My final dose and total conversion to Fuji came from my cousin Ariyo who was staying at Laula Ibrahim street Akoka/Bariga.
Though we are presently not on speaking terms, might take ten years for family to settle this matter but….
The first time I got to taste Fuji music was when popsy brought home Kollington’s American Yankee 1987 album, prior to that my real Dad had volumes of Barrister, Kollington and all the assorted Apala greats of the time however since I wasn’t raised by him I only knew those records in passing.
We moved to bariga in December 87, Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey had us on lock, Barry Wonders at 40 took over and Fuji garbage carried us into 89. It wasn’t until Shina Peters burst out Afro juju did we realise what was about to happen. The groove, gyration, energy sent everyone back to the work bench.
Kollington had released Ijo Yoyo but Ropopo came as a response to the demand in town. It was back to back hits. Juju acts and Fuji acts were having a field day. Dayo Kujore with Soko, Dele Taiwo, Ayuba with Mr Johnson, Salawa with Gentle Lady etc Our ears were filled and our feet shuffled same mad jams from party to party. I won best dancer at my little cousin’s party in Makoko, which got my aunt Taiye of blessed memory wondering if I was really in school in Ijebu studying or parading party dens, unfortunately Baba Adebiyi my Guardian was Baba Ijo of St Thomas African Church Ijebu Igbo and any behaviour beyond my name ‘Emmanuel’ was not tolerated. He used to sing that beautiful hymn to make me feel like his biological son “Oruko wo l’odun t’oyi, Emma-nu-el”.
By 1991 Kollington gave us Megastar, then kasabubu, Sunny Ade gave us Good Shepherd, to wrap up 89, Obey had dished out Immortality in 87 to celebrate the late Obafemi Awolowo and gently left the Afro groove to those who had the energy, his follow up effort ‘Patience’ was more or less a sign off (Suru la fi nse Oko Obirin video featured Ajirebi ‘Pa James’ as the mischievous home breaker. Watch out for Ajirebi as he plays my father in the movie ‘Ajala Travels’ available on Splufikworld on YouTube from January 1st 2022).
Meanwhile underground, Obesere was in the trenches building up a radical unexpected onslaught for the Fuji market. King Wasiu Ayinde had been having a steady and consistent ride since his major breakout with Talazo Fuji in 84, Adewale Ayuba had brought a gentleman angle with Bubble in 92. Wasiu Ayinde blew up everywhere with consolidation in 94.
In fact 94 was the turn over year of ethnic music. Shina Peters, Salawa Abeni, Orlando Owoh all released same titled album ‘Experience’ and each record was a ground breaking hit.
Then Abass Akande Obesere pushed aside every new comer like himself (Sunny T Adesokan etc) and dazed us with Tosibe chronicles, it was raunchy, naughty, crafty, intentional and delightful. We grovelled over the groove and the mysticism and audacity of such vulgarity because prior to that everything was on code.
I had heard Lekan Ekundayo from my class talk about this new coming Jherry curl crazy leg dancing Fuji act who called himself African Fuji Michael Jackson about to burst out, I had also heard Sanmi Dairo in my school hostel in Molusi college singing some alphabetical lyrics from an unknown Fuji act. I didn’t pay much attention but I took notes because Sanmi like Yisa Lasisi were mushin dawgs and had all the updates from the hood and the streets. Sanmi would later become a band member with Yinka Ayefele before relocating to the UK to create his own band. He is doing well.
So, we woke up one day in 95 and heard a twist to the Shabba Ranks ‘Ting A Ling A Ling’ in a Fuji way and boom Pasuma was everywhere with Orobokibo, even the album art was same as the posture Shabba Ranks did. Who the hell is this guy, how did he come from playing with Alphabets to sexual sensation in such a gruffy but soulful voice reminiscent of the radical Ayinla Omowura who was actually the man behind the transition of Apala to modern Fuji?.
Pasuma and Obesere took over the scene. They grabbed it. Lagbaja’s sax version of Wasiu Ayinde ‘Baby mi show colour e’ kept him with us because the Legacy album of 95 featuring Blaccky didn’t compliment the 94 effort.
I was at a beach gig in 96 working behind the scenes, where Showkey, Blackky, Yomi Peters, Junior of Junior and Pretty was MC, and Obesere were major acts. Blackky was performing when Omo Rapala came into the beach all dressed in a green emerald Italian suit with shoes and jewelry that matched in tone and finesse. It was a shut down. He was indeed the king of the streets albeit he had dedicated a part of his album to all the Local commercial Danfo drivers to which he was also an investor, same as Showkey.(‘Danfo o si e re’ was a street anthem) That was the day I saw the power of Fuji. Nigga shut down the entire Lekki beach Axis. He commanded and commandered the whole Arena. I was in awe.
The hopes of Apala lost and age catching up with the Fuji greats was rekindled. He took off from the Kollington drive of slanging, groovy, trendy and scintillating vibes.
Obesere then took off to Yankee to rest, recorded a double album and scattered everywhere again in 96 with OBTK…Omo, this is genius on another level, forget the obnoxious lyrics, how is he doing this?.
