Estimated reading time: 20 minute(s)
By Abass Oyeyemi
Beautiful Nubia said, “At the beginning it was the music of the Muslims. And then when the younger guys came in and started adding innovations, they were not singing about Islam anymore. And then it changed and became a bit faster, at some point, it earned fans from across the country. But it also used also be the music of the poor. The more elitist Yorubas would listen to foreign music or juju music or highlife. And the poor people listened to fuji. But now I think it’s gone beyond that. It cuts across all classes. It’s still not the music of the elites. They might say, ‘Sometimes I listen to that stuff, yeah.’ But it is still more the music of the ghetto.”
Towards the end of the colonial era and early post independence days, ‘were’ was a prevalent music in Yoruba kingdoms created and it is generally-believed to have been created by Yoruba males who dedicated the music to the Ramadan fast of muslims. Were was basically sung to wake muslims up for saari. Were can loosely be translated to wake up on time.
Yoruba kings later adopted were and made it a yearly competition organized to mark the celebration of the end of the month long fasting. The whole town attended the competition, judges would pick winners and trophies were given out on behalf of the king.
Thus, it’s correct that fuji has its roots from ajisari/were Hence, Fuji is largely characterized by its driving percussion: gangan (talking drum), sakara, omele, iya ilu, gudu gudu, dundun, shekere and Yoruba praise poetry known as oriki and its Islamic vocal styled which was gotten from its source, were. It was this oriki ewi and were roots that made socio-political issues, morality, historical events the major subject of fuji music.
The wealthiest people on earth have the stories of their breakthrough compiled in a book named Forbes, for us to speak about the turning point of Fuji, we must discuss Mr. Fuji himself, Sikiru Ayinde Ololade Barrister. He started off as a conductor between Idi-Oro and Ajegunle as recorded in his evergreen song, ‘Reality’. He would later become a motor boy at Nigerian Breweries and then, had a short stint at the Nigerian Military. There have been arguments from different quarters on who began Fuji. Sikiru Omo Abiba, Ayinde Muniru Mayegun, Ajadi Bashiru and Jibowu Barrister have all been said to have played Fuji before Sikiru Ayinde Barrister. But we must note that some old fuji musicians like Isiaka Iyanda Sawaba talked about how they had to quit were just to sing fuji, which suppose that Fuji was an emerging style different from Were.
The essence of this discussion is the decision Sikiru Ayinde made to quit the military to pursue a career in music. We might choose to agree or disagree whether barrister created the fuji genre but one thing that must be admitted is that before fuji became this big; Fuji is a style in the were genre.
It took the efforts of Sikiru Ayinde Barrister to name it Fuji after returning from Japan where he saw the poster of Mount Fuji. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister nurtured Fuji and made it a strong genre of music. After the decline of highlife, it was expected that Juju music would take over the social space. It did, with King Sunny Ade, but immediately Juju went to its highest high in 1980s, it came down. By what? Your guess might be same as mine. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister released Fuji Garbage which saw to the immediate decline of Juju Music. As Sir Shina Peters rightly point out, “That was the time the fuji people,Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister came with “Fuji Garbage.” And nobody wants to listen to juju music again. And I said to myself, “Continue this way with juju music, we die.” He also added that he focused on the percussion barrister introduced to fuji to produce his hit, “Ace”. That was the sort of influence Barrister had on Fuji and Nigerian Music in general.
For Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, Fuji was a tool for moral teachings and historical guidance; you hardly listen to him and not learn new things, religion propagation, family affairs, political and social commentaries, and protest warnings. This, coupled with long term rivalry he had with his friend, Ayinla Kollington who also resigned from military to focus on his fuji career, were one of the things that kept Fuji at the top.
The emergence of Barrister’s protégé, King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal formerly known as Prince Wasiu Ayinde Barrister, signaled a new direction for Fuji. He’s reputed to be the one that brought in the classical flavor to Fuji in the 1980s as having a keyboardist, saxophonist and/or electric and pedal steel guitarist in your fuji band became an essential. When Beautiful Nubia talked about the younger guys coming to change fuji, he was essentially talking about K1 as K1 made the music more acceptable to all classes in the society, unlike when it was formerly considered to be the music of the poor and old. K1 made fuji acceptable to the newer generation and elites. Before then, students see Fuji as an inferior music that should not be listened to in public. But presently, you can be in the coffers of your room and pump the volume of your speaker high for everyone to listen to Fuji. You can also walk into the biggest club in town and find them listening to Fuji. Coupled with a savvy PR management team and a rich network, K1 branded Fuji.
The consistency of Fuji can be credited to him or else fuji would have gone for a classical music genre like Highlife or Juju.
To complete the trio who made the music named after the mountain of love in Japan flourish, one will need to mention King Saheed Osupa. The one who was crowned King of music by Mr. Fuji himself, can be said to be the most lyrically gifted Fuji artiste. As Adewale Ayuba rightly said, “Saheed Osupa is like a bird, he knows a lot of things”. His lyrics are wisdom filled with depth and complexity in cultural heritages.In discussing Saheed Osupa, one is drawn to linguistic depth, his spontaneity and love for culture. He uses his music to promote the Yoruba cultural heritages as exemplified in Civilization and most of his works. For everything you call his flaw, he uses his native wisdom to strengthen it. His immense contribution to Fuji has motivated the learning of Yoruba culture among youths. To understand Saheed Osupa is to have a resounding grasp of metaphor, imagery, alliteration, assonance, paradox, euphemism. We have Adewale Ayuba who brought Fuji music to the steps of university students with his bonzue music, most particularly with his Ijo Fuji record that has remain evergreen in the corridors of tertiary institutions. Wasiu Alabi Pasuma, Obesere should also be acknowledged for their outstanding contributions to fuji music too. It can be argued that unlike the predecessors of Fuji, Fuji has lived to be an undying musical genre that keeps evolving to fit the reality and satisfaction of the present time.
Fuji might have registered itself as the only undying and evergreen indigenous musical genre that came out of Africa, particularly the South Western part. Little wonder, a fuji track recorded by Obesere about two decades ago, ‘Egungun be careful’, recently became the golden choice of musical lovers, not entirely because of a thirst for vintage music, but the relativity of the lyrics with the present-day reality. Going further, it might not also be wrong to acknowledge that aside Afrobeat which was originated by the music maestro – Fela, Fuji is yet the only indigenous music genre in Nigeria that is capable of uniting everyone across tribe, religion and class, just as Afrobeat thus. The concern that Fuji might not live more than its predecessors is quashed, hence, the golden question for Fuji lovers is now; Will Fuji survive the present period as the influx of alternative musical genres begin to increase?
Abass Oyeyemi is a Law Undergraduate of Obafemi Awolowo University and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org