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Remembering Baba L’egba, doyen Of Sakara music

By Oloye ’Lekan Alabi
15 December 2021   |   1:45 am
Today is the 43rd remembrance anniversary of the doyen of Sakara music, the late Yusufu Olatunji, alias ‘Baba l’Egba’, but the formal celebration of the anniversary is on Saturday...

Today is the 43rd remembrance anniversary of the doyen of Sakara music, the late Yusufu Olatunji, alias ‘Baba l’Egba’, but the formal celebration of the anniversary is on Saturday, December 15, 2021, with the commissioning of the streetlight on the street of Baba l’Egba’s residence at Lafenwa, Abeokuta, Ogun State. The street was named Yusufu Olatunji Avenue by the Aremo Olusegun Osoba led Ogun State Government in 2000.

Following was my tribute to Baba l’Egba eight years ago. “Sunday, December 15, this year (2013) was the 35th anniversary of the passage of Yusufu Olatunji, alias ‘Baba l’Egba. ‘Fidau (Muslim remembrance prayers) were held for the doyen of sakara music by his family and fans in his Lafenwa home at Abeokuta, Ogun State, in Ibadan, Oyo State and all over the world.

The Chief Imam of Akobo Mosque, Alhaji Busari, led the Fidau in Ibadan. He prayed for the repose of the soul of Baba l’Egba in Aljannah.

Later in the day, a special remembrance production on the late artiste was presented on the popular Yotomi La Wa programme of Oluyole FM Station of the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS).

An anniversary party held at Gloryview Hotel, Kongi, Bodija, Ibadan, where Yusufu Olatunji Fans Club hosted its members and fans followed in the evening.

I coordinated the programme as the patron of the fans club and read one of my published tributes on Baba l’Egba to the audience.

AS an older friend of my late father, Pa Abdul-Raheem Oladosu Alabi, alias “Right Time” and the musician who entertained guests at my naming ceremony in Ibadan on Friday, November 3, 1950. I revere Baba l’Egba and his music. He was a philosopher musician. My admiration and promotion of Baba l’Egba’s genre of Sakara music. In 2000, I initiated the Yusufu Olatunji Foundation, sequel to the kind approval of Governor Olusegun Osoba of Ogun State, Baale Tajudeen Yusufu Olatunji, Baba l’Egba’s first born, and King Sunny Ade.

Before then, one was, and still is, in the forefront of promoting the philosophy of Baba l’Egba. My donation of the Akogun ’Lekan Alabi Prize for Sakara music to the then Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) Ibadan on Tuesday, January 19, 1993 and my article titled, Our Stars, Our obligations, published in The Guardian Newspaper of Friday, August 29, 1997, reproduced below, attest. I read Dr. Reuben Abati’s Reporting Fela’s Death and Mr. Benson Idonije’s The Next Fela, in The Guardian of Friday, August 16, 1997, and wish to respond to the moral and ideological questions raised in the articles of the two informed commentators.

“Permit me to dwell first on Dr. Abati’s correct assertion that our society lacks “an understanding of the economics and the politics of cultural production….as an art audience, our memory is short. It is made shorter by the failure of the artiste to manage his legacy”. He then cited some musicians in the traditional genre who, since their death, no one has deemed it necessary to keep their legacy alive. Among the great artistes listed by Dr. Abati were Ayinla Omowura, Rex Lawson, Yusufu Olatunji, Haruna Ishola, and Bobby Benson. In his illuminating analysis, Dr. Abati exposes the failure of the friends and family of the artiste to manage his legacy. What a pertinent moral, if not economic, issue to raise! He was not totally right, however, in the assumption that all friends, nay fans, of our artistes fail to carry on their legacies. I proceed to prove my point.

“While the conscience of those professionals or those who owe the late musicians primogenitary obligations make them liable Dr. Abati’s blame shall be their judge, I, as a sincere and ardent fan of all the music icons listed by Dr. Abati in his write up, cannot but dispute, if only to wash one’s hand clean of moral negligence’, without wanting to be holier than the Pope in the process though.

