After investing over three decades in music, Waka queen, Alhaja Salawa Abeni is not ready to call it quits with a career from which she earned fame and fortune. Not even the recent rumour about her being paralysed with stroke can frustrate her out of music.
“Music is a career that God has appointed for me from heaven. And I don’t care what people say about me. I am only concerned about what I do,” a livid Salawa Abeni told nfc.
The 48-year old diva who would soon release her 39th album has continued to hold fans spell bound with her peculiar style of Fuji music which had its roots from Waka, a genre popularized by aged musician, Mama Batile Alake. Salawa’s activities earned her the title of ‘Queen of Waka Music’ by the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi in 1992.
Abeni’s first album which was released in 1976 on the seal of Leaser Records according to Wikipedia, an online profiling media, is the first musical album to have sold over a million copies by a female artist in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, Salawa’s relationship with Leader Records came to an end in 1986, and her relationship with the label’s owner, Lateef Adepoju also ended. She later married Sir Kollington Ayinla and joined Ayinla’s record label and remained with him until 1994.
The musician who hailed from Ogun State in this interview with Daily Sun spoke on several issues such as her absence from the music scene, her relationship with her ex-husband, Kollington Ayinla and how she relaxes among other things.
Rumour about stroke
First and foremost, I want to let my fans know that I am a human being like them. It is true I was sick but the sickness was not related to stroke or paralysis. Of a truth, I was sick but now I am fine. Stroke or paralysis is not in my lineage, it didn’t happen and it won’t happen. Even at that, is it proper for people to just sit down somewhere and write stories without facts?
Absence from the scene
I was sick early this year. I travelled to Paris along the line. And I got an invitation from a family friend to perform at a burial ceremony which held at Police College which brought me back to the country. Generally, middle of the year is always dull for entertainers. Apart from this, as a policy which I have maintained for the past 35 years, I don’t perform during the Ramadan season. With these rumour, they have given me something to sing about.
We have been working on it for some time before I was sick. Yet the sickness didn’t last more than a month. Without bringing people with stroke to ridicule, I believe stroke is something one can hide. Fans from different parts of the world have been asking me why I have not released a new album but I want them to be rest assured that very soon, they will hear from me.
Handling negative press
I have been around for a long time now. The media once said I prayed with 35 candles. Another time they said I told my husband’s second wife to abort her pregnancy. I have been accused of snatching someone else’s husband all of which is false. However, the recent rumour that I suffered stroke is the most grievous. I am appealing to the peddlers of such rumour that I am human and have my own weaknesses. Whatever evil they wish me would go to them. A few days ago, the father of my children Alhaji Kollington Ayinla called to inform me that there was an appeal on radio that people should begin to pray for me to recover from an illness. And I told him that his children are with me and they should be the first to confirm such rumour or information.
My last album, The Truth came out towards the end of 2007. I am not doing any other business and if I want to do anything at all it would still be music. Music is my career from heaven. There is also one thing about me and that is, I don’t care what people say about me. I am only concerned about what I do. Therefore I appeal to my friends and family that by the end of the year or latest early in the New Year, my album would be released.
Waka music in Nigeria
I don’t think the popularity of Waka Music on the Nigerian music scene has reduced. What we now have are variants of Waka. God just made me to be the symbol of Waka Music but I met the music on ground. Waka is an Hausa language that means music. What makes it different is that it is most sung by female musicians. The forerunner of Waka music, Mama Batila Alake always sat down whenever she performed but when I started singing as a kid, I stood because I was short as a kid. That makes me different from others.
In addition, when I started, I introduced new instruments that would make my music more appealing to younger people. Someone sang Ori mi wu o ela gi mo, this was a remix of my song Orin mi ni o mo de o! The man even spoke to me while I was in England and invited me to sing the original version at an award which held in June 2007.
So what we have is a variety of Waka music, it is not dead and it will not die. I met it and will leave it for coming generations. Mama Batila Alake has not retired, it’s just that she is now old. There are several Waka musicians and they include Adebukola Ajao, Princess Adetoun (now late), Hamdala Aweni among others. If you want something new to Waka, then I will advise that you wait for my new album.
My children taking after me
All my children like music. One is singing RAP while another is singing Hip-hop. But they are all in school except for my first born, who has bagged her first degree at the University of Ilorin and her Masters Degree in England. She is presently working with me.
Music then and now
I have released about 38 albums. When the situation of the country was good, we could release three or two albums in a year. These days, one might not do any release in two years because as soon as the work is released, pirates would have taken their share of the job.
Secret of my looks
If possible, I would have asked you to see my mother. At 92, she is still agile and moves about by herself. Though my dad died at the age of 78 on April 19, 1990 and the only thing I picked from him is his skin colour. Every other thing I picked from my mother. Looking youthful and fit is something that is common to everyone in my family. Don’t forget I grew up in the village.
Men still disturb me
One thing I know is that one has got to be wise and careful. Men will continue to make advances at one but one has to be clever with one’s approach without being rude. This is because you can’t tell where one will meet the same person in the future. But while some people would just want to take advantage of one, one needs some level of tolerance. Some male admirers can even be provocative. I have had funny experiences but I have used wisdom to get off the hook. One day somebody just bashed my car for no apparent reason. This prize came with being a celebrity.
First and foremost, I have kids and God is taking care of them. We are all human beings and if God says I should re-marry who am I to say no, and if he says no, who am I to say yes. I wouldn’t want to say more than this.
Relationship with Kollington Ayinla
Yes he called recently. He is the father of my kids. He wouldn’t wish me bad that is why he called. We can’t be enemies, despite the fact that we are no longer married. We talk when it is necessary especially concerning the children. I don’t see anything wrong in this. Even when I was sick, he called to wish me well. There is a way we’ve always communicated especially when it comes to the children.
How I relax
I do gym regularly. In fact I have the equipment in my house. I usually stand for eight hours to perform. This work requires a lot of stamina. I eat anything, I don’t have preferences but I don’t over indulge myself. I grew up in a riverine community, so I can even eat herbs in the morning. I listen to all kinds of music, even the contemporary ones. But I love Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister’s music a lot as well as my late colleague and legendary king of pop, Michael Jackson. I was away when he died. His death shocked me so much that I cried like a baby. We have something in common which is that both of us started playing music at tender ages. Although he is older than I with three years. I was told that I started music at the age of nine.
Advice to young musicians
My advice is that younger musicians should be focused on what they do and they should be faithful to their art. They should also focus on songs that make sense. One can do any kind of music but one should have his or her listeners in mind.