My neighbour Bro Nuru, at 22 Olokodana street, off Temple bustop in bariga blasted the album till I knew every word. Pasuma was relentless, back to back. Then he did magic by fusing Hiphop with Fuji on the African puff Daddy album by featuring Eedris Abdulkareem. Men, so much was happening with this Fuji thing.
So one night in 96 I decided to be a cat and I took my curiosity to the back of the Bariga main market where the street urchins and rough heads hibernated at night to carry out some kurukere activities with the Sisi Alagbo’s. It was a huge risk to walk those paths at the time without getting mugged but I knew the streets and respected it with a manner of approach. Never cross that part of town like a made man. Move like you are ‘one of them’.
I arrived the Fuji jump and observed from a safe distance to avoid inhaling the congent exhaust of weed, afterall, I am not Ras kimono who doesn’t smoke weed but loves the Aroma. With some skeletal music band arrangement of one guy drumming on omele, another on a gong and some by the way items to create sound, I saw a skinny guy in the middle of the small circle doling out thick Fuji vibes in a barritone voice like a ram crying out to his gang. It was raw yet warm. It was rich, welcoming and reassuring to the listeners, he was giving them hope with the lyrics. Hailing, cajoling, soothing and positioning them for the next days hustle. I moved closer to find out more and heard his name was Taye Currency.
Ismaila Abimbola, my bunkie and bestie for a season in Molusi had sang the gospel of Rasheed Fuji Merenge to my ears whilst swishing his handkerchief and mopping his beardless face, I enjoyed it but Ibadan was too far from Gidi for me to be a serious fan.
So whilst in Unilag struggling through a tough time because my mum was the only one carrying the burden and the load was heavy I would reach out to my cousin in his shanty room. Ariyo was a struggling mechanic in a tiny but comfortable cubicle he managed near his father’s room and parlour. There I would be treated like royalty to drinks, snacks and Fuji music. It was loud and raucous. It felt uncomfortable from my Nat King Cole and Nana Mouskouri background but my needs at the time made me endure, then gradually like a toad set in a pot of cold water and fire set to the stove I started to enjoy and know the difference between Muri Thunder, Saeed Osupa, Sefiu Alao, Remi Aluko, Sule Alao Malaika, Atawewe etc.
Then one day on campus I saw Tee.A doing a joke and trying to mimic Pasuma and Teju Babyface likewise singing the Pasuma ‘Introduction’ album lyrics comfortably, that was when I finally felt at home, afterall my birth certificate reads Sulemono Ayinde.
My eyes opened and I started to notice the corner piece at Adekunle junction just before you turn into Third mainland bridge where the Fuji boys played their jump.
Then in the course of my duty and hustling as a neighbourhood Tape Jockey in Jakande Estate Lekki (At the time my pop ‘Daddy Nepa’ invested in renting out speakers and decks for parties, so I went with the equipment and played to earn some change) Obesere came back again with ‘Overthrow’ in 2001. God!, How?
At that time I had just introduced Sweet Experience by Yinka Ayefele to Teju in my Eni Njoku hostel room along with some Eminem and DMX “Y’all gonn make me loose my mind”, it sounded reminiscent of Ebenezer Obey and we were all just settling in and out of nowhere this dude that had hibernated came to scatter everywhere again, and drop the liner ‘Egungun be careful’ some years later and that slang would resurface about 20 years later as a social media trend gimmick. How?
Immediately I insert ‘Ilu l’epo mi’ at any party in Jakande everyone left what they were doing for the first few minutes of that groove, Muslim, Christian, Traditional, Atheist, Unbeliever, Passer-by, Onlooker, Mo gbo mo ya….everyyyyy one.
The music didn’t know tribe or ethnic colouration. It simply brought joy to rich and poor. Maybe not so much the elites who at the time decided to stick to Oko Faaji by Wasiu Ayinde Marshall, K.1 The Ultimate.
Then Ariyo’s elder brother had a party at Ajiran (It had not developed to the commercial residential it is now) and a Fuji act I couldn’t remember but information reaching says it was Kolotiti, came to play.( He also played at the final burial party for my Grandmother Alhaja Bintu Rosula Raimi, who passed at 105, but her younger sister rebutted the age we put on the Obituary claiming her sister was way older because she was at the time more than 107). Then the murravhuking with the sticks started playing the drums and giving rim shots like Obesere did on ‘Omorapala ti gba ijoba’. The ‘Pa_pa’ sound drew my attention so much that all I did was immerse myself in the skills of the drummer all night. I don’t remember eating or knowing what we went to celebrate. I was Fuji gone. Juju music please forgive me. Maybe in another life.
Jamiu lefty Jnr was my dad’s upstairs neighbour and friend in Jakande so his Apala was welcome in our decks but he also lost me that night. Musiliu Haruna Ishola would later bring me back with ‘Opon Apala ti sun’ on the Soyoyo album of 2001 but it was because I had known him as a Fuji artiste in 94 in ijebu Igbo when he came to play at the famous ‘station’ multipurpose park.
Fuji finally found its way into pop culture through a lot of the youngings on the block from Small Doctor to Q.Dot to CDQ, ever heard of Bella Shmurda?
In fact let me call Ariyo, I forgive him…
To enjoy some of my ethnic Medley renditions check out Ayinde Okin: Muludun Medley 1,2,3 volume 4 side B will be dedicated to Fuji music
NB : Apologies for any error in dates.