•Oloye LEKAN ALABITells City People
Saturday 15th December, 2018, will make it exactly 40 years that the Sakara music legend, Yusuf Olatunji aka Baba l’egba passed on. And to celebrate this remembrance, as it is usually been done every year since 2001, lots of activities have been mapped out. There is going to be Fidau Prayers, Lecture and Luncheon. The remembrance anniversary is going to hold in Ibadan, the capital city of Oyo State. This event, according to a key member of the planning committee and the initiator of the remembrance anniversary, Oloye Lekan Alabi, the Aare Alaasa of Ibadan land, is not just for the sake of having an ‘owanbe’ party or to gather financial resources but to recognise and honour the excellence, creativity in Babalegba and the likes, in order to keep their memories alive. Babalegba, in his lifetime, was a music icon who dominated his genre of music ‘Sakara’ with philosophical lyrics, well articulated recordings and live plays. He was indeed a legend. The Abeokuta, in Ogun State, born Yusuf Olatunji died on December 15, 1978, at the of 69.
Below are excerpts of Oloye Lekan Alabi’s discussion with City People’s Correspondent, Dare Adeniran, about the remembrance anniversary program. During the intention the Ibadan high chief spoke extensively on his strong bond with the late Sakara king and his collaboration with Baba L’egba’s family in keeping alive the late icon’s memory and in making sure that Sakara music doesn’t go into oblivion. Enjoy it.
In a couple of days, as a member of the planning committee, you will be celebrating the 40th remembrance of the late Sakara legend, Yusuf Olatunji aka ‘Baba L’egba’. Tell us what people should expect at the program and what is your connection with the music icon?
He was Yusuf Olatunji alias ‘Baba L’egba’ and exactly, God willing, on Saturday 15th December, 2018, we shall be holding the 40th remembrance anniversary, fidau prayers, lecture and luncheon in his memory. He died on 15 December, 1978, in his home town, Abeokuta, Ogun State, at the age of 69.
The late Yusuf Olatunji ‘Baba l’egba’ was an old friend of my father, the late Pa Abdulraheem Oladosu Alabi alias ‘right time’. That is why Yusuf Olatunji and his Sakara group, as they were known, played at my naming ceremony in our beloved hometown Ibadan, capital of the then western region but capital of Oyo State today. He played at my naming ceremony on Friday November 3rd 1950. So I grew up hearing the philosophical music of Baba l’egba and other artists, including the late S. Aka, who was my father’s direct friend in the sense that, Baba l’egba was more or less an uncle of my father’s closest friend, the late Pa Mustapha Oladipupo alias ‘Olowotoro’ of Akoka compound sw1, Ibadan.
It was baba Ladipo who was closer to Baba l’egba. In fact baba Ladipo married a niece of Baba l’egba but my father’s other musician friend was S. Aka. So while Babalegba played at my own naming ceremony, S. Aka played at my younger sister’s naming ceremony as some sort of balancing. My father died March 18 1994. My mum is still alive, well as we are conducting this interview, may she live long. She is 93 years old, with all her faculties functioning 100%.
It was she who would prepare the lunch or dinner or breakfast as it applied for Baba l’egba when he came visiting and also get Baba l’egba his favourite ‘Ori Eran’.
Of course paid for by my dad because Baba l’egba will send his firstborn, who today is 83 years old, Baale of Lafenwa in Abeokuta, Chief Tajudeen Alabi Yusuf Olatunji, he also can corroborate this statement. I was with him 3 days ago, I travelled to Abeokuta as part of the learning of this program, we are talking about. So that was the relationship; I grew up to know that Baba l’egba was my father’s older friend and he played at my naming ceremony, at which the late Chief Lekan Salami and the late Alhaji Alimi Adesina were the masters of ceremony.
But remove the primordial relationship, look at Baba l’egba on a platform of philosophy, rich lyrics, good beats including the idioms from his lead drummer, Kasumu Sanni and the group, the talented group.
If he died 40 years ago, his records will be older than 40 yet they are as relevant as they were and will continue to be relevant because in their own time they rehearsed, composed and recorded sensible music.
40 years after Baba l’egba’s death and since this remembrance anniversary has been on, would you say that the purpose of bringing up the idea is been fulfilled?
Yes, thank you very much. I was asked this at the press conference we held in Abeokuta on Tuesday. When he died December 15, 1978, the following year 1979 I started the sponsoring the anniversary, since 1979, 39 years ago. And the main objective remains for us to keep the perpetual memory, the name and works of Baba l’egba.
2, to encourage that, that genre of music, Sakara does not go into oblivion because we established the Yusuf Olatunji Foundation in the year 2001, which was my concept from God and I formally wrote the then governor of Ogun State our senior in the media profession, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, whose government bought into my idea hence we held a three day Yusuf Olatunji Cultural festival in 2001 in Abeokuta, August 6 – August 9 2001, at the June 12 Cultural Centre, Kuto, Abeokuta.
