I am honoured to deliver this paper at Sikiru Ayinde Barrister’s First Colloquium organized by Mayegun of Yorubaland on Wednesday 16th March, 2022 at the Radisson Blu, G.R.A, Ikeja, Lagos.
With all sense of humility and respect, I need to thank the organisers for the invitation extended to me to be a part of this ‘historic’ and important event. I’m excited standing in front of this audience particularly our Fuji maestros, who are our great music ambassadors. Thank you and I’m indeed grateful for this honour and privilege.
Today’s presentation reminds me of my teenage years, the earlier part of my life when we were to listen with rapt attention to sonorous voice of Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister as he released his albums which of course were filled with deep Yoruba language tinted with riddles, metaphors, innuendos, lyrics that are direct or indirect, and filled with great entertaining vibes. At that tender age, I had the privilege of attending numerous occasions like today’s and others where not only the singing prowess of Alhaji Agba was on display but his adroit leg and body movements in actions (Dance).
As a matter of fact, his and that of King Sunny Ade were incomparable back then. All these reshaped my thinking and knowledge of Music / Dance practice and profession and clearly showed that it takes a committed soul to pitch a tent in our creative world… which is an aspect of human existence.
Unlike language that has its syntax and semantics vary from country to country and culture to culture, music has been said to be a universal language as what seems to be a piece of good music in Angola and what seems to be a piece of bad music in the Netherlands may remain bad music in Nigeria.
The way “Hallelujah Chorus” (Messiah) by George Handel will sound in Taipei is the same way it will sound if played in Taraba because sounds that are produced do not change much across cultures, so emotions and ideas can be universally translated and understood.
How I wish this presentation is being done or showcased at an occasion celebrating the musical icon of our time either through the joyful celebration of his birthday (not post houmous) or a significant achievement while he was still alive, we shall then be able to understand better the veracity, complexity and enormity of the work he has done in his creation of narratives around the world of ‘Were’ as transformed to ‘Fuji’ music genre.
My presentation today further affirms that my youthful thought over 40 years ago sitting consistently and patiently, listening to Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister’s albums as being released. His dexterity in the use of language, weaving of syllables in song and blending same with admixture of instrumentation were extra ordinary and amazing.
Therefore, this session today will largely rest on his characterization using the 6C’s, 2P’s and a T construct perceived through the prism of ‘yesterday, today and tomorrow’.
The breakdown is as follows:
Compositions and Renditions
Creativity and Innovation
Composure and Delivery
Culture Promotion and Socialization Quotient
Currency / Relevance
Crusades – which will highlight his moral, social, religious, political and economic crusades embedded in his lyrics.
Philosophy and Thematic Depth
Travels as Nigerian Ambassador which further exposed Fuji to the outside world.
For a broader perspective and deep understanding of his travails and triumphs in the institutionalization of ‘Fuji’ as a musical genre, let us take a peek into his Bio.
Mr. Fuji in proper context, content and perspective – A peek into his Bio.
The late Aare Dr. Sikiru Ololade Adeyinka Ayinde Balogun, MFR, MLC, AIMA, undoubtedly, was the creator and ‘garrison’ Commander in Chief of Fuji music – a globally acclaimed title.
He was born into the family of Agbaje Salami at Ayeye in Ibadan and the Salawe family of Lagos island, on February 9, 1948, at Iga Salawe but grew up in Mushin. In an interview that he granted Consoli TV as posted on YouTube on (04/12/2018), he narrated that his father was a popular musician in Ibadan and while he was growing up in Lagos, he attended his elementary education at Mushin Mission School, Odi-Olowo, Mushin, Lagos. He then proceeded to Yaba Polytechnic between 1961 – 63.
He became an ‘Ajisaari’ singer at the tender age of 10 at Masawale area of Mushin. Sakara and Apala music were in vogue when he was growing up particularly that of El–Saka, Baba Olatunji Yusuf and and Haruna Ishola, which influenced his music career. Due to religious and cultural factors, most of the ajisaari singers of his period either moved to genres like Apala, Sakara or other professions.
He was signed on at the age of 18 strictly as an ajisaari performer, alongside Sunny Side, Idowu Animasaun and Monsuru Akande. It was at this point that he was confronted with which name to call his own type of music; whether to call it ‘Faaji’ music but he remembered that there was a mountain about 2.5 hours drive from Tokyo which is not only the most well-known and tallest mountain in Japan, but also a well – deserved symbol of Japan known as the ‘Mountain of Love’, Mount Fuji. He then decided to name his own after Fuji Mountain.
His first record (single of 3 minutes) was released the same day King Sunny Ade released his in 1966, by Niger Songs and African Song two i/c.
He later joined the Army in 1968, and fought at the Onitsha front where he was wounded and sent back to the resettlement centre at Oshodi. He then retired from the Army in 1974 to become a full time musician.
In 1976, after gaining wide acclaim with his sixth album, ‘Ori mi ewo ni n se o’, he made Fuji music more popular through dedication, love and interest. He was of the belief that “anything worth doing at aii is worth doing well”.