“Whereas, as one of their many fans spread all over the world, I am not expected to dye my indigo a shade darker than those of the artistes successors (apology to Dr. Abati), I beg, albeit with modesty, to lay claim to being in the forefront of the promotion of the legacy of the late Sakara doyen, Yusufu Olatunji, as well as other equally-gifted philosopher artistes, dead and living. Besides, his quintessential compositions and melody, I am emotionally attached to Yusufu Olatunji’s music, for he was a friend of my late father and he obliged his friend with a performance at my naming ceremony on Friday, 3rd November, 1950 in Ibadan. I grew up listening constantly to the works of Yusufu Olatunji and other masters, such as Abibu Oluwa, S. A.k.a Odolaye Aremu, Haruna Ishola, Nosiru Atunwon, and Hubert Ogunde at home in the Born Foto Area, Isale Osi, Ibadan, thanks to a sociable father whose sobriquet was “Right Time”. Growing up, and by the professional privileges conferred on me as the entertainment page editor of the Sunday Sketch in 1974, I got exposed to a broad spectrum of Nigeria’s leading artistes, composers, entertainers, and band-leaders.”
Ekefa Olubadan of Ibadanland and the first culture ambassador of the National Museum And Monument, Ile Ife

Some of them became personal friends and role players, at least in the cultural realm. To cap my admiration for Yusufu Olatunji, my second son is named after him. I possess all his major recorded works, some of which were inherited from my father’s rich collections. Further proofs? I mark his passage every December 15 and sponsor radio programmes on the late doyen of Sakara music, in addition to the free distribution, upon request, of its available works to devotees of his brand of music. From the foregoing, I hope Dr. Abati’s justified fears about the legacy of Yusufu Olatunji will be allayed at least.

“Next, I wish to dwell on Mr. Idonije’s “The Next Fela” and corroborate the “Individual Differences” theory cited by him in his article, that no two people can behave the same way and do the same things in the same manner. It has to do with aura, ‘sprayed’ on individual by the Creator, it is not transferable. As geniuses demonstrate their unique gifts from God, it behoves on us to recognize, groom, and celebrate these talents. Grants and researches will aid the spread of the study of their skills as they (geniuses) appear in the economic, political, academic, cultural, and social horizons. God is so benevolent as to sprinkle them on the globe. Individual nations and societies show appreciation based on perception and sense of value. Some nations drill theirs, while others thrill theirs.

“As God does not duplicate His stars, let nobody sap energy searching for replicas of Celestine Ukwu, Duro Ladipo, Ayinde Bakare, Odolaye Aremu, etc. One consolation though, is that new stars will continue to emerge and shine at a time and intensity so ordered by our Creator only. I wish to seize this opportunity to repeat my humble plea in the past to our up-and-coming musicians and composers to borrow a leaf from the late Yusufu Olatunji and his composers. Some of our present-day musicians / composers’ works are becoming profane and immoral. Some of the video clips meant to promote the sale and popularity of their records tend to be anti-social. I wish they realize that one can entertain without being abusive or profane.

“We cannot afford to compromise our time-honoured values in the name of modernization. Much as one realizes that life, how much less music, is dynamic, values however, must not be trampled upon for commercial motives. Entertainment is supposed to cheer the soul and not depress it.

“If these musicians/entertainers continue to turn deaf ears to our pleas for decorum, the media, especially the electronic media, owe us the duty of eliminating these profanities by not airing abusive, vulgar or obscene works (records) on their channels.

The 35th remembrance of the late doyen of Sakara music on Sunday 15th December, this year was quite remarkable, as it was celebrated at home and abroad. Oluyole FM and the television stations of BCOS, Radio Nigeria Ibadan and Murhi International Television (MITV) supported us tremendously. May Yusufu Olatunji’s noble soul continue to rest in Aljannah. Amin.