Felicitations: My March-April People (1) 

Felicitations: My March-April People (1) 

Femi Akintunde-Johnson

It is always heartwarming, the revolving door of another day arriving to commemorate one’s birth – well, for many people, I should underline. March and April, like other months, threw up a generous dose of special talents and outstanding creatives who added one more year, and to whom we dedicate the following words and column. May their tribe continue to flourish abundantly, and nourish their environment generously.

  EBENEZER OBEY-FABIYI (81 on 3 April)

It took his parents a few years to notice traces of musical robustness in him after his birth 80 years ago (today). Ebenezer Olasupo Fabiyi however, had to wait 16 years to start what has turned out to be a most illustrious career.

  He toiled with the “rave-of-the-moment” Lagos bands of Ade Ade, Akibo Salvage and Fatai Rolling Dollars between 1958 and 1963.

Right after leaving Rolling Dollars and founding his own International Brothers Band, Obey released a delightful debut, Ewa Wo Ohun Oju Ri.

From a repertoire in excess of 200 original compositions, Nigerians of the 20th and 21st centuries have been titillated by the sonorous philosophy and lingering didacticism of this Idogo, Ogun State born maestro. A classic checklist: Board Members, Ketekete, Happy Birthday To You, Awọn Ika Eniyan, Laiṣe Lairo, Iwọ eni To Nsebi, Abanij Eniyan, Eniyan Lásán, Orí Mí Koni Burú, Ọta Mi Dehin Lehìn Mi, Eda To Mose Okunkun, Olomi Gbọ Temi, Eni Ri Nkan He, Gbebe Mi Oluwa, Ajo Ko Dabi Ile, Edumare Sọrọ Mi Dayọ, Iba F’Oluwa, Aimasiko Lon’ Damu eda, e Sa Ma Miliki, Baba Lo Ran Mi Wa, and so on.  Today, with massive admiration for an uncommon living legend, in the art and craft of knitting words, faith and fun in a musical contraption that keeps people of all tongues, tribes, creeds and strata on their feet, gyrating to the power and pungency of the invisible force of Juju music… we wish the ageless creative Commander, and iconic  lamp holder of edifying minstrelsy… a benevolent and peaceful 81st year on this side of the universe. 

KOLA OYEWO, PhD (27 March, 1946)

His mantra is consistent: he teaches what he loves, and he practises what he teaches – the symmetry is crystal clear in the dexterity of his performances. Flushed with dreams and hope, a teenager joined the Osogbo-based Oyin Adejobi theatre group in 1964, and later featured as young Adejare in Adejobi’s autobio-drama, Orogun Adedigba. 

He subsequently joined the University of Ife theatre group, directed by Ola Rotimi, the Ori-Olokun Players – in 1973. Fifty six years after he set foot on stage, Kolawole Oyewo has created a legacy, especially on stage, academia and Yoruba theatre, that time and age cannot diminish. 

  In 1995, at the age of 49, he graduated with first degree in Dramatic Arts from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ìfé, shoulder to shoulder in the same class with his son, Adeyemi. They were in the same class.  That was the same year Koseegbe (which won the most awards at the inaugural THEMA) was released. With earlier certificates in drama and oral literature, Oyewo joined the teaching staff of OAU in 1996 – and worked for 15 years, when he left as a senior lecturer in 2011. During that period, he worked hard to obtain a Masters and a doctorate (PhD) in drama, the joy of his professional life. He was also at the Redeemers’ University for five years, where he left as the Head of Drama Department.

 However, academia never stopped him from attending locations, and adding his talents at the practical furnace of dramaturgy. His older credits include: Òrun Moru (1980), Chief Adeleke in Ose Sango (1991), Sàngó: The Legendary African King (1998), Oba Lapite in Saworoide (Brass Bells – 1999), Arewà, Ògédé Didùn (both 2003); Erin Lakatabu (2004), Efunsetan Aniwura, Ladepo Omo Adanwo, Nkan Asiri, Omo Bishop, Sawo-Sogbèrì (all 2005); Atini O’go, Ija Okan, Iyawo Aremo, Odun Nbaku (all 2006); Òyelàgbàáwò, Aya Imule, Igi Owo, Itu, Kilebi Olorun?, Kootu Olorun, Oya Oriri (all 2007); Asoko Peye, Femi Oko Mummy, Nkan Adun, and Oromodie (all 2008). And so forth….      

PETE EDOCHIE, MON (07 March, 1947)

The undisputed king of “Kingly” characters, the ebullient actor with the aristocratic carriage is a darling of any serious television, video, film or stage director.  

  He is immensely gifted, and a towering source of inspiration for generations of practitioners. Born in the former Eastern Nigerian city of Enugu on 7 March, 1947, Pete blasted into national consciousness with his late 1980s performance as Okonkwo, the hugely popular lead character in Chinua Achebe’s classic, Things Fall Apart (as adapted and produced by Adelia Onyedibia for NTA Network service in 1986/1987).   A seasoned broadcaster and senior administrator – Pete left it all to pursue his acting dream… and the father of six has surely emblazoned his name and craft on the fabric of Nigerian Entertainment – forever. 

His credits are humongous, beyond 500! But here’s a shortlist: Things Fall Apart (1987); Rituals (1997), Igodo, Narrow Escape, Living in Darkness (all 1999); Greedy Genius, Oduduwa (both 2000), Battle Line (2002), Billionaire Club, Love & Politics, Miserable Wealth, Rejected Son, Tears in the Sun, Tunnel of Love (all 2003); Dogs Meeting, Dons in Abuja, The Heart of Man, King of the Jungle, Negative Influence, The Staff of Odo (all 2004); Azima, Living in Tears, Ola… the Morning Sun, Price of Ignorance, Sacred Tradition, The Tyrant (all 2005); Lacrima, Living with Death, Passage of Kings, Zoza (all 2006); Greatest Harvest, Secret Pain (both 2007); Heavy Battle, Test Your Heart (both 2008), Idemili (2013/2014), Evil Men In Town (with Olu Jacobs), Lionheart (2018), and Unroyal (2020).

WASIU AYINDE (3 March 1957)

This 66 year old man has come a long way – from a roadie in Barrister’s band to the self-proclaimed King of Fuji; to a now undisputed kingpin in the sprawling forest of the music that has spiralled across the globe as authentic Nigerian creation – Wasiu Gbolahan Ayinde Anifowoshe (alias King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall, aka KWAM 1, aka K1 De Ultimate, etc) has danced into the hall of fame.

The first knock came in 1984 with Talazo Fuji. The consistently innovative singer has transformed the rustic elements of Fuji, infusing remarkable percussion and melodies of more crossover music, even when we thought it was just a fad.

 Now, the toddler of Talazo has transmogrified into the creator and proponent of techno-Fuji and a deliberately elitist fusion of Juju and Fuji music with the pace and carefreeness of hip-hop. Incidentally, he is a perennial hit with his self-evolving and fast-growing fans and habitués. He has now acquired the incredible taste that belches alluring tunes, relevant lyrics and a compelling syncopation of otherwise dissimilar melodies seemingly on the fly… the musical potpourri is often enriching as he grows older and more adept at his craft.

Certainly, no one is in doubt that barely 10 years after Talazo, Wasiu’s grip on the Fuji music sector is undisputed and impregnable. If there must indeed be a coronation, and I were the king-maker, Wasiu Ayinde (with or without the Marshall) will be crowned: the King of Modern Fuji. Fait accompli!

(To Continue)

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