Compositions and Renditions:
Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister was highly gifted and talented. His voice modulation could be likened to that of the hour glass drum in the creation of pitch and switching to different forms based on the knowledge and expertise of the handler. He had mastery of Yoruba language, Arabic knowledge and that of the other tribes in Nigeria particularly. He knew when to express such in composition and renditions. He was a genius and not only a fantastic composer but a great musician. His ability to modulate his voice to different pitches was peculiar to him. His recitation of verses from the Holy Quran guarantees a fan base he brought in from Ajiwere.
Essentially, Alhaji Agba was an on-the-spot composer who sang spontaneously and effortlessly, and one of his striking traits of character was his open adoration of his mother, himself and his band boys. Barrister’s high- pitched and silvery voice that he creatively modulated as he deemed fit for that moment alongside his gripping style of eulogizing himself and his mother magnetized me to him.
I completely agree with one of my academic sons, Folorunso Fatai Adisa, when he said: “I particularly envied Sikiru Ayinde’s genuine adoration of his mother – Hajia Odee Sifawu. Where others could be pedestrian or not totally with it, a submissive listener could feel the passion, the pain and the joy of a mummy’s boy attempting to envelop his love fully addressed to his mom in just a song – that was the man! Barrister, at any time, never hid his inexhaustible affection for his mother. For every time the late maestro mentioned his mom’s first name “Odee” in a song – his voice amazingly pitched differently with the support extraordinary instruments – every time! Suffice to say that the love of a son for his mom is powerfully different, unexplainable and incomparable. Eventually, that son is a star – the love becomes even enigmatic. Or is there any Odee anywhere else in the world that you may have known other than Hajia Sifawu – SAAB’s mom?” I greatly agree with his submission. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister was a songbird in his lifetime.
Creativity and Innovation:
He was a fantastic creator and had flair for innovative ideas. For instance, he introduced the application of piano to Fuji music in performance. It really amplified the sound and performance as demonstrated in ‘Fuji Garbage’ series. This display of adaptation of different musical formats and instrumentation kept him at the top till he died.
In addition, he leveraged on visual power by having a video release of his songs where he demonstrated his skill of ‘Dance’ stepping with permanent dancer(s) interpreting his voice and instruments through body movements.
Composure and Delivery
In performance or through his albums as released, he had grips and control of the moments. As he gets on the stage for performance, the atmosphere changes. He was confident of himself and trade. He had powerful delivery strategies which his band boys and girls understood. At times, he can talk – sing or praise – sing for a long period of time before the real actions commences. On the other hand, if his band boys overrun him, he brings them back stylishly…’Eyin onilu mi, e wa’le naa’.
Here, he could as well take on the lineage of his endeared. For example, one who’s from Onikoyi family, Tapa origin, Easterner or himself sometimes…For example, ‘Eleegun ni mi. S’eyin o mo Lamidi Eegunjenmi l’Ayeye’. Another example was his humor in action…”Eniti o wo Ankara, o je Semo’ (meaning that if you did not buy the Ankara picked for the occasion, you will not be served food).
Culture Promotion and Socialization Quotient
Culture is the totality of human life. As part of his promotion of culture, he sing praised different cultures of the world without barriers. In fact, he ascribed total respect for culture particularly when singing the praises of kings, lineages or highly placed individuals.
Sometimes, he would remove his cap, knelt down for Kings while he sang praises of such personalities as a mark of respect as dictated by the Yoruba culture. In an interview in 1988, he confirmed that he had 25 chieftaincy titles from different parts of Nigeria.
His albums addressed relevant and significant aspect of the economy, wellbeing, moral, sport and current and contemporary issues. It was to guide and correct anomalies among the people or to address topical issues.
Barrister built his brilliance at singing Fuji on philosophy and current affairs. Consequently, his song remains relevant from their time of release till today. For example, his cosmopolitan personality, like in many other tracks, surfaced in his 1990 Vinyl titled ‘Extravaganza’, where he noted that his music is an “artistic composition and distinction sound”, from mentioning the names famous and highly coveted places in Europe and America such as London, Brighton, Kennington and so on to his mentioning of eminent people and luxury brands of his time such as Paolo Rossi, Maradona, Roger Milla, Linen, Jacquard, Chrisitian Dior, 29 karat gold, Tyson hairstyle etc.” One cannot but agree that SAAB was cosmopolitan and current.
His music dwelt largely on Moral, Social, Religious, Political and Economic crusades as embedded in his lyrics. All these were employed to achieve changes.
A religious fanatic of Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister’s songs will understand the rationale behind Alhaji Agba’s opening lines in his track titled “Extravaganza” where he noted. “Agbeere de, awa lo lodu orin tuntun. T’obaje t’olorin, Oba l’ofi ran wa. B’awoko ba’nsere, k’eyekeye ma f’ohun l’eye oko. B’awoko ban sere, k’eyekeye ma f’ohun l’eye oko. Aroye nise Ibaka o, igbe kike ni ise eye, b’oloboro se l’ohun to, o si n f’ori ba’le fun oba orin. Ati aroye ibaka o, ati igbe kike ise eye, b’Awoko o mu orin wa, aaroye kini Ibaka maari wi, igbe ki’leye o wule le lasan lasan. Kii’lolooburo o fi ohun orin ko…” He was not needlessly pontificating.
