Late Sikiru Ayinde Barrister - feferity

Fans Re-Ignites The Unending Barrister-Kollington’s Feud, Over Creation of Fuji Music Genre

by Afolayan Adebiyi

Fuji music is now very popular and widely accepted in virtually all the social, cultural and political circles in Nigeria, and even abroad. From the very humble beginning of it being tagged a ‘local sound’, it is now the go-to music of the elites. In Yorubaland, political campaign grounds are not complete without the presence of a fuji artiste. Even, the Hip hop artists desperately seek collaboration with them to further enhance their acceptability.

Late Sikiru Ayinde Barrister - Feferity

Late Sikiru Ayinde Barrister

But like one of the top stars of the genre, Akande Abass Omorapala sang: “Egungun be careful, na express you dey go”, the genre is at risk of internal explosion due to the seemingly unending feud and indiscipline, not only among the artists but also among their supporters.

Fuji music genre, unlike juju, Apala, Sakara, do not have the cut-throat controversy over the authorship of their origin. These genres were met on the ground, and the artists sang them, further expanding them to the fullest before they all collapsed and the remnants were swallowed by the rampaging wildfire that was the fuji genre in the 80s. The emergence of this fuji genre was widely credited to the sole efforts of the late Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister (MFR). In short, one of the criteria that earned him the prestigious national honours by the Federal Government of President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007. It will be noted that he had earlier been shortlisted twice earlier for failing to meet the requirements.

But the bitter feud over who created the genre appeared not thawing, nor fading away. Not even with the death of the main proponent and the acclaimed creator, Ayinde Barrister and a few elderly figures in the genre, like the late Dauda Epo Akara, Ashanti Sholley and Iyanda Sawaba. By history and ranking, the next authority in the genre ought to be General Kollington Ayinla, to be followed by the Olori Ebi Akile of Ijebu Ode, Wasiu Ayinde Marshal. But fuji music is not a respecter of hierarchy or authority. Many of the practitioners are struggling youths rescued by label owners and music promoters who spotted their talents while singing in the streets. A scholar once stated that the ingenuity of Barrister has turned some children who would have become societal problems into responsible musicians, now winning and dining with the high and mighty in society.

Therefore when the news of the demise of the foremost Fuji Music genre exponent, Sikiru Ayinde was announced on the international media on 16 December 2010, not many believed the many controversies that dotted his almost five decades in public life would continue unabated. The man died and was buried on December 30 of the same year, but from the point of his death, till now, thirteen years after he existed on this Planet Earth, the controversies keep oscillating. While his fans have sentimentally and emotionally formed several groups, both online and offline, to keep his flag flying, his traducers, mostly from the supporters of his erstwhile banters’ mate in the industry, would not allow his Spirit to bath in the glory of several adulatory posthumous praises, awards and honours being given him.

And now the crux of the renewed tarts and darts in the House of Fuji music has to do with the ever-recurring question of who created the fuji music genre.

While Ayinla Kollington’s fans held that the genre has been in vogue since the early 50s, long before Barrister even started singing Were, that he claimed he turned into fuji, Barrister’s fans cried blue murder. To Kolington’s fans: “Fuji was a style of music being sung in the 50s by the elderly musicians who graduated from Were, seasonal music to different kinds of professional music genres such as Apala, Sakara and Awurebe. Of particular note were Alhaji Kasali Alani (Jolly Lawa) and Sakariyau Olayigbade who named their brand of music “Fuji Lawa”. Other notable musicians who also at one time sang Fuji in their various albums, they contended, included the late Apala maestros, Ayinla Omowura and Raji Owonikoko.

They also claimed that “fuji was also a slang or nickname usually given to socialites, partygoers, rich and big spenders in the olden days in Lagos Island. They refer to them as “Eni to mo fuji”. They refer to the duo of the late Ayinla Omowura and Raji Owonikoko as the other popular musicians in other genres that sometimes employed the slang when serenading their rich fans who lavish them with money, thus, so you hear the lines (fuji) often in their albums and life plays”. They recalled that the late Monsuru Akande was the first to release a record album among all the Fuji musicians (1966) followed by Sikiru Ayinde (1966) and then Kollington Ayinla (1971). All these records were in Ajisari/Were classification.

