The Yoruba people, South West, Nigeria have a saying that “when an elephant die, termite would consume it, when a buffalo die, termite would devour it, but when termite die … no one to eat it”. This aptly described the death and aftermath of that iconic musician, late Dr Sikiru Ayinde Balogun popularly known as Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister.
Barrister as a fuji musician was good, extremely good, but was plying his trade by the side while the duo of Alhajis Haruna Ishola and Ayinla Omowura were alive. He duly paid obeisance to them. He respected them and they in turn acknowledged his presence. The turning point would come with the unfortunate death of first Ayinla Omowura in 1980. Barrister practically rose from the demise of the Itoko-Abeokuta born Apala singer. He waxed a monumental evergreen record in his memory. The record is still hard to beat by anyone till today. He only cemented his imperial time with the passage of the other duoply, Haruna Ishola in 1982. With the demise of the two, and with the success of eulogies he sung for them, Barrister took over the should and the body of the Yoruba traditional music. He entrenched himself like a wild Octopus. His personality soared. He became larger than life.
This was the rule and the norm till he breathed his last in December 18, 2010. All attempts by his contemporaries to bring him down failed. Alhaji Kolawole Ilori, better known as Kollington Ayinla tried unsuccessfully to reduce his imposing influence and stature over the traditional music, but to no success. So also was his protégé, Alhaji Gbolahan Ishola Anifowoshe also better known as KWAM1.
Once the news of his demise hit the airwaves in the early hours of that day, December 16, 2010, I knew the entire landscape of Fuji music, even traditional music would change in Yorubaland. Dr. Sikiru Barrister was not just a fuji artist. He was a passionate musician. He brought fashion and panache to his shows. And besides that, others simply love to take a dig at him to spice their recorded songs. I told myself, lots would change. And lots did change.
The major controversy was never his ability or talent. No one doubt these. He had them in loads. But what the antagonists hanged on to was the nebulous history of the creation of that particular genre of traditional music. Barrister himself started singing from age 10 at Masewele, Mushin. He met people on ground. He was born on February 9, 1948. He met people on ground singing. So why would he now created a genre? They had queried.
Besides, the social landscape was full of night gales and song birds. Alao Aka was one. Abibu Oluwa was another. Olatunji Yussuf, Haruna Ishola and the enfant terrible, Ayinla Omowura! But Ayinde Barrister was distinct. His voice. His music. His style. His delivery of his music and style were different from the contemporary music of old.
When the man they loved to call Barry Wonder left the Nigerian Army in 1976 to focus on the development of his music career, all he wanted was food security and some fun. He never imagined was fate was to thrust into his laps. He became rich. He became famous. He was recognized. With over 160 chieftaincies titles across the length and breadth of the country, Barrister was truly recognized. He was said to have sired some 60 odd children from a bevy of women. What a man!.
But he died on December 16, 2010. Buried and forgotten. Barrister that rose from the grave of Ayinla Omowura, cementing his over lordship in the house of traditional music with the death of Haruna Ishola suffered poor recognition from his own world. No musician was able to make an ever green album in his honour. It is either a rehearsed of his old songs or an infantile attempt at singing an elegy. To further rile the intestines of fans, they started delving into an unexacting nebulous history of the genre. It is only Kollington Ayinla who can say a bunch on how fuji music came into being, considering the age-long friendship between him and the late Barry Wonder. This is totally outside the purview of a K1 or any other one. They met the music on ground and they tap into it. Ko ju be lo!!
But last December 16, 2020, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister was born anew. He was reborn in his Fuji Chambers, Isolo. There were no midwives, no care givers. Kollington Ayinla praying tearfully at the side of the final resting place of Sikiru Ayinde. K1 also came in prayed and declared ‘for all fuji musicians, this is our Meccah. Ayinde Sikiru is our Prophet Mohammed. This is our source. This is the source of fuji music’ Sikiru Ayinde is our pillar and we must hold him tight’. This drew tears from many people.
The tranquillity, the conviviality among the guests that day was indescribable. And now that all have now accept Sikiru Ayinde Barrister as the founder, creator, inventor of the fuji music, he can now properly be celebrated by his own. Welcome back the man who refuse to die… Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Agbaje Balogun MFR.
Afolayan Adebiyi, writes from Lagos, Nigeria
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