A few weeks back, Fuji star, Alhaji Alao Malaika, spoke to City People about his life and career, plus how he found himself in music, despite the fact that he never liked the lifestyle of his grand dad and daddy who were into music. Below are excerpts of the interview.
Let’s talk about your music. For how many years have you been singing?
I started my music career at the age of 10 to 11 in 1983, in Agege area.
How did music come to you? At what point did you start to take your love for music serious?
I started my music when I was in an Islamic School; at Islamic lessons. Then, I used to lead the band. I just found myself that I was singing. It wasn’t planned. They said I have a good voice. My Alfa now said let’s bring up a band and he said he would manage the band and I would be the band, leader. That was in 1983. Its not that I just started singing like that. During Ramadan month, during the Islamic fasting period, there is something they call Ajiwere. That is usually the time that I have the opportunity to sing. We would go from house-to-house, door-to-door, to wake them up to eat Sari. After 2 years, I changed to Fuji music. I came to Lagos in 1995 from Ajiwere, Ajisari, ever since, I have been in music as a Fuji musician.
When you first started, were there people you were looking up to be like?
When I was very young, I never knew I was going to grow up to be a Fuji musician, or that I was going to be a musician at all. Let me tell you what happened! My grand dad was a musician, my dad also was a musician. My grand dad was a drummer. He was into cocoa business. But instead of facing his cocoa business, he faced music. He would get money from his cocoa and he would go and put it into music. It was discouraging because there was no money in music then. All that discouraged me and I kept wondering what the man was doing with music.
Then, my dad was a musician as well. We were living in one room with my dad, including my sisters and brother in those days, at Oshodi area. But I was born on Lagos Island. My dad would come home with his friends, with his band members. Once they came, they would wake us early in the morning. They would say, wake up, wake up, visitors are here. That was very early in the morning when they returned from show. We all used to be angry.
They would step on us, they would march on us, on the mat on which we were sleeping I would just wake up and be tacitly asking what kind of life is this? We were so young then. I am the first born. My sisters would also be angry but we couldn’t talk. That experience made music to be completely discouraging. I said when I am like him is this what I would be doing to my family, I said no, no, no, I would not do that, not knowing that it is my destiny that I would even do more than that, not knowing that our own disturbance would be worse.
The truth is that I just found myself in music. I didn’t have that plan. It was not in my plans to be a musician.
Not knowing my destiny is there. So, when I started and my mum found out that her son was also going into music, she said no! no!! no!!!, you can never go into music. It was my grandmother, May Her Soul Rest In Perfect Peace. She was the one who always prevailed on her. She would say why? Why are you disturbing him from charting his career? When you started your own career, did I stop you? Let him do whatever he wants to do. The main point is that, he would not leave school. His education would continue. My mum used to tell my grandmother, I have my point ooo. His grand dad was a musician, nothing to show for it. His dad was a musician, nothing to show for it. So, I will now open my eyes and let him go into music? Not again. My grandmother would say you are not God. Look, since he chose to do it himself, let’s support him. His voice is unique. It’s, very beautiful voice. It’s Gods gifts. The only thing we need to do is to keep praying for him.
“Let’s support him with prayers. She would say I would pray for you ooo. Don’t come back tomorrow and say you don’t want to do it again ooo.” That is all what my mum said to me. She said don’t come back to me and say you are not doing it again or to tell me that it is tough.
She said all roads that lead to success are very tough ooo. Don’t come back to me. I held that advice to heart and I prayed to God not to let me go back to my mum to say I am not doing it again.
That was how I started doing it with prayers. And they warned me: look any kind of music you cannot play for your children, don’t sing it for other people to listen to. And I have been on that. I would not derail.
How has your music evolved since 1983, what was it like when you first started? What is it like now?
When I started, I was following the trend out there. It was Barrister and Kollington and Wasiu Ayinde were the stars at that time. Shina Akanni, Ayuba were there also. But I was able to find out what people were looking forward to listen to in their music. So I began to play my own, any time music changes, I change mine too and my style came to stay later. From that point, I have been doing my own jejeje.
Can you recollect: which of your album launched you to limelight?
I can’t say specifically because I was just coming up gradually, but some people say its one album entitled: Recompense, in year 2,000. Some people actually thought that was my 1st album. I am using this opportunity for them to know that it is not my 1st album. My first album was Mr. Wonder, I waxed it in December 1993 and I released it in January 1994.
How many albums have you done to date?
23 albums. By that, I mean personal albums. I can’t count the others I have done as duets, collabos, but my own personal albums are 23.
How do you see Fuji music now?
Fuji music is good, we are doing well. The only thing we need now is support from government. Number one, piracy is killing us. We are in a world of advanced technology now. People use phones, computers to mess up artistes. Once they get one music they can do a lot with it.
We have Electronic Media Problem. How many channels do we have on TV to promote Fuji music. It is only hip-hop music the TV stations are promoting. If not for God, we would have gone under. That is why I believe Fuji music is very strong. It is not easy, you cannot push it away. We are still playing at Marriages, House Warming and other ceremonies.
With governments support, we would achieve a lot, we would achieve more. It is very painful. That is why it is hard to see upcoming Fuji artistes now because you need to package yourself and that requires a lot of money. Your packaging start from indoor, from your house. You need to let everything be okay, where you live, your looks, your appearance. Everything counts. You then need a place to practicalise your ability. Many don’t have the opportunity.
“That is why some people have been asking the question: Why is it only the same Fuji artistes who have been dominating the scene all these years? It’s because, we paid attention to all these areas. It was not easy breaking through. You have to give your content to Radio and TV and push it so that it is aired. You also need to spend more.
If it was easy to clone Fuji music, it would have been cloned. Fuji music won’t die. We have many of us doing it.”