One Alhaji Adekunle Mallami claimed that “Sikiru Ayinde proceeded to release his first Fuji record (Vol. 5) in 1974 after the said re-birth of the fuji music genre. (Please note that Sikiru Ayinde’s previous records from Vol.1 in 1966 to his Vol. 4 released in 1973 were all a mixture of Were/Ajisari and Sakara Music genres).  Kollington Ayinla too released his first Fuji record same year 1974, a chart-buster album called “Omo Onipako” while still in the military. The record was an instant success that earned him recognition in the music industry”.  The two friends retired from the military (Sikiru Ayinde 1976 and Kollington Ayinla 1977) and were fully back into full-time professional music, nurturing, promoting and modernising the genre both had earlier re-birthed through churning out chart-bursting albums and live/stage plays all over the country and later overseas to make Fuji music become what is known worldwide today.

In 1978, Kollington Ayinla reorganised and renamed his band "Alhaji Kollington Ayinla and his Fuji 78 Organization". The purpose was to modernise and reposition the hitherto ''Local Sound'' that Fuji music was known to be. He did this by introducing Omele, Bata, Jazz drums set, Piano and even Bembe to the sound of Fuji Music. They claimed that this step caught the attention of the fans and record buyers and hence, the acceptance of his new fast tempo by the general public, which expectedly, other Fuji musicians saw the innovation as worthwhile and they quickly copied and picked from this to enrich their brands too.

According to him “this singular effort, good thinking and innovation of Kollington Ayinla became the life-line that sustains Fuji Music till today as it expanded Fuji music scopes by allowing people from other tribes and religions to embrace it and further accept it and see its as music for all”. All these claims were contradictory and became watery when juxtaposed with what the late Sikiru Ayinde stated in a video interview before his demise. He had stated that he started the genre and to have good company, he encouraged his bosom friend, Ayinla Kollington to join him. A claim Ayinla himself corroborated in an interview with Otunba Muhili Odunola the producer of the Oludasile Fuji program.

While the late Seriki Nwaka of Kano, Ayinde Barrister hysterically held to the claim that he alone, through the inspiration of Almighty Allah, created the genre out of the existing genres of music at the time, his close confidant,  Ayinla Kollington also vehemently disagreed. He was later to confess to the Producer of Oludasile of Fuji Music, Otunba Muhili Odunola during an on-air interview programme that his friend, Ayinde Barrister, actually was the sole creator of the genre. Alhaji Kollington even went on to confess that Sikiru came to his base at the Abeokuta Military Barracks to persuade him to start singing. He did not however yield to this until later in 1977, when he too was discharged from the Army to start his Bata Fuji 78 Organisation.

Another strident voice of disagreement with Ayinde Barrister’s claim, surprisingly was one of Ayinde Sikiru’s protégé, Alhaji Wasiu Ayinde, now the Olori Omo Oba Akile Ijebu (KWAM1). He posited that Fuji had been in the Isale Eko area long before his boss, Barrister started singing. Then, he claimed it was called ‘fuji’. This claim quickly disappeared when several others railed against him. He has since withdrawn the claim. Presently, not less than five books have been authored by different individuals. They all are pro-Ayinde Barrister’s claim of being the originator of the genre. His Public Relations Officer, Chief Dayo Odeyemi authored two books, all expectedly detailing the late Ibadan-born singer’s life and times and his music. Also, a lady, Haji Farida Dikko whose efforts, The Philosophy of Ayinde Barrister was a deep analysis of his music and messages, and also a journalist, Mr Tunde Busari whose efforts, My Journey with Barry Wonder is a compendium of his vinyl records and music.

Then above all, there is one Dr. Aderinto, a scholar from the United States who is currently putting together the life and times of the legendary musician in a celluloid.

Perhaps, Mr Tunde Busari was disturbed that there is nothing about the exponent of the dance-all brand of fuji music, Ayinla Kollington and he decided to prompt his supporters to rise while the man is still fortunate to be alive, unlike his friend, Sikiru Ayinde, and do something to record his roles, his participation in the making of the genre. This was the point where all hell was let loose and all healed wounds reopened.

Busari, an Editor has counselled the Alhaji Ayinla Kollington’s fans “should kindly, as a matter of duty, go now and dig out more facts about his exploits and place your findings before him for necessary verification. A comprehensive profile is an indispensable criterion required to put forward to the National Honours Committee – for instance. I am not in doubt that he will be excited to note that he is surrounded by more Alhaji Adekunle Mallamis who are passionate about propagating his contributions to our indigenous music, not only fuji, leading to a possible recommendation to the national honours committee. Here with yours sincerely – on the left side of your screen – is a figure that is valuable to your data collection. He wasn’t an infant in the 80s. His memory can, thus, dispense some major events between Kollington and his father. Being the heir apparent who also served as the equivalent of personal assistant, he’s always at home when his father was joyfully hosting Kollington in the living room of his gargantuan three-storey building.

