How I was expelled from school in Ikere-Ekiti—World Famous, Tunde Baiyewu of Lighthouse Family + The OVATION interview that unveiled him

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Tunde Baiyewu, Co-Founder, Lighthouse Family

Prologue:
This morning, your Africa’s Number 1 Celebrity Encounter Blog, Asabeafrika is going into the archives to unleash the story of Nigeria’s—Abeokuta born world renowned musician, Tunde Baiyewu of the famous Lighthouse Family musical band of the 90s to you all. His inspiring story as conveyed to Africa by Ovation International magazine in year 2002 is one story that will wow many of you, both at home and in the Diaspora. We want the story to inspire and lubricate your zeal for success. Enjoy!

 Preface by OVATION
If Tunde Baiyewu decides to walk the streets of his hometown of Abeokuta, Nigeria, it is doubtful if anyone would recognize him. Yet Tunde Baiyewu is one of the most successful singers in the world. His voice is his major asset. It is interesting what talent is buried in every man.
The OVATION Magazine cover that celebrated Tunde Baiyewu
Tunde Baiyewu’s rise to fame and wealth is one of those classic stories of grass to grace. His life journey is an epic stuff. In this ever first exclusive interview with an African magazine, Tunde not only opened his house to OVATION, he pours out his heart to us, taking us on a tour de force of his miraculous voyage through the ocean of life.
Getting Tunde Baiyewu to do an interview was a herculean task. Asking him to open his home sounded like heresy. For years, we were on the trail of this incredibly talented singer. He was too busy and too private to grant our requests. But all thanks to our good brother who is Tunde’s very close friend, Femi Adeagbo, who encouraged him to speak to Africa’s leading celebrity magazine—Ovation International.