The late iconic fuji musician, Sikuru Ayinde Barrister, underscored the importance of a good legacy in one of his several albums, noting: ‘B’onirese ba ko ti o fin ‘gba mo, eyi to ti fin sile koni parun laelae’. That is, peoples’ works live after them.
It was thus heart-warming that the inaugural Sikiru Ayinde Barrister colloquium on March 16 at Radisson Blu, Ikeja GRA, witnessed a packed house that celebrated the life, achievements and legacies of the man christened Sikiru Ayinde Ololade Balogun by his parents but whom fans called Barrister, Alhaji Agba, Barusati and Barry.
It was a case of who was not in attendance as major and upcoming players in entertainment and intellectual circles converged to honour the ace musician who passed in 2010 at the event. Juju musician turned cleric, Dr Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi, Barrister’s bosom friend, Alhaji Kollington Ayinla, the event’s chief organiser, K1 Ultimate, Pasuma, Taiye Currency, Atawewe, Malaika, Barry Jhay, Kolade Onanuga, actor Taiwo Hassan (Ogogo) were among those present. Fittingly, some musicians, including Currency, 9ice, Pasuma, Atawewe and Barry Jhay, Barrister’s son, all sang his songs at the occasion.
Fuji musician, Barrister disciple, and the Mayegun of Yorubaland, K1 De Ultimate who jointly organised the session in partnership with the Isolo Local Council Development Area, The Fuji Musician Association of Nigeria (FUMAN), FUJI: A Opera, Supa Komando, The Temple Management Company and Goldmyne TV, explained the reason for the gathering.
K1 first apologised that the event happened well over a decade after Barrister’s death but that it was better late than never. He said, “I am sorry that it took us over ten years to develop this programme. However, a lot has been put in place. We had to wait for this long because there were various ideas we had to sample regarding doing this the right way.
“It took me a while to seek the support of relevant stakeholders in the industry to make this a reality. I called a lot of professionals and even Barrister’s fans that he had never met in his lifetime.
“It gladdens my heart to see the turnout here today. I could not just sit down in my house and make this happen. I needed support from stakeholders, and I’m happy I got it. Today, it is obvious that the wait was worth it. I am doing this to honour the memory of a man I loved. I never had any animosity with my boss. Barrister has gone. One day, I’ll also go, just like everybody else.”
He revealed that plans were underway to get the government to immortalise the late Barrister. “The next stage is to get the government to immortalise Barrister. We also want them to declare that fuji music is the only indigenous African music that has evolved and endured over the years.”
KI wasn’t the only speaker at the event. ‘Kebe n Kwara’, General Kollington Ayinla shared some touching recollections about his time in the Nigerian Army with Barrister, their start as musicians, and their famed rivalry’s origins.
Speaking in a mix of Yoruba and English, he recalled how Barrister would come to meet him at the Nigerian Army Depot where there were both undergoing training and encourage him to take his music serious. “He advised me to write a letter to the Orderly Room that I wanted to be waking people up for Sahur prayers/Meal during Ramadan, and my request was granted. That was how I started practising, but not long after, they dissolved the Army Depot and posted us back to our respective bases. They returned me to Apapa, and we started seeing ourselves daily. We were both now devoting much time to music, but I didn’t know music was that intensive.
“Later, my late brother, Ayinla Omowura, started quarrelling with the late Fatai Olowonyo, but Fatai was gaining the upper hand with his songs, particularly ‘E le ewure wole o’, so I told Omowura that he shouldn’t say anything; that I would reply Olowonyo. But because I was so young, Omowura wondered how I would do that. So I told him to book a studio session for me; we practised and went to the studio to make a track where I replied. People were shocked and started asking, who is this? They learnt I was a soldier, and they couldn’t approach me because of fear. I told my brother I learned they would use juju on me, but he said I shouldn’t worry.
“In 1975, Barrister and I went to Mecca, and he said we should go and resign from the Army when we returned to Nigeria. He wrote his resignation letter, showed me and submitted it. The authorities replied that he had been retired. I also wrote mine, and I got a reply. We then knew music was serious business, but then Olowonyo went to meet Sikiru and told him, a young soldier boy abused me. Reply to him for me. Instead of my friend telling him that we had come a long way and that he would talk to me, he then replied to me on his behalf.”
The venerable Obey Commander, who sang his popular number, ‘Aimasiko,’ also lauded the achievements of Barrister. “Barrister is not dead; he lives. And God has established his name, such that it can never fade away. May your names never fade away,” he said to a tumultuous amen from the crowd.
A professor of Dance Studies at the Performing Arts Department of the University of Ilorin, Jeleel Ojuade, delivered a lecture at the event. He spoke about the life and times of Sikiru Ayinde Barrister and deservedly extolled his invaluable contributions to the growth of fuji music.
The colloquium also featured a panel discussion with showbiz journalist Mayor Akinpelu, ex- Lagos State Commissioner for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Steve Ayorinde and Nkechi Odidi as panellists. Romoke Lawal moderated.
Explaining how much the fuji music of yesterday has influenced that of today, Ayorinde, a renowned music journalist and publisher of The Culture Newspaper, gave a detailed explanation.
He said, “in terms of influence, I think fuji has remained fuji. If you’re talking about the history of this beautiful genre of music. I mean, it’s about the same history as the history of Nigeria to an extent. If you look at where it’s coming from, the were and all that, you would be talking about 50, 60, maybe 70 years of fuji itself. What I think has happened is that fuji has remained constant, so the influence has been pervasive. The only paradox I see is that, yes, there seems to be a kind of renaissance, but that’s on the part of audiences. Fuji has not died. But the flip side is that fuji is also ageing, and you would see from the people in the house.
“We’re celebrating Barrister. He would have been 74 if he was alive. Kebe n Kwara, Alhaji Kollington is here; practically 90 per cent of those still propagating the gospel of fuji music are now getting old. Mayegun is 64. If you mention the Top 10 of fuji artists, or Top 20, they are the same people we’ve been listening to in the last 25 years. That’s good on the one hand, but on the other hand, it simply means that maybe fuji is not doing enough to bring up younger generation artists.
“One example would be the generation of Shanko Rashidi who ordinarily ought to be taking over from those who are still relevant in their 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s. So, it’s a paradox. Is fuji influencing a younger generation of artists? I would say yes, we are not seeing it enough but one that you cannot deny is that fuji is also influencing and inspiring artists in other genres. We watched a documentary now, and somebody said ‘Zazu’ is not music. Who says it’s not music? It’s content for different audiences, and in any case, Kebe n Kwara is here, and everybody knows that if you trace the inspiration of ‘Zazu’, it’s from his music. Maybe it might be different from how Portable has done his own.
“Olamide’s music stems from the street; the street is fuji music. And a bigger example would be WizKid. When he first came at 21 with ‘Pakurumo’, and you are praise-singing in a hip-hop song, the inspiration is fuji. When they have become bigger, winning Grammys and all that, don’t let them forget that part of the inspiration that propelled them to where they are today is fuji music.”
The late Ibadan, Oyo State-born Barrister, is credited with transforming fuji music from its Wéré roots into a popular and accepted brand. Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo awarded him the Member of the Order of the Federal Republic (MFR) honour in 2006.
The supremely gifted vocalist, politically and socially conscious musician who also sang about traditional values of respect and good behaviour released well over 60 studio albums and innumerable’ live records’ before he passed in 2010