Alhaji Rasheed Ayinde Aderibigbe Liadi, popularly known as Fuji Merenge, has come of age in the Nigerian music industry. Today, his friends, fans and families will converge on Jogor Centre, Ibadan, to celebrate his 30 years on stage. He speaks with David Ajiboye and Ayo Idowu about his 30-year sojourn on stage. Excerpts:

Did you just decide to go into music?
I didn’t just decide to start fuji music, I actually tried other means of survival, until I discovered that fuji music was my calling. Between 1977 and 1979, I tried my hands on furniture making and radio repairs, but none of these worked for me. Though, all this period, I was a back up singer in Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Majester’s band, until 1980 when I pulled out to start a band of my own.

What was the name of the band them?
Rasheed Ayinde Commander

How long did it take you to produce your first Album?
I produced my first album in 1984, four years after starting a band of my own. It was titled Money Power.

Why did it take you that long to produce an album?
Then, musicians didn’t just spring up from nowhere to produce albums. You must have been known, you must have created awareness and you must have been accepted by the people. I waited until it was time for me to start. In fact, when it was time, some label owners came to me, convincing me to produce the album.

Who produced it then?
Oluyole Records produced the first album in 1984. In 1985, I did my second album for Alhaji Ariyo. In 1986, I did Money Power 2 and in 1987, I did Talarumba.

What gave you the conviction that you could sing before you went into music at all?
Then, I was so inspired by Alhaji Barrister’s music, I was singing his song like he was singing himself. Then people came around, encouraging me that I could do it. Adhering to people’s encouragement, I joined a band, singing as a vocalist. I was doing it with enthusiasm then, until God had his way. There was this fateful night, my boss said he was tired, then, he instructed that anyone could continue. I never hesitated, as I saw it as a golden opportunity. The astonishing thing about the performance was people’s acceptance, as people accepted me like a new born baby. This actually gave me the strong conviction that music was my calling.

What has been upholding you in music?
It’s been so interesting and I discovered that God actually made it my way. I have been into music for 30 years, and I have been achieving what other musicians are achieving. There are fascinating reasons for me to remain in music.

Was there a time you wanted to pull out of music?
Yes, there was a time like that, but I never pulled out, I only saw these periods as periods of challenges.

Since you started, when was the first time you left Nigeria?
The first time I left the country was 1988. I didn’t go to sing though, a company only sponsored me on a trip to France. Going again with my full band was in 1998. Then, we went to the United States of America, and since then, I have been to more than 10 countries in the North American, South American and the European continents with my band.

Since you started, is there a record of any of your band boys who pulled out to start a band of their own?
Ah! a lot of them, it is God’s blessing for them and for me and my profile as well.

How many albums have you released in the last 30 years that you have been on stage?
Twenty-one albums.

Which of your label owners seem to be the best to you?
Lati Alagbada, we have been together since 1987 till date.

What do you want to use your 30 years on stage to achieve?
I only want to use it to glorify God for upholding me.

What is the greatest thing one of your fans ever did for you?
In 1998, when I went to the United States of America, a friend, Biodun Tolawo, just came to present me with a new set of 36-channel mixer.

Who are the indelible people in your career in music?
Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister and Alhaji Kollington Ayinla, they have been there, giving us hope in music.

After your 30 years on stage, do you have plan to do anything for the people or to improve music?
I have plans to establish a big studio for all kinds of music.

Which of your albums launched you out into limelight?
That was Fuji Merenge in 1992, the album sold about one hundred thousand copies then, I have done albums that are better after that, but Fuji Merenge launched me into limelight.

Written by David Ajiboye and Ayo Idowu