Thursday, 3 November 2016

The KSA Memoir: How I met and fell in love with Chief Bolarinwa Abioro + The story of my 1st & 2nd album


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KSA & Chief Abioro, other artistes during a contract signing process 

I cannot talk about  African Songs Ltd and Take Your Choice without giving appreciation to the particular person who took me there.  Her name is Mrs. Masha. She saw us rehearsing at the back of our house in idi-Oro one day and said somebody wanted to talk to me.
I asked, “who?” She said I should just follow her. She took me to Alade Close in Surulere and who did I see there?  It was one of the biggest men in the music industry at the time Chief Bolarinwa Abioro, Chairman of African Songs Ltd.  My heart was pounding when he stretched his hand to shake me.  “See me in the office”, he said.

At that time, African Songs Ltd had its office almost opposite Yaba College of Technology adjacent to the Army Barracks.  When I got there, he was smiling.  “I have heard so much of how good you are in playing music.  I will do everything to make sure you get to the top”, he said.  You can imagine my happiness.  So at last, I was going to be recorded, I almost shouted.  Without looking at what they were to do for me or what they expected from me, I signed a five year contract with African Songs. That was in 1967.


KSA...Iwaju lo'loko yi wa mi lo'

So we started, I was number two in line for recording.  Ayinde Bakare was number one.  After me it was Sikiru Ayinde Barrister and others. Within three years of the establishment of African Songs, it had 72 different artistes.

“I rehearsed as never before with my band.  When the album titled, Challenge Cup was released, everybody wanted a copy.  It sold over 500,000 copies!  My first album was not played very often on radio.  It got to a point that we (band members) would be asking ourselves, “did you hear the music on radio today?” 

We were told that we were going to be recorded.  From that time the Artiste Manager would come and visit our rehearsals. He came and began nodding his head.  Later on, he relaxed.  The minute he was nodding his head, we would be thinking he was happy.  The Artiste Managers were very powerful in those days.  When I was with Idowu Owoeye and we came to Lagos to record for the first time, I was the one who carried tubers of yams and bunches of plantain to give to the Artiste Manager. If you don’t satisfy them, you won’t get anything. So I now tried to do the same for this man.  He refused and said, “play your music, if it is okay, it will be recorded”.  I said, “let me buy beer sir?”  He refused again. Well, I said to myself, whatever happens, there is no problem, after all, they were the ones that sent for me.  I wasn’t the one who went to look for them.


KSA released so many works for African Songs Ltd but he was highly underpaid

How I recorded my first album…
Luckily for me, we were told to go to NBC, Ikoyi, now Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN.  We were fortunate to meet a gentleman called Fola Meados.  He is now a chief.  He told us to set up.  We were an 8 man band and we had one microphone.  We were used to this because I.K. Dairo’s band used one microphone.  We wanted to sit down as we normally did on stage but Meados said, no, that the instrumentalists should stay separate from the singers.  We asked, “with one microphone?”  He nodded.  We started and we were playing in a scattered manner.  The singers were there and the percussionists elsewhere.  Instead of us to ask for head phones to hear everybody, we were just playing with each one not hearing the other.



KSA & Chief Abioro, other artistes during a contract signing process 

Chief Badejo – may his sould rest in perfect peace – came at that point and said, “oya, oya, don’t waste my money”.  It took us almost one hour before we could get our acts together. Then Fola Meados came from the control room and said, “boys, if you relax your mind, relax your body,  you will achieve what you want”.  His words were like soothing balm to us.  We became composed.  And then we recordded, Alaanu ni Oluwa, a three minute single.


KSA's album for African Songs Ltd where he Praised sing Chief Bolarinwa Abioro

Before we came out of the studio, they played the music to us.  Oh, it was wonderful.  We asked, “Sir, when is this record going to come out?”  They said we should go and ask our company.  “Can you play it again?”  we pleaded.  They played it for us almost five times.  We were so happy.  We prostrated on the bare floor in appreciation.  All we wanted at this stage was to be one of the recording artistes to be heard on the radio.  We didn’t look at the business side.


KSA with Chief Bolarinwa Abioro in Buckingham Palace, London, 1971 tour

First album sold 13 copies?
That is what happened to so many of us at the time.  It  did not matter to me when some people said the record sold only 13 copies.  If it was money I was expecting or I was expecting people to buy it, it would be a different case.  We were happy that we had a record and were being heard  on radio.  The recording company did not tell us how many copies were sold because we did not even ask!


KSA & Band Boys @ Trafalgar Square, London, 1971

Second album sold plantinum…
But within me, I knew I had to do something better the next time.  My second album, I must say was the result of research and hard work.  As a footballer, I had watched with interest, the great following that Stationery Stores of Lagos enjoyed across the whole country.  The fans called them different names:  Adebajo Babes, Flaming Flamingoes, Super Stores.  I told Chief Abioro that I wanted to sing about the football club and I was sure its fans would buy the music. He said it was okay.


KSA....Recently won N500 million intellectual property war against late Bolarinwa Abioro

I rehearsed as never before with my band.  When the album titled, Challenge Cup was released, everybody wanted a copy.  It sold over 500,000 copies!  My first album was not played very often on radio.  It got to a point that we (band members) would be asking ourselves, “did you hear the music on radio today?”  Most times the answer was no. But when Challenge Cup came, every radio station, everywhere played it.  And anywhere we performed, we could not control the crowd. By the time I start the opening lines of the song, they would break in and sing along with me.  That was the album that brought me instant recognition.  It was like me throwing a rope and the people began to pull it; I could not pull it back again as they have continued to pull it.  Up till now, they are still pulling it…


KSA...shocked the way he was treated by Bolarinwa Abioro

(Excerpts from the book; KSA: My Life, My Music by King Sunny Ade. Read ‘How Bolarinwa Abioro turned us to beggars in London’ tomorrow on this blog)

Gbenga Dan Asabe

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