nje’fo sun ko sora, belentase eni l’owo l’owo. Those who sought to extinguish Bakare’s shining star found out his Achilles heel – the voracious consumption of the flesh of a species Wole Soyinka referred to as Daughters of Discord. In 1972, Bakare had gone to perform at a party in Lagos. When the band took a mid-performance break, a sultry damsel he had been ogling at while performing literally summoned him backstage. That was the last anyone saw of him alive. The police found a floating body three days later on the Lagos lagoon, which it buried as an unclaimed body. When a tracing by his family led to the burial ground, he was exhumed and a coroner’s inquest concluded that he had died by drowning. Two members of his band who had earlier complained of being underpaid were suspected but the police had to set them free them due to absence of irrefutable evidence of their involvement in his murder.
Naira Marley, Hakeem Okikiola (the Zah Zuh Zeh crooner), Burna Boy and many of Nigeria’s musical stars have been accused at one point or the other of going the Brenda Fassie route or living a violence propelled life. This must have been due to their huge overestimations of their star statuses. Recently, Burna Boy was accused of getting enveloped in a scandal of violence in a nightclub, while the earlier two embrace the Brenda Fassie lifestyle with recklessness. Omowura got killed in a squabble over an okada.
There are so many musical stars who though did not die as a result of their inability to study the nuances of stardom, yet got dragged down and into infamy by their naivety. The Achilles heels of some of them are their inability to appropriate the gains of stardom appropriately, leading to regrets when the stardom, which will wane at some point, eventually does.
Some musical stars complain of being unfavourably and excessively singled out by society for demonisation. Must you be a musician to fall into disrepute?, they ask. The attention on them and the over-concentration of what I earlier called quadrupedal infamies of alcohol, women, cash and glitz force them to be driven by the whims of these infamies. This leads to the plastic and unreal lives they live. While Daniel Anidugbe a.k.a., Kizz Daniel, has effectively acquitted himself of blame in the Tanzanian show fiasco, he and all stars – whether musical, showbiz, the wealthy, famous, etc – should take a lesson from the aphorism of the Yoruba which says that the man who carries a bucket full of palm oil should be wary of the stony ground – epo ni mo ru, oni yangi, ma ba temi je. Most of the superstars take cognisance of the wealth and fame surrounding them but are oblivious of the huge responsibility to tread the ground softly placed on their shoulders.