He is unarguably the first graduate in Fuji music. His fascination with the ivory tower tallied with an early ambition to reach the pinnacle of his act. Convinced that his acceptance by the elite would bring about a turning point for Fuji music, Adewale Ayuba made up his mind to break into that circle with his music. He recently spoke with TOPE OLUKOLE. Excerpts:
Your starting point seems interesting, how exactly did you see music in the begininng?
I started at the age of three; when many of my peers were just beginning to learn ABC and counting 123 in their first formal lesson of life. For me, I was also singing Do-Re-Mi. and at the age of seven, I became a professional musician, putting together other children to form a band. This was way back in the land of my birth, Ikenne in Remo, Ogun State. I was in primary two, actually. I could be described as the band leader, holding the top spot for one Sunday, who discovered the musical endowment in me and sought to encourage my talent by investing in me. Mr. Sunday bought the equipment with which I started the trade in music.
What about the formation stage of the band?
Naturally, the band took the first names of the two frontliners, that is Mr. Sunday and myself, which became what was known as Sunny Ayuba Band. My parents, particularly my father, would take none of this. It became a hard battle; however, he was reasonable enough to allow me a cautious entry into world of showbiz. All he wanted was a promise to face my studies, which I readily agreed to. So, between Mondays and Fridays, I obeyed my father by remaining in school. Weekends were time to honour whatever engagement Mr. Sunday had arranged. My education was not affected. My father was happy. Mr. Sunday made good returns on his investment; and to me, that didn’t matter. I was satisfied with whatever I was given. The additional fame and recognition that followed put my head in the cloud. It was alright to be the most popular pupil and the kid who got talked about everywhere I went in town.
When was your first album released?
It took a whole six years before my first album surfaced. So, when I talked about my years in music, it situates around the issue of my first album 22 years ago.
One of the landmarks that year was the death of Dele Giwa through a parcel bomb. My song may not have captured that momentous happening, but it was earth shaking enough to make me remember; so by this year, we are talking about 23 years of making good music.
The album was released on Success Records Label owned by Tijani Akinlaja. I’ve since moved to many labels, including a memorable stay at Ivory music, but through the years, I’ve not forgotten my mentor. I keep in touch with him. I’ve recorded 15 albums in Nigeria and four albums internationally. Some of the companies I have worked with included Premier Music, Corporate Records, Joat Records and Lati Alagbada records.
When you look back to those days, what would you remember most?
When I look back on those stormy days of my humble beginning, I give thanks to God for giving me a talent that has taken me from grass to grace, to the height of the world stage. It has been a long, eventful road from Ikenne. My first stop on the way to stardom was in Lagos, which I arrived at for the first time in 1980. Before I finally moved to Lagos, I used to come to Lagos every Sunday and I moved finally to Lagos in 1983. I am talking about when I had an accommodation and made my final move from Ikenne with my 20 band boys. It was difficult. My boys had nowhere to live in Lagos. I slept in a friend’s shop in Lagos Island. He was a fashion designer. My boys went around in the day and at night, we slept in that my friend’s shop.
However, the business of music that we came to Lagos for didn’t exactly start happening the next day. For a long while, all we survived on was to play at children’s naming ceremonies, house warming, etc. At one of those events, Akinlaja, owner of Success Records, noticed us and there began a relationship that saw the birth of five albums, between 1985 and 1989.
When exactly was your break in the music?
In 1990, the tide of my life changed for good when I joined CBS. It was also time for me to take a studious look at the music scene. I refused to be rushed into the studio to record any album again. I was worried that Fuji, my genre, was not patronised by the university community and the elite.
I was so tired of that kind of style. I believed I could do a project that will take me to another level. Fuji was sluggish. It was sung 100 per cent in Yoruba or Arabic. I thought of making it hi-tech. I translated my thoughts with the album, Bubble... “Bonsue Fuji has gone hi-tech, traditional music played with modern dance.”
The album was titled Bubble. It was a project, not an album. I wanted to produce something everybody from any part of the country could listen to and enjoy. I wanted to launch myself to another level. The video was something else. It was a serious dance video. With the release of Bubble, we started getting invitations to perform in universities. Over 80 per cent of our shows were done in the university campuses. I had achieved what I wanted for Fuji .
Today, when people talk about their contribution to Fuji, I know where I stand. I cannot be denied my place. I am the one who gained acceptance for Fuji among the university community. That was when I started getting lots of awards. That is what brought me to the limelight. Before that time, people in the academic environment believed Fuji was for the butchers, drivers and the likes. University students preferred foreign music. I believed once students accept my music, we would get to the level we want to be.
The truth was that a lot of shows were organised then at the university campuses. It was Bubble that opened the doors for all other Fuji acts in the universities. I changed the beat, I added some lines in English Language. Since then, I have taken up the task of preaching Fuji to the world. The experiment was so successful that I emerged Artiste of the Year 1992. I have never looked back. I want Fuji to be accepted as Nigerian music. Throughout my stay in the US, I was privileged to play in some of the best known concerts.
I am happy and I give glory to God once again for grabbing the KORA Award. Fuji is doing well. If you see what these hip-hop artistes are doing now, you know it is Fuji music. That is why these hip-hop reign will die in Nigeria . We should try to support our own music and culture. I am so happy with what I have done for Fuji music and I still pray to do more. I am happy also that my dad saw the fame that came with Bubble. I am so happy for the collaboration I have done with Jazzman Olofin, Ade Bantu.
Honour has also come my way from my home town. This is very unusual. First Saturday in the month of November, it is time to celebrate Ikenne day, they don’t invite any other artiste than Ayuba and that is to let you know the kind of love they have for me.
How would you explain your three years sojourn in the US?
Between 1995 and 1998, I lived in New York. It wasn’t something I planned for. My extended stay in the US was not unconnected with the administration of the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha. I returned to Nigeria the very next day Abacha died. It was not something I would like to discuss. I used to travel abroad to perform for three months and more. We left Nigeria then and something happened and we couldn’t come back.
But it was a period that I would never regret. Many good things happened to me during that period. I was able to get my Green card in America. I also took time out to go to school. I was in Queensborough community college. I was there for two years, studying Banking and Finance. I have an Associate Degree in that discipline. It is a two-year course. One more thing that Abacha did for me that I will never forget is that I met my wife in school in the US. My wife is Igbo. She is from Onitsha. I met her in New York. Her name is Azukaego Kwentoh. I did not set out to marry a non-Yoruba; I just prayed to have my wife. During this period also, I was able to promote my music to the Western world.
What are the things your father warned you about in life and which are now working in your favour?
From day one, my father made it clear to me that he would only be happy with my musical career if I go to school, do not drink and smoke. He said I must not marry two wives. I have one wife. I haven’t seen it in the Quran where it says that you must have more than one wife. How come that it is not in the Quran that a woman should marry two husbands? The Quranic injunction about two wives concerns widows. It is not to take them to bed or let them have children for you, no.
How rich is Adewale Ayuba?
I live in my own house. I drive my own cars. I am happy with my wife and children. Are these not some of the things people pray for in this life?
Even music buffs who are not into Fuji know Ayuba as a consummate dancer and a sharp dresser, his fashion sense is by the skills of popular designers like Cecil G and Ideal Tailors.
I’m putting my Banking and Finance studies to good use, apart from the business of music, I’ve put together one of the best business teams along with my wife. There are 25 band members in the Bonsue Fuji Organisation. And the arrowhead of my enterprise is BFB Limited, which offers employment to over 35 Nigerians. Among other things, the company sells automobiles and has few houses for rent.