According to a die-hard Ayinde Barrister fan, SAO Olaribigbe, “the legendary Ayinde Barrister lived and breathed music. The man who found singing more convenient than talking. He spent his early life experimenting with different types of music, he later used the exploration to originate a genre of music known as Fuji today. Olaribigbe claimed that “thirteen years after his death millions are still craving for his songs. Even though Ayinde died at the age of 62, his death was classified as a music talent gone too soon. His songs remain evergreen from generation to generation”.

He joined the Nigerian Army in August 1968 during the Nigerian Civil War; a move greatly influenced by his friends Ayinla Kollington and Mojidi Mayabikan who were already in the military. He was immediately sent to the war front and retired in 1976 as a sergeant to focus fully on music after immense pressure from some eminent personalities including the late Osolo of Isolo, Oba Farounbi, late Oba Buari Oloto, and Chief Ebenezer Obey. Even whilst in the military, Barrister never put his music interest on hold as he continued to release outstanding songs to top up his first album which was released in 1966. It was the time when great artists such as Alhaji Haruna Ishola, Yusufu Olatunji, Tunde Nightingale, Ayinde Bakare, I K Dairo, and later Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey and many more were still actively playing music. The intimidating presence of these great senior and geriatric artists did not deter his ambition of taking up music as a career. He was busy working on how he could also make an impact in the highly competitive music industry.

The restlessness brought about by the constant demand for his service later took its toll and he became ill. But he was determined not to let his fans down and continued to play music regardless. In his last album, he seemed to have struggled in the studio and one could have predicted the end was near. He later performed for an Ibadan-based radio broadcaster and that would be his last performance in Nigeria. Despite his humble background, Barrister went on to become one of the greatest musicians that ever came from Nigeria with many honours and many Chieftaincy titles. He bagged an honorary Doctorate from City University Los Angeles in 1986 and also became an honorary citizen of Rhodes Island.

Nigerian Millennium publication 1999/2000 Ayinde Barrister was named as one of the 100 most influential Nigerians that ever lived. In recognition of his contribution to music, the Nigerian government conferred on him the national honour of MFR in 2006. Friends and fans of Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister have been most vehement and focal about their claims. To them nothing can change the fact that the Isolo, Lagos based fuji Lord, Ayinde Barrister,  single-handedly created the genre.

One of his ardent supporters, Alhaji Olaribigbe wrote: “God loves the Nigerian entertainment industry so much that He sent Sikiru Ayinde Barrister to bring the message of Fuji Music to the world. God created Fuji Music through Ayinde Barrister, He didn’t stop there, He made Barrister the first Fuji Musician to become a Millionaire, the first to build a house, buy a car, go to Hajj, take the Music to Europe and America, to get a chieftaincy title, to get honorary doctorate among other firsts…”

He continued: “One of his firsts was to take Fuji Music to the United States of America. Although, Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister had started going to America in the late 70s and early 80s that was only on tourism. In 1986, he took his entire band to the US on a musical tour which marked a turning point in the history of traditional music especially those that are affiliated with Were Music like Fuji, Awurebe, Apala etc. It was unprecedented!” The success story of the Ayinde Barrister’s US tour was spurred by his friend, Alhaji Kollington Ayinla, who also headed to the US with his band boys on a Music tour the following year. While both legendary musicians banter to no end, selling records massively and smiling to their banks, their supporters kept flaring the bitter feud and fighting on the streets among themselves.

But many of the Ayinla Kollington’s fans never took all these admonitions kindly. They generally perceived it as an insult to the person of Kollington himself. All hell was let loose, almost hysterically similar to the 1980s fire-spitting era. One of the fans, Karmal Ibrahim angrily responded to the Ibadan-based journalist. He lamented: “Unfortunately, since his friend, rival and professional colleague passed away. Kolawole Ayinla has continuously paid tributes to Sikiru Ayinde his Bossom friend believing in the adage that says ‘eni se oju ose’. He attended so many occasions eulogizing and praying for his friend”.

He continued “But to the surprise of many observers, groups that were created to promote Barry’s legacies and music have recently felt part of Barrister’s legacies is to attack Kollington Ayinla and his fans. The GKA fans noticed these attitudes and comments but ignored them but funny enough they see it as an act of cowardice or lack of adequate reply”. He moved directly to Mr Busari’s piece, alleging “very recently, a busybody came out with a write up claiming it was a piece of advice for Kollington and his fans. It was an outright insult to GKA and fans, very unsolicited and unwarranted advice but we took it in humbly because if you filter well you can bring out sense from even a madman attitude or message”.

