Abeokuta Fuji star, Sefiu Alao is one of the leading fuji music stars in Nigeria. He plays good music. He is deep. He is philosophical. He plays a different kind of Fuji music which is rich in history and culture. He grew up in the midst of a lot of grand old men in Abeokuta and this has enriched his music. He plays clean fuji music, devoid of rancour, abuse and innuendoes unlike many Fuji artistes who hold grudges amongst themselves, Sefiu Alao has been at peace with his fellow Fuji artistes.
One commendable thing about Sefiu is that he has stayed close to his root which is why he calls himself original Omo Oko. He was born, bred and buttered in Abeokuta. And he has refused to relocate to Lagos in search of greener pastures. For close to 4 decades he has remained in the same community he was born which explains why he calls himself Omo Oko. And he has made a huge success of his career which he started in 1983. He is believed to be one of the richest Fuji musicians, as he has diversified into other businesses.
He just rebuilt his corporate office at Ago’ba in the Igbore/Ago Iba area. It is a 3 storey building with an open roof penthouse where he and his boys rehearse. He is also set to float a radio station. He sells cars. He is also into real estate. He is hugely successful. But he is not loud or showy. He has remained level headed and focused. He is committed to his craft. He rehearses 3 times a week and he keeps releasing albums one after the other. A new album will come out this coming Itunu Awe period.
He has remained single since 2013 when he lost his wife, Alhaja Nimota Adekunle. Last Thursday City People Publisher SEYE KEHINDE spent the whole day with him at his new corporate office in Abeokuta and he spoke about his life of music.
You have been singing for decades now, since the 80s. How have you seen the growth of the music industry especially the fuji sector you belong to?
Hmm! This music business has been an interesting one. Ise Orin! Ise Orin! Ise Orin! You can see I called it 3 times. It’s a good job. It has its own challenges and it also has its own benefits and enjoyment. The problem we musicians face in Nigeria is that we are getting no support. Government is not supporting us. So we are left to God. Its depends on where God can take you. You can only try. If you are lucky some people who believe in you can also help. Ise Orin (music business) is good for anyone that God has helped greatly. You can’t become a star on your own, or by your own doing. It is not easy to become a star. Its God that makes you a star. If you do Juju, it can’t make you a star, unless God decides to elevate and make you successful in the music industry. There are so many of us singing, but there are just a few that God has elevated. You need TALENT to make it in music. You have to have talent that God just gave you. That God just blessed you like a gift. Nobody teaches you. It’s in you. It must be in you. It’s like being a footballer. Music business comes with a lot of insults. And it comes with a lot of blessings. Music business is good for whoever God has blessed. You need that anointing from God to succeed. It must come from God. So it comes as a package. The Good. The Bad. And the Ugly.
How did you get into music?
I started when I was young. Since I started I have encountered a lot of challenges, different kinds of challenges. I started singing since I was age 14. At that time I just entered secondary school at Unity High School in Abeokuta here. That is where I started singing. We used to sing in school. Once we finish our 3rd term exams and we are about to go on holiday, we used to sing songs in school just to play and entertain ourselves. That was how it started and it developed into our singing at every festive period, like New Year, Xmas, Itunnu Awe, we would rent instruments in our neighbourhood. That is how it started little by little until God blessed us. It will interest you to know that I started here, in this Igbore/Ago Iba area, in Abeokuta. That is where I started from. Let me confess to you that when we started off years ago we didn’t know it will be this big. We didn’t take it as a job. It was more like a pastime, hobby, that we do as leisure. It is not something that you mean to do. Noo.
My parents wanted me to go to school. After I left primary school, I went to learn an architectural job. As I was doing that, I was singing and as money was coming in I left the architecture business and I started concentrating on singing. I like singing a lot. I like the business, so much so that I can let my children do it. It is a job that brings you respect. It enables you meet big, big people. Very important people (VIP). It also teaches you how to speak well, it makes you knowledgeable. Even if you didn’t go to school if you start singing you will learn how to speak well. It is a job that enlightens you. It opens your eyes, it teaches you a lot about peoples behaviour and character. There are challenges and problems too. It has to do with when you want to rise up. All the other challenges are normal everyday challenges. It is akin to the problems that politicians face, or rich men. They all face challenges from time to time. They can suffer setbacks. It happens to musicians also.
When you were starting out who are those you were looking up to as role models that you wanted to be like?
When I first started my music career, I used to imagine and wonder if I could be like Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister. I used to look up to Sikiru Ayinde Barrister. I used to ask myself can I even meet this Barrister and shake his hands and greet him. I used to like the way he sings. When I first started I used to turn his songs into mine. I will imitate him and remove names of people he mentioned in his songs and replace it with my own set of names. For instance, if he mentions a name like Alao Lateef in his song, I can replace it with Alhaji Mohammed. When he sang motun gbe de kebuyeri, orin ti wa jo wasi. When he mentioned Alhaji Ayinde Ade, Adeyimika Barrister I will turn it to my own name. I will say Alhaji Alao Ade, Adekunle Mi, Sefiu. Sha ma ba faaji bo. Ko si ewu ni egberun eko. I used to look at Barrister as a role model and Alhaji Kollington Ayinla also as a role model before Alhaji Wasiu joined them. At the time God started blessing Alhaji Wasiu, I have started singing also.
By the time Alhaji Wasiu became well known, me too, I have been singing. By the time he did Tala 84, I was already singing.
When did you start releasing records?
I started releasing record in 1990. I did Vol 1 in 1990 March. It is called Cardoso 90. I did Vol2 in July. I did another one in December. At that time artistes usually release 3 records a year. They do it every 4 months. I have done 48 records to date. That I did alone. I did some plates (records). That is what they call it then. I still met those big plates (records) when I started singing. I did 3 plates- Cardoso 90, Cardoso System & Archival material. The 3 titles came out as plates (records) before we moved on to Cassettes. From Cassette we moved to C.D.
What are the changes that you have seen in the music industry since you started?
The challenge is that things are getting duller and duller. It is not rising. When we started music, in plates (records) in those days, the Music Producers used to give us money, not big money, but money.
Although they used to cheat us then, they still gave us some money. They will tell us, Oya go and do record ooo. Then, they will first gave us advance, some good cash. They may not give us any big money after that. They may give us in bits. In those good old days once we enter the studio, the noise will be all over town, without doing a single advert.
All over town, they will hear that Sefiu has entered the studio ooo. The producer himself will spend his money. People will go and be giving him money, that me, I need 500 copies, me, I need 200, I need 700 copies. Distributors will be demanding for copies and they will be paying down. There is usually a huge demand for copies of the album. The distributor in Ibadan will have paid for 10,000 copies, Osun 10,000, in Lagos some pay 50,000. So the Marketer will gather all the money and take to the studio to dub the record. A week to the album coming out all the posters will be out. People will have been seeing the posters and the awareness is already there. It is not like that now. Right now, it is not like that. Things are dull now. Marketers no longer print posters, so there is no awareness that a record is coming out. Some Marketers only give out posters on the day they are giving out CDs. So there is no awareness, no publicity.
No progress again in this music industry. Things are just dull.