In one of the nights, I think the grand finale night, the Chairman was the late Ambassador Segun Olusoji. It involved the late Alake, the late Olubadan Arapasowu, the late Ooni Sijuade and many others. 3-day festival, including exhibition of late Baba l’egb’s apparatus, his instruments on display and many of his compositions books. I have copies of the books, I gave some to Oodua Investment’s Heritage Museum on Cocoa House, Dugbe.
And you will see that these great artists not only rehearsed, but recorded the music. They wrote it down and in Baba l’egba’s case, his compositions were written in cursive handwriting; talented artist. So one is happy that the foundation came about with the support of Ogun State government, under Aremo Olusegun Osoba and there was a lecture by Professor Oduba. And since then we have kept it alive. So one is happy that the objectives are blessed by God and still aglow. So come Saturday December 15 this year, God willing, exact day when it will be 40 years that Baba l’egba passed on.
Also, his memorial band, being led by his grandson Abideen Ajasa, will entertain our guests here. The Imams and other clerics will say prayers for him. There will be a lecture, as usual, on Saturday.
You’ve talked excellently well about Baba l’egba’s musical prowess and his achievements while he was alive. Apart from luncheon and remembrance anniversary, what are the other things we are looking at in keeping his memory?
As an individual, without being immodesty, people would say that no, you have tried your best. But the scope which I imagine you want us to take it to and which we shall by the grace of God can only happen with the support of government, corporate bodies, his fans or their families and networth individuals who may buy into this idea and recoup their money, if not profit but that is not my own main objective but to take it to the scope you are talking about now is beyond Oloye Lekan Alabi, it is beyond an individual.
But I’m happy and proud of the little achievement we have made not only have we done and praticalised the objective, his music and others that in the past nobody will want to listen to, they now feature on radio stations, DJ shows because of the deep philosophy contained in their records.
We are also aware of the your position as Chairman, Yusuf Olatunji Foundation since 200, what are your roles as chairman of the foundation and how have you been able to position yourself by chairing most these foundations and all other monumental projects you are involved in?
First of all let me say it is destiny because that’s my belief in life. We are all here in this life with our destinies. Two, I am happy to be doing something I have passion for; excellence, giving due recognition to our heroes and heroines whether dead or alive. One, so as to make them role models for others because life is not all about money. Of course money is very good, it is essential part of good living but we must always recognise excellence, creativity. As you have said yes, I am the Chairman, Adegoke Adelabu Foundation; I have been the founding honorary Secretary of Adekunle Fajuyi Foundation; I am a trustee of D.O Fagunwa Foundation; I am a trustee of Duro Ladipo Foundation among others. And you will see that all these heroes, they made good marks in the various professions and aspects of human life not only Yoruba land, not only Nigeria, not only Africa, but universally. Duro Ladipo, D.O Fagunwa, Adekunle Fajuyi; Adekunle Fajuyi is a symbol of loyalty and integrity, courage because he surrendered to die with his host, General Aguiyi-Ironsi. Some people would have sold the man out, Fajuyi the man of valour. Adegoke Adelabu, the best student of his time. In his life from kindergarten to higher college, Yaba, which was the Nigeria’s highest institution before the University of Ibadan was founded in 1948, Adelabu never came second and he had double promotions in elementary school, triple promotions in secondary. So you see they are the role models we should emulate.
These are the people governments, institutions should symbolise for not only Nigerians but for everybody to emulate.
It is not all about money, money and lately Nigeria’s, sorry, addiction to politics which is commercial politics in essence.
My roles, like the role of any chairman of a foundation, are primary with what we have been doing as I stated. Secondly, to keep alive the memory of my father’s older friend and who played at my naming ceremony. To ensure that we gather not only financial resources but social, which is part of it now your magazine is granting this interview pro bono and you chairman said he would want me to tell him what further participation is City People would hold, which is very kind of you. Which corroborated what I said that it is not all about money, keeping it alive.
On keeping alive Yusuf Olatunji’s good memory and legacy, is there anyone taking after him in music and what are you doing to project or to help the person?
As part of the incentives for the luncheon of the foundation in 2001, Premier Music, one of the recording companies of Babalegba, partnered with us and by the way let me say that the planning committee for the foundation was headed by a late Commissioner for Information and Social Development of Ogun State; the Vice Chairman was King Sunny Ade, who was the President of PMAN then and some staff of Ogun State Ministry of Culture: the eldest son of Babalegba, Tajudeen was also part of it and my honourable self part of the planning committee but I was designated coordinator. Iyalode Alaba Lawson took, took a great part then
As I said since then we have continue to do so and that is what we do. But I am happy that Premier Music kept their word because we held ‘Sakara’ music competition for new stars and it was won by Erekedede and his group and they gave him a recording contract for one year and he is now featuring in shows and recordings. Also, we have encouraged about two Sakara bands in Ibadan, another part of Nigeria and as you know his grandson, Abideen leads his memorial band and he is going to play, God willing, on Saturday December 15, 2018.