Tuesday, 18 October 2016

The KSA Memoir: How Baba Sala raised & trained me


By on 17:15
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KSA & his first band in the 1960s

STILL @ BABA SALAH’S HOUSE IN LAGOS:
“At about the evening a gentleman dressed in a sanitary inspector’s uniform arrived.  I was told he was a staff of the Lagos City Council, but played music on part-time basis.  He asked Brother Ayo who I was. Brother Ayo said I was his younger brother and that he would explain later. 
Moses Olaiya looked at me and saw that my facial marks were exclusively Ondo.  Brother Ayo was from Ilesa.  ‘Ariya Father, o fe pa ro fun mi?  Ki lo n sele?’ (Why are you lying; tell me what is happening). Brother Ayo was forced to explain he knew me in Osogbo and I came to Lagos without his invitation.  The man who would later become Baba Sala did not seem angry.  He only looked tired.



He turned to walk away, but as he moved, I reminded him that he had forgotten his cap.  He turned round to pick it and thanked me.  Brother Ayo seized the chance to inform him that I was a good drummer.  Baba Sala seemed impressed and asked that I be brought to the venue of their gig that night.  The gig was billed for 11p.m and Baba Sala rushed off to get some rest.
KSA....Boyz-to-men-process-loading
How I got a Baba Sala job…
There was no doubt on my mind that the band would hire me if I was tested.  And it did not take long to happen.  The band had only eight members and was shopping for substitutes in case the first choices were unavailable. My absorption was something of a miracle.  The drum I was employed to play was initially played by a blind man named John Bull, who was also a singer.  Before my arrival, they had considered making him concentrate on singing alone.  However, they could not take him off the drums because there was no replacement yet.  I came, blew their minds and took over the drums.

“We asked how the group was going to be funded and Olaiya said it must sustain itself, but might get support from the main band.  Life in the travelling theater was a different ball game.  Sometimes, we toured and got stranded because we were not making money.  We were not like Ogunde or Kola Ogunmola, Oyin Adejobi, Ogungbe and others who were already big stars in the field”
KSA...The Entertainer
Moses Olaiya treated me like a son.  So did the older band members.  In 1965, two years after my arrival, Olaiya introduced a traveling theater.  I really don’t know where the idea came from, but he started putting things together, I suspect that the idea might have come from Ghanaian man, Ajayi Bukana, a friend of his, who was a good comedian.  He got some people from Ogunde’s group and others from outside.  At the outset, it was said we were all going to be part of it.  I had no problem with that because I could act a little.  To my surprise, I was told to head the musical arm of it.  This took me away from the band.
KSA now a band leader @ 20
KSA...'Baba Salah's magninimous act enabled me to become a band leader early in life'
We asked how the group was going to be funded and Olaiya said it must sustain itself, but might get support from the main band.  Life in the travelling theater was a different ball game.  Sometimes, we toured and got stranded because we were not making money.  We were not like Ogunde or Kola Ogunmola, Oyin Adejobi, Ogungbe and others who were already big stars in the field. Again, we were more of a comedy than a theater group.  We just danced, told a story and tried to make people laugh. But people preferred that on the radio, not on stage.
King Sunny Ade....The Enigma
Yet, we managed to popularize the art, particularly with star comedians like Pa Macaulay John, Alao Shaky Shaky and Ajayi Bukana (Shaky Shaky + Alao the Master Driver).  Bukana was in our group and he was such a funny man.  He brought some good ideas and those who watched him went around telling others. At a stage, it started to catch on.
KSA & his first band in the 1960s - Copy
Unfortunately the 32 members of the band were acting as well as providing accompanying music.  Most times we were overworked. We were moving equipment, setting up the stage, dancing around the town where we were to have a show to announce our presence and of course, performing.  By the time we were due to perform, we would be too tired to give our best.  And once the show was over, we would wait for the audience to leave and sleep at the venue.  The next morning, we jumped on the truck to another town where the ritual would be repeated.  The money we were making was barely enough to take care of ourselves on the road. We performed in places like Ilorin, Jebba, Kaduna and Kano.  After each trip, I would go to Moses Olaiya, who never toured with us, and tell him about our experiences.
KSA...The Young Band Leader
After a while, Olaiya ordered that I should come back to the main band.  On the night I returned, we played at Palace Hotel in Lagos.  It was the next building to where the headquarters of the United Bank for Africa is now standing.  We made money on that night and in subsequent shows.  Olaiya was not a greedy man.  Whatever we made we shared.  Sometimes we would not make enough money and whenever he received his salary, he would give us two guineas to share.  That was two pounds and big money in those days.

(Excerpts from the book; KSA: My Life, My Music by King Sunny Ade. Read ‘How I got admission into University of Lagos’ tomorrow on this blog)

Gbenga Dan Asabe

Africa's Number One Celebrity Encounter Blog

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