How PMAN killing Juju music—Segun Adewale
THE has been playing music actively for 46 unbroken years. He has also been in and out of studio 56 times to record albums, which are mostly evergreen. He has performed to the delight of kings, at home and abroad, for over four decades. He has even lifted the spirits of some troubled fans with some inspirational songs. Therefore, if you have a scheduled appointment with a star in the mould of ace Juju musician, Segun Adewale, the creator of Yo-Pop music, what should you look out for when you are standing face-to-face with him: strands of grey hair, wizened body, bent body and bags? Yes, you might be excused, particularly if you consider his age and the strain of playing music since 1968, which should have begun to wear him out. But strangely, even if your gaze roves all over him, you may not easily find any of these features. Indeed, when this reporter met him recently at his office in Adekunle Street, Isolo, Lagos, there was a strong temptation to ask him if he is slowing down in any way nowadays. But it turned out to be a rather ‘insulting’ question. With vigorous shaking of his head, he said: “Oh! No, no, no! Me? Slow down? Why? This is the master tape of Okan Mi, which I am working on now. I even have three other ones in the works. So, where is the sign of slowing down?”
As he flaunted the master tape, he seemed to have rubbished the insinuations that he had stopped recording albums. But what could have fuelled such a ‘wicked’ rumour? Though he dismissed any lull in his career, he, however, maintained that any serious artiste who desires to be constantly in the limelight must have enough money to generate the desired publicity. “As a Juju artiste, if you wax a record, you must have enough money to project yourself very well. It is a total package. If you do it very well, your album may see the light of day-that is, if you are lucky enough,” he explained.
Certainly, there must be much more to this seeming headache that Juju artistes, in particular, are suffering today. Interestingly, he didn’t only identify the problem, but he also heaped it on the doorstep of the leadership of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), which he described as a “cabal”. According to him, “The cabal, that is PMAN, has done everything possible to make sure that no Juju album sells better than any Fuji album.” When prodded to throw more light on this rather unsavoury development, he said the leadership of PMAN had complained of being let down by Juju artistes in the past. “There was a time I came out with an album and they said: ‘Segun, if you want your album to sell, you must be part of us; otherwise, it won’t sell.’ When I asked them why my album won’t be sold, they said: ‘In the ’80s when we held the Juju artistes so highly, they let us down.’ So, I asked them if I was among the people in question and they said no. They mentioned some names, but I won’t disclose that in this interview.” However, when he was reminded that PMAN is not a group of marketers who could frustrate the effort of any artiste, Adewale, who claimed to have met with some of his colleagues over the matter, countered the argument. “As an artiste, you can’t be everywhere all the time. If you have an important engagement, you can’t sacrifice it to begin to pursue the marketing of your album. I have discussed with Dele Abiodun and he said the same thing. But all we need to do is to come to a roundtable, invite PMAN and settle the matter amicably,” he explained.
Rather than being discouraged, he is still keeping faith with his first love: music. And with undisguised joy, he said: “If you want the best of Segun Adewale and even his yet-to-be released albums, contact Ibikun Orisun Iye.” But he added a caveat: that Ibikun Orisun is slightly hamstrung churning out the albums because of the bad economy. According to him, “If you record an album now and you don’t have enough money to produce about 600,000 copies at once, then, you are in a mess because you will be giving room for pirates to feast on your product. So, if the economy improves, those albums may see the light of day.”
A few years ago, it was vantage Adewale who released an album titled Tribute to Ayinde Agbajelola, following the passing on of the legendary Fuji musician, Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister. The album, essentially, is a statement of his deep and abiding respect for the late Fuji artiste whom he aptly described as a genius. In Barrister, he found a kindred spirit of sorts. And even in death, Adewale still saluted Barrister’s genius. But could there be more to his relationship with Barrister? Yes, in what may be described as a fitting tribute, he said: “The late Ayinde was a genius, a legend in its own genre. I love anybody who can compose very well. I don’t regard people who compose trash and rush to the studio to produce trash. He is dead now, but we have some things in common. He loved anybody who could compose good lyrics, especially if you are blessed with a good voice to project it.”
However, much as one was particularly enthralled by his superlative compliments on Barrister, he made a startling revelation when he claimed that the late Fuji star, on some occasions, had sought his approval to use his( Adewale) own original songs which many, out of ignorance, would attribute to Barrister who had somewhat popularised it. “One day, Ayinde came and said: ‘Segun, would you allow me to use this song: o ye ko jo o/ o ye ko yo/ eni araye pa pa pa ti o ti e ku rara/ o ye ko yo…’ and I said yes. He also requested me to allow him use my other song, ka sa ma fori ti/ ka si tun ni’ iteloru, and I said yes. He said he would use it one after the other; so, he used o ye ko jo/ o ye ko yo o/ eni araye pa pa pa ti o ti e ku rara/ o ye ko yo three years after I did. But unfortunately, he was unable to use the second one before he died,” he recalled.