He sent an appeal to all Sikiru Ayinde's supporter's group especially “The Oludasile Fuji Fans” to desist from their abusive comments and posts”. He maintained that “many fans of Kollington’s fans have been willing to reply but some of us have seen it not good or appropriate at this stage of things. There is no need to engage in verbal or any other assault but most importantly let each group and individuals mind their business and conduct themselves with maturity and decorum”.

Mr. Busari, whose innocuous advice stepped on the cobra’s tail had to take the lead in trying to douse the flame. He immediately penned another piece of advice, directly to the fans of the Alagbado, Lagos-based fuji legend,

“Dear Kollington fans”, he started. “We need to accept the pluralism of humanity to understand why one’s choice is rejected by another. In other words, human preferences are diverse, and this natural law shouldn’t be a headache for anybody. Even a set of twins – who share one womb for at least nine months – will grow up to differ and follow different paths. “Therefore, nobody has a right to deny you of both your love and–maybe–fanaticism for your choice musician.

General Kollington Ayinla - Feferity

General Kollington Ayinla

“Alhaji Ayinla Kollington is enjoying the grace of God today being alive to see his community of fans on social media and elsewhere expressing their passion for his music. “Alhaji Ayinde Barrister has no such grace to see what his fans – 90 per cent of whom he never met – are doing for him almost 13 years after his demise. “Against this background, you should explore the opportunity you have by showing love to your music idol beyond mimicking his lyrics on Facebook, watching the lips of Barrister fans and turning them into enemies. Over what? “While Kollington is alive, form an organised group and properly document his career from Apapa Road in Ebute-Metta through Abeokuta to this morning. Let him talk and talk and say his side of his own story before his story is stolen and told against him. Curiously, he seems to be slow and gradually losing some stuff now, and this is dangerous. He also appears not disposed to listening to some of his old records. Another danger.

“I want you to wake up to this challenge and put him in the right context so that you won’t have a cause to gnash your teeth in the future. Despite five books on Barrister currently on the shelf, a US-based Professor is almost done with a  documentary. “About 20 minutes ago, I watched Kollington’s interview aired by an online television outfit and picked a piece of fresh information, particularly his reference to Barrister as being older, wiser and more intelligent. “It is unfair for anyone to limit me – a reporter – to a Barrister who never knew I was existing anywhere during his lifetime, except my accidental handshake with him in December 2001 at a night party. Would he have recognised me after that cameo? No!  For the record, I dedicate Chapter 14 of my book – My Journey With Barry Wonder – to Kollington because he deserves that space.

“Again, you have the best of opportunity now, grab it before it slips off you, for Kollington will not like to live here forever; he will leave here one day but may he live longer. Thank you!” Mr. Busari rounds off. But while Mr. Busari was conciliatory, the Oludasile fuji was not. He pointedly challenged the Kollington Ayinla’s fans whom he derisively called “SHAKABULA FANS of Baba GKA” to produce just one video or evidence of where your mentor is blowing ordinary “boys scout whistle” talk less of playing keyboards and yet they will be claiming he was the one that introduced Jass, Piano, xylophone, trumpet, keyboard, mouth organ blablabla to the almighty fuji”

He vowed to destroy anyone who challenged the authority of the Barrister further with facts and hard evidence. “We shall destroy you people with much evidence from the archives unless you repent from all this madness”, he boasted. He went on to queried them “Where were they when he (Ayinde Barrister) was experimenting and working hard to create the fuji music genre they are all reaping from and enjoying today?

Mr Popoola Wasiu Bamidele of the Ayinde Barrister Legacy Group held that “It is no longer news that a man who changed the trend of entertainment in Nigeria died about 13 years ago. According to him, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister was a man who rose from a humble beginning to create a musical genre called Fuji, defined it as a fusion of local music consisting of Sakara, Apala, Juju,  Dundun, highlife and the rest. He didn’t only define but demonstrated and nurtured the brand to be acceptable both locally and internationally. Many of his seniors in the industry underrated him at the beginning but he was quite focused,  keeping his eyes and the ball while nurturing his genre.

Fortunately, his brand of music, Fuji, was embraced by the people and successfully displaced the other genres to the backspace while retiring a few others.

He noted that Ayinde Barrister was the first musician in the annal of Nigerian history whose trade changed the lives of most vulnerable youngsters who are mostly into vices but get transformed into local and international musicians.


Images: Courtesy Google.

Alagba Afolayan writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

© Feferity Media Group

London, UK 2023

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