Rather, he was sure of his brilliance at what he was doing. He was not needlessly pontificating as a Yoruba Proverb affirms his action, “Ti oogun eni ba dani l’oju, a ma a n fi gba’ri ni”. Indeed, he was truly the “Fuji Commandant” as he claimed.
Among many social crusade he championed, one stood out in terms of foresightedness and evergreeness ‘Family Planning’. The economy was not in this bad shape when Barrister advocated for smaller and manageable family sizes so we don’t end up breeding touts, thugs, thieves and other social miscreants in society. Our refusal to heed the early warning signal flagged off by Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister is reality of an ubiquitous presence of such elements in our urban areas today. The prophet in him saw it coming sounded a note of warning but we failed to heed. Had we listened to him, issues of insecurities of lives and properties wouldn’t be what it is now.
Again, many of his songs were directed at the ruling class, counselling them to have the love of the down – trodden at heart. Barrister gave a voice to the voiceless and advocated societal changes and betterment in his musical exploits.
Philosophy and Thematic Depth
One of strongest philosophy of approach was his ability to balance the religious sects in order to appreciate his type of music at the beginning and he was to maintain that stance till he died. He had Islamic background and well versed in Arabic language which forms his normal opening of any performance or album. But he was quick to extend such to Christianity and traditional belief system.
It was relayed that that when Barrister decided to take a purely religious sound to the social circuit, he met a solid brick wall of resistance. After performing for fellow soldiers and their close friends, he got his big breakthrough when a well known socialite on Martins street, Alhaji Gadubi decided to give him a chance at a party that only the caliber of Haruna Ishola and Yusuf Olatunji were engaged to perform. Because Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister knew that he had a very slim chance to impress these high end socialites, he decided to play the songs of popular artistes of that time in his own way using his nuances. This ensured that no matter your preference, Barry will cover it, sometimes better than the original version. He referred to this strategy as the 80:20 principles (80 percent covered songs and 20 percent original composition). A system adopted by most of the upcoming musicians till today.
Alhaji Agba’s performance style usually opens up with praises of the Almighty Allah SWT and gradually slide into personal praises, and then the initial dance. He had a way of regulating the tempo and even control the dancing crowd in front of him.
One of his winning strategies is the fact that he held tenaciously to his music lovers without any discrimination or segregation or class differential. He related with the high and the low, the professionals and the ordinary citizens irrespective of the status of such beings. He was a man of the people.
In performance, he randomly pick any suitable method of singing either proverbially, praise singing, prayers and others depending on the audience. For example, he used ‘Owuro L’awa’ to preach using ‘Akuko gagara’ to capture living live from adolescent to adulthood, where we crawl using both the legs and hands as toddlers and graduates to using our two legs as adults with the introduction of the ‘third’ leg (walking stick) at old age.
Travels as Nigerian Ambassador which further exposed Fuji to the outside world
He was widely traveled (locally, nationally and internationally). He was on standby and featured among his local communities entertaining his fans depending on the occasion ranging from house warming, wedding receptions, chieftaincy title takings, coronation ceremonies and others. In addition, he embarked on several international tours and got series of awards. With particular mentioning, US in 1979, UK, Scotland, France 1993, Germany, Amsterdam, Switzerland, US 1994 and Canada among others.
When Sikiru Ayinde Barrister was alive, he was both a star and god of Fuji music. When he died, he remained a star and, at the same time, he turned an ancestor in the pantheon of the all – time great musicians who had bestridden this world like colossi that they were. Alhaji Agba had the voice, the looks; he was commendably confident and he had gripping and ear – friendly sound.
Of course, today’s event and several others being organized in his honour within and outside Nigeria clearly evidenced his sojourn on earth and he’s qualified to borrow Julius Caeser’s ‘’Veni Vidi Vici”
(I came, I saw, I conquered) for Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister MFR.
Sikiru Ayinde Barrister represents today great numbers of our fallen heroes particularly in the creative world who left the shore of this world without deserved honour. Honour in the superlative sense!!! If not for the magnanimity of the organizers of this event and other ones, in about 10 – 20 years time, the generation born then might not be privy to know this talented and enigmatic personality.
Having being dully recognized nationally by the Federal Government of Nigeria while alive with the award of MFR, I call on our State Governors of Lagos and Oyo to assist in facilitating and constructing a gigantic “Destination Fuji” in honour of Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister MFR, having done you honour by projecting your culture and taken your names and placing such on global maps (Ayeye in Ibadan and Salawe in Lagos).
I strongly believe that such projects will generate revenues for the state and the entire FUMAN…A tourist destination as well.
Once again, I thank the organizers of this event for the invitation and everyone in here for the rapt attention.
**Professor Ojuade is a senior lecturer at the Performing Arts Department of the University of Ilorin, Kwara State.