The Poetry of Mr Fuji, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister – A Tribute By Lagbaja


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Five years have flown by since Sikiru Ayinde Barrister left us – and here we go again with another potential postponement.

Being bombarded with incredulous stories of dizzying billions and the unbelievable wickedness in high places, it is difficult to think or talk about much else.

Poorly equipped soldiers being massacred while their superiors were busy lining their pockets with funds meant for essential weapons? Extreme!

However, I was determined to will myself up from this knockdown before I’m counted out again.

About this time each year since his death, some major incident always compelled me to procrastinate with the thought that ‘I will write the tribute next year’.

Five years, and here we go again with another potential postponement. Aah… Billions! Dazed by the combination of hooks and jabs, it is easy to remain on the canvas as another year flows by.

Can we please, take a brief break to remember and celebrate Mr. Fuji? Please…

It took a while before I fell in love with the music of Sikiru Ayinde Barrister and Fuji in general. Probably 1983…thereabouts.

For a long while I was too enthralled by highlife and its new brothers being birthed by Fela, Oyelana, Bucknor, Haastrup, O.J. etc.. I had no care for much else… well, apart from popular Black music from the USA.

My delay was likely due to a mix of several factors.

A major one, probably, was that it was difficult for me to follow the lyrics because of their colouration by Middle Eastern inflections.

Somehow, it was easier for me to flow with the words in Haruna Ishola’s Apala than the younger sibling, Fuji.

I was already a long-term fan of Haruna. But when I eventually latched on to Barrister’s Fuji, I discovered a wealth of great music.

At that time, driven by traditional drums and percussion, Fuji was mostly devoid of Western instruments. Its biggest exponent was Sikiru Ayinde.

His rich voice had a wide range. His stressed falsetto was moving. He had an engaging way with words.

To best appreciate the spontaneity of his poetry, one had to see him live on stage.

In the studio, the artist has more leeway as one can make corrections and record several takes until satisfied.

The stage is less forgiving, especially at a party where the singer has to improvise on the fly when praise singing, as is typical of a Fuji gig.

This is where one feels the compositional spontaneity of Barrister. His skill must have been honed from many years of numerous performances.

It would be pleasing to have more potential fans surmount the language barrier and discover the depth of Barrister’s art like I did.

I am thus translating one of his last classics as an example of what many have been missing.

Really, a translation cannot fully capture the nuances of the lyrics, especially with a rich language such as Yoruba, and in the hands of the adept artist that Ayinde was.

However, this should facilitate a better appreciation of his art, especially for those who are as challenged by the language as I was back then.

Not that one needs to understand the lyrics of a song in order to enjoy it, but it sure adds an extra dimension to its appreciation.

Welcome to the fans club of Mr. Fuji.

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‘Correction’ from the album ‘Wisdom and Correction’:

I meditate about the world It is all vanity in my view Agbaje Lọla… I meditate about the world, in truth It is all vanity in my view (Agbaje Lọla is one of Sikiru’s oríkì) (Oríkì is often translated as cognomen, but it has a deeper meaning) Ayinde, the world is a market place (Sikiru often inserts his names and oríkì into phrases thus seeming to admonish himself while speaking to his listeners. That is also the essence of the previous phrase where he called out his oríkì. This is typical in Fuji) Eternity is home, my people There is nothing we brought with us into the world There is nothing we will take back with us when we depart for eternity I meditate about the world It is all vanity in my view Siki, an issue is bothering me, Lọlade (Siki and Lọlade… again, his names) An issue is really bothering me Siki, an issue is bubbling in my spirit Should I reveal it or should I not, Lọlade? Should I say it or should it remain sealed in my mouth? Because the world and people are complicated Because the world is ephemeral Just like the name of a son of mine, Yinka Ayefẹle Handsome guy, Ayefẹle Gospel musican Ayefẹle o He who sings sweet as honey Children of Adam, what is wrong? What is wrong with us, creatures of God? That we do not accept our destiny as ascribed by the Almighty? God created us all Since the day he created us all As each of us came into this world Each brought along his destiny One’s destiny would never change, ever (He launches into a chant of Islamic verses to illustrate his message. This is also reminiscent of his ajiwere days when he, along with other youngsters, would entertain faithfuls many nights during the Ramadan fast) Lack of respect as due, is one reason the world lacks peace The slave should know himself a slave The pledged laborer should know himself a pledged laborer The palace chief should not act like his king And the crowned king himself Should not compare himself to Almighty God the King There is only one God Almighty God Almighty who created everything Only He is Almighty King Destination can be changed Where one is headed might change Someone may wish to alter another person’s destiny While that person is busy acting out the will of God They might attempt to turn back the hands of the clock, but… Kádàrá is destiny It is different from destination One will never miss his appointment with his destiny, ever… ever The kiddie goat is poised to exceed its bounds It proclaims that itself and the calf are of equal class But it is public knowledge The calf had outclassed the billy goat since time immemorial Right from the day the calf was born, believe me, it was already taller than the billy goat The reason we cannot be classed in the same category Sikiru, it starts with age Because I call you ‘friend’ Is that why you disrespect me? Quarrels fueled by envy are tenacious and difficult to settle One’s superiority? That cannot be openly tendered as the underlying cause of conflict (Taking poetic liberty, he rephrases this proverb by starting with the phrase which typically ends it) Hush, keep your mouth in check Even if I am older than you by just one day You had better accord me my deserved respect Kid brother, stop using me to sell your records The world has wised up to that marketing strategy In 1958, from the age of ten I have been entertaining as Ajísàrì In Mushin, I had been performing as Ajíwéré 1958 to 1963/64… five to six years The gap between those years, is that tiny? 1966, I innovated the Ajísàrì style to invent Fuji God is the sole Creator But, it is through me Ayinde Olokunọla That He sent forth this Fuji music to the earth While our mọin mọin had been finely clothed for ages Their akara remained stark naked (Mọin mọin and akara are both made with milled beans, but while cooked mọin mọin is served nicely wrapped in leaves, fried akara is served plain, unwrapped) Their akara remains stark naked Up to serving as a soldier of the government Up to serving as a soldier with the military Each person knows who is senior amongst themselves Who would dare compare Sergeant-in-Chief Sergeant Sikiru Ayinde Balogun Dodo Who would compare him with Kọpuru? That is… a Corporal Even if it is just one step The difference there is not minuscule Wherever the Sergeant-in-Chief seats If the Corporal gets there His hands must freeze at attention He must stand solidly erect in obeisance Ahhhh! The difference involved is not small The same 1966 I started to wax music records Under Ishọla Abioro May the heavenly king grant a soft landing to the departed From Abule Ọja… Niger Songs was his label’s name Before going to Gbajumọ in Lagos Before it became African Songs Before it got to Martins Street in Lagos Before Take Your Choice (TYC) came into being 4 singles… Single records Those ran for 3 minutes only To Extended… 7 minutes only Before it came to 1970 when the era of long play records (LP) started 12 records… Add those to 4 Singles, 2 Extended (EP) That becomes 18 From 1966 until 1974 Before you even dreamt of starting out at all Those 8 years in between, are those few? It is right from birth that the marmot has been the elder of the squirrel So if now, one does not gently accept one’s pre-destined lot He would eventually be choice-less in accepting the inevitably worse doom (This Yoruba proverb plays on the words kádàrá and kodoro) The same 1966 to 2006… 120 albums… that is the number of my music records Each, different from the other Yesterday’s does not resemble today’s However, it is not by my wisdom It is the will of God And it is neither by my might It is by the might of God That is why I am grateful I would not be abandoned by the grace of Almighty God The number of records you have made Come out and enumerate them for the world to hear So the public can compare And tell how on earth we would be lumped together as being of the same class and category (He launches into more Islamic chants) Since the days that I have been making music and having fun Since I have been performing I have been according due respect to the elders ahead of me Respect also for those coming behind me As well as those who are my contemporaries and equals But now you are just crawling in Twenty years plus one 1985, specifically, in the record ‘Fertiliser’ I honored and accorded respect to the elders Of Ajísárì… of Oníwéré Therefore, if one does not give me my deserved respect Ọlọlade… I would demand Because I give due respect to those ahead In some instance, silence is golden At some other instance, silence means consent I would have kept quiet and not talk.. but Gentility of a tiger Is never an application to its timidity The gentle stealthy strides of a tiger Is not borne out of fear or lack of courage Speaking out is not because of today, not because of tomorrow But because of many many years to come And also because, if the little child did not witness history He would definitely encounter its recounting The legend is the father of the tale All who seek my progress, Ayinde Goodness should be their lot All who seek my downfall, on the other hand Who say I should not thrive Evil should be the lot of them all (Islamic chants) Lots of trees abound in the wilderness Before the Ìrókò tree was made the king of them all Once upon a time, there was a misunderstanding All the trees were quarreling with one another in the forest The king of the forest could not sleep from the commotion The king of the plains could not keep his peace All were running helter-skelter They sent for Julius Berger To come and arbitrate in this dispute Julius Berger resorted to pleading with them They responded by asking him to shut his mouth Really?… Were they crazy or possessed? What insulting effrontery? No matter how mighty the tree… Whether it is Àràbà, Ìrókò…Olúwéré There is none amongst the trees, no matter how numerous If it haughtily stands against Julius Berger with disdain In a short instant The tree would become history rather quickly The child who says his father is not wealthy The child who says his mother is poor The father then responded The mother replied that… Child… be patient Don’t be hasty beyond your life’s pace My child, is it for one to become wealthy? You are right in the thick of it, our child (You would soon discover how ‘easy’ it is) Look at the acrobatic ape Olókítì Who rushes to the home of the monkey, with a majestic swagger They welcomed him with warm greetings He ignored them, he did not even respond Instead he arrogantly jacked his shoulders high and spread his arms wide When Olókítì spoke, he said he had travelled farther and wider than them all He asked everybody to come on out to the open grounds ‘I want to teach you the new tactics The modern somersaulting tactics now in vogue all over the world Different from your outdated close-to-the-ground styles you had known all your lives New tactics, I want to teach you… brand new!’ The monkey did not argue with the olókítì Monkey did not exchange words with Olókítì at all Monkey called his grandchild to come out He said, ‘Here is the horse, here is the field’ He said they should duel in acrobatics in the presence of all And let the spectators judge Before Olókítì somersaulted twice The monkey’s grandchild had somersaulted two thousand times Before Olókítì somersaulted six rounds The monkey’s grandchild had somersaulted six thousand rounds Before Olókítì could do twelve The monkey’s grandchild had done millions Olókítì thus raised his hands in humble surrender He asked for forgiveness, for being so disrespectful Monkey did not join issues with Olókítì He asked Olókítì to seat down, ‘There are a couple of sentences I wish to say to you’ ‘In the future, Olókítì, desist from haughty disrespect Don’t think too highly of yourself Do not be arrogant, stomping the ground in undeserved overconfidence Pride is before downfall’ Olókítì then prostrated flat Saying, ‘I apologize’ (Islamic chants which mean): All those unearned feelings of greatness are misplaced… Only God is great We are beloved (referring now to himself as well as his band) The world loves us… This is the aforementioned issue We are loved The world loves us… People, young and old They love us Ours is what the world wants That is the point They seek misery (rendered in the same melody as ‘We are beloved’ above) Misery they seek He seeks trouble Trouble he seeks The dog that ambushes the tiger It seeks misery Misery it seeks This is the crux of the matter It seeks misery Misery it seeks Sikiru, that is the point He seeks misery Misery he seeks

 

… a tribute by Lágbájá…

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