Indeed, anyone who knew Barrister’s versatility might want to pooh-pooh his claim. But almost immediately, he dropped a clincher when he said another ace Fuji artiste, Kollington Ayinla, also made a similar request. According to him, “At a point, Kollington Ayinla, after I had done my own song, said: ‘Segun, I like that your song, ‘Segun Adewale o/ Oni ohun didun baba Deola… Adewale/ play for me/I like your music/.’ So, he went to into the studio and recorded his own: Kolly, Kolly, play for me…” Even as he made these disclosures, there was no mistaking his infectious humility. He said, matter- of-fact, that no member of the public can claim to know with exactitude the well-kept secrets of musicians or even the depth of the camaraderie among them. “So, we are friends and we love one other. I don’t see anything bad in copying what I do that you see as good. It is a matter of likeable minds thinking alike,” he intoned.
When asked if he had ever lifted a song from another artiste, he sat up in his seat with shocked disbelief. To him, a genuine composer must never involve in such undignified practice. “Which is older between Juju and Fuji? It is Juju. So, they are coming behind us. You can ask anybody in the music industry if Segun has copied anybody. However, if you come and say, Babatunde did a song and I love the lyric; so, sing it for me. I will tell you that if you can hum it, I can do it. But it will be only at an outside engagement and not in a studio album,” he explained.
Today, he has, undoubtedly, made a name for himself in music. But for fate, he would have ended up in medical practice. Therefore, any time he chooses to pen his memoirs, it is not unlikely that he will devote a chapter or two to how he dumped Medicine, which he was studying at the University of Ife( now Obafemi Awolowo University), for music. Looking back now, he still doesn’t regret his preference for the microphone and stage over the stethoscope and scalpel. According to him, “How many doctors do we have in Nigeria now? If you consider the population of Nigeria, I think I should thank God for singling me out to be so known. So, isn’t that great? Besides, my name has never been linked to any criminal act. At 65-year, I am not bent and I don’t suffer memory loss either. If I was a doctor, I might not be in the position I am today. You see, this is my office; I have property in five good places and this just a little out of what God has done for me. I am a modest man to the core. I only have seven children.” At the mention of the number of his children, he seemed to be itching to open up more on his family life, as he also proudly dangled his wedding band. At that juncture, what came to the reporter’s mind was that he must be of a different breed in a world where artistes are generally known to have a harem of women and extremely large families. “I’ve nothing to hide”, he disclosed, pointing at his wife who was seated in the corner of the compound in company with a family member. “She is a year older than I am. Only a fool will lie. This is my wedding ring. But most people don’t ask this question and I don’t answer any question that is not asked,” he said. Although before he got married to his only wife in 1983, he had been involved in two relationships that produced some children. He said: “I was first in a relationship with a woman who Shina Peters introduced to me in 1975. After I parted ways with her, I also had a relationship with another woman. But in 1982, I resolved to settle down and eventually got married in 1983.” For a man who operates in an industry that exposes him to a lot of temptation from the opposite sex, it will be interesting to know the secret of his successful marriage. Without mincing words, Adewale, like a marriage counsellor, said: “Any successful marriage rests on love, money, perseverance and endurance.”
For this respected star, the romance with music actually started when he met musicians S.L. Atolagbe and later I.K. Dairo. He would later join another Juju great, Prince Adekunle. But two and a half years after, there was an anti-climatic twist to the relationship when he was sacked together with Sir Shina Peters, who later created Afro-juju music. He, therefore, resolved to launch his own band, Super Star, in 1976.Thereafter, Shina Peters approached him to form a group, which eventually gave birth to Shina Adewale and Superstars International in 1977. For two years and two months, they waxed a total of nine albums and their names were on the lips of all juju music lovers. Along the line, there were some heightened ‘dramas’ between him and his partner, which eventually led to break up of the group. But in retrospect, he said he had no regrets teaming up with him. “We both have cause to thank God. The short period did a lot in our lives. People may not have known us, if we didn’t team up together. It was a stepping stone for the world to see us. When we parted ways, it was Segun alone that people were listening to between 1980 and 1989. Then, Shina came out in 1989 and stormed the market overwhelmingly. So, didn’t the world know the other person too? If the marketers of Shina Adewale and the Superstars International did very well and knew what they were doing, we would still be dominating the music industry now. If they were good to us and we did the videos of those songs, won’t it be a different story today? But I won’t say much,” he said philosophically.
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