“The musical video of that timeless track will stand as a lasting memorial to Dr Olaiya over many generations to come”
The death yesterday in Lagos of Dr Victor Abimbola Olaiya at age 89 marks the end of a glorious era in Nigeria’s musical history. I am sure that in the days and weeks ahead, appropriate tributes will be paid to the late Highlife maestro. To mark his passage, I am recalling a short piece I did seven years ago following the release of what may have been his last major work. Titled, ‘Kunle Afolayan’s Musical Classic’, I hope readers can enjoy the slightly edited piece along with the musical video of that timeless track that will stand as a lasting memorial to Dr Olaiya over many generations to come.
Okay, I am almost certain the first question that would come given the above headline would be: “Is Kunle Afolayan also a musician?” And the answer to that is No. The young man is still a movie producer/director, one of the most creative film-makers we have around; and a chip off the old block. What I am referring to is his latest work, the musical video of Dr. Victor Olaiya’s evergreen track, “Baby Jowo” or “Mofe mu ‘yan” as some naughty men have rechristened it (please don’t ask me for the interpretation). In the clip, the trumpet grandmaster did a remix duet with 2Face Idibia, in a rare musical collaboration that could simply be described as the ancient and modern.
Interestingly, ever since Mrs Ayo Obe posted the youtube link: https://youtu.be/enf68hEsvys
on a listserv put together by our dear egbon, Mallam Mouftah Baba-Ahmed, where you have the movers and shakers of our society, I have enjoyed a most rigorous intellectual discourse about the richness of Nigeria’s entertainment heritage. In lending his voice to the discussion of the music video, my friend, Waziri Adio (current NEITI Executive Secretary) had written: “I think we should see this as a well-realised contemporary twist on a classic. Beyond bringing in the new generation, 2Face adds enormous value with his rendition in Idoma and English, and a hint of that soulful edge that made ‘African Queen’ such a memorable song. It is the rebirth of a classic! And kudos should go to Baba Olaiya for being part of this inter-generational conversation; to 2Face for raising a flag for his generation; and to Kunle Afolayan for being the son of his father.”
In his contribution, Baba-Ahmed described the five-minute video clip as a beautiful conversation in which “the restrained, bashful ‘innocence’ of the past meets the excess and licence of today” with a powerful message for mentorship. He added: “When experience and originality meet energy, imagination and unrestrained ideation, the frontiers of achievement are pushed forward. This collaboration attests to that. The universality of music is reflected in this mix, too. Across ethnic and time divides. 2Face’s obeisance, at the end of the clip, seems genuinely spontaneous and unscripted. Which means that the old, as long as they are well-meaning and confident, willing to respect and work with the young, have nothing to fear from the coming generations. Similarly, the young, as long as they are willing to acknowledge the experience, love and goodwill of the old, they (young) and the society will be the better for it.”
What more can I add except to say I give kudos to Dr. Olaiya, an octogenarian who still shuffles his feet so elegantly; just as I commend 2Face and Kunle for this brilliant work of art which marries the past and the present, with the promise of a glorious tomorrow.
To the family of Dr Olaiya, please accept my condolences. His music will forever play on…