Many don’t know that His Imperial Majesty, late Oba Saliu Olasupo Adetunji shaped the musical career of King Wasiu Ayinde (K1) and that of Alhaji Sule Malaika. That was before he ascended the throne. And he has done so well. He has performed well. Over the last few Baba has returned Vigour and Vitality to the throne. Let’s tell you how.
Born on 26th August 1928 at Adetunji compound, Popoyemjo, Ibadan; in the present day Ibadan South-West local government of Oyo State to Pa. Raji Olayiwola and Alhaja Suwebat Amope Adetunji, he was the eldest of his father’s 17 children.
As the eldest child of the family, his seniority was not just a title as it conferred on him a responsibility, even in a polygamous setting where he is expected to lead by example as the firstborn. When he came in the year 2016, he gave thanks to Almighty Allah, the Government and the entire people of Ibadanland for crowning him the 41st Olubadan of Ibadanland, 40 years after he assumed the leadership of his clan and elevation as Mogaji. Before he passed on he revealed a lot about his life that many don’t know.
“My first promotion which made it possible for me to be Olubadan came in 1978 when I was appointed Jagun Balogun.”
When late Oba Saliu Adetunji came in, he promised to do his utmost best for the peace, progress and development of Ibadan land and Nigeria in general.” Oba Saliu Adetunji did not hide the fact that he was a man of modest education. Yet, he speaks, reads and writes in English. He began his career as a Tailor when his uncle, Salami Oladiti, took him to Lagos in 1949. The young Saliu Adetunji wasted no time in enrolling as an apprentice under the tutelage of Mr Disu Alade Igbalajobi, then of No. 33, Ereko Lane, Idumota, near Kosoko, on Lagos Island.
He set up his own tailoring workshop a couple of years later. As his business boomed, Adetunji bought four sewing machines, which was no mean feat in those days. He sewed native and English dresses. As a young entrepreneur, he employed and placed his workers in the fashion designing enterprise on shift.
In 1957, Saliu Adetunji sowed a seed that turned around his fortunes. The doyen of indigenous music recording and label studio in Nigeria, Pa Samuel Badejo Okusanya, had gone to Ereko, on Lagos Island, to buy some packets of locks and keys.
Young Saliu was in company with him during the trip. They had waited in vain for a porter to ferry the consignment to Okusanya’s shop. No longer comfortable with the long wait, the then young Saliu offered to carry the loads to Pa Badejo’s shop at Orogiri Street, Lagos, not minding the heavyweight.
When they got to the shop, Pa Badejo called one of his apprentices and asked, “Between you and Saliu who is older?” He replied, “Saliu.” Speaking further, the merchant reminded the apprentice that “Any time I go shopping with you at Ereko we would not leave the place until we get a porter. As you can see, Saliu carried this load on his head to this place.”
In appreciation, Badejo prayed for Saliu and gave him some record disks free to entertain his customers. Instead, Saliu sold the records and returned the proceeds to Pa. Badejo, who was highly impressed by the gesture. They later became very intimate and because of Saliu’s humility, prudence, trustworthiness and business acumen, Pa Badejo was inspired to do business with him. He extended his generosity and trust to Saliu by giving out the records he produced to him for sale. This was how Saliu became a merchant. His years of experience in the business inspired him to venture into the music recording business.
Given the nature of his business investments and his international exposure, Saliu became a specialist in talent discovery, music composition, arrangement, production, promotion, advertisement and marketing.
According to the Juju music maestro, Chief Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi, “what Baba Saliu Adetunji does not know in the Nigerian music industry is not worth knowing. He was the longest surviving indigenous music promoter in Nigeria. He is also the life Patron of the entertainment industry in the country.”
From being a modest seller of records at Ereko Lane, Idumota, on the present-day Lagos Island Local Government of Lagos State in 1957, Saliu Adetunji played a pivotal role in the rise of music superstars, such as Lefty Salami Balogun, Amuda Agboluaje, Tatalo Alamu, Raimi Atolagbe, Dauda Epo-Akara, Sule Epo, Iyanda Sawaba, Asanat Omo Aje and a host of others, whom he promoted through his popular music label, Omo Aje Sound Studio. He is also credited with the rise of King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal, K1, and Alayeluwa Sule Alao Malaika among others.
He once explained his involvement in the music industry. “This is a phase in my life that I will never forget. One day, I went with the late Badejo Okusanya on a business trip to Agarawu, Lagos. He used to trade in lock keys and padlocks. After the business of the day, he told me to look for a .porter that would assist us in carrying the goods.
I said porter ke? (Why porter). I told him the load was not heavier than what I could carry. So I carried it on my head to his shop at number five, Orogiri Street, Lagos. When we got there, he called one of his staff who was younger than me and asked him, ‘Who is older between you and Saliu? He answered, “Saliu is older.” He again asked him, “The other time we went to Lagos to purchase some items who carried it to the office,” and the worker answered that it was “a porter.”
Then, he told him that “Saliu would be successful in life because of his humility: The rest is history now. Thereafter. he gave me some record discs to be playing for my customers so that they would not be in hurry to leave my workshop. While entertaining my customers with the discs, some of them expressed interest in getting copies and I obliged them in exchange for money, since I was not prepared to give them free because Badejo gave them to me for a purpose.
So, within a few days, I had sold all the record discs and took the money to Badejo in order to convince him that I actually sold them. When I got to him with the proceeds, he made a startling revelation, saying “Thank God. This same business that I started with your father in 1940, but which he said he could not continue because he was ‘not comfortable with living in Lagos is what you’re venturing into now.” He then counted the money and ordered his apprentice to give me four and a half shillings as royalty on each record I sold. I used to sell one record for two pounds, 10 and 15 shillings. That was how I came into record disc sales and the business boomed. Thereafter, I built a rack to hang the records in my tailoring workshop. But when I was having conflicting interests in both trades, I left tailoring and embraced record disc sales.
He also explained his involvement in the world of music promotion. The first Nigerian to have a record label, the late Badejo Okusanya, who owns Badejo Sound Studio, baptised me into the world of the music business. He was my boss because he was responsible for my eventual transformation from tailoring business to the music industry.” How did he set up OMO AJE RECORDS?
“I started Omo Aje records precisely in 1957 at Number 2, Oke Popo, by Oya compound in Lagos. After leaving Oke Popo, I bought a building at Number 14, Ibomo Street. The house was constructed with roofing sheets, with two rooms and a parlour. Unfortunately, the house was consumed by fire, but God blessed me and I erected a two-storey building on the site, using all the rooms on the ground floor as a workshop, while we had four flats upstairs. We lived in one flat and used another one as an office, while we rented out the remaining two. From there, God continued to bless me. As at today, I own lots of houses at different locations in Lagos and Ibadan. By the grace of God, I have been able to work and ensure that various musicians wax records. The list includes Lefty Salami Balogun, who was a former drummer; Dauda Epo Akara, Tatalo Aremu, Amuda Agboluaje, King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal, Jimoh Ayinla Anikura, Omo Kekere Amoo, Jaiyegbade Alao and many others I can’t remember now.”
He also revealed how he moved on from OMO AJE To BABALAJE RECORDS.”My father owned the label, Babalaje, so I christened my own company, Omo Aje records, while he was alive. When he died, I changed to Babalaje being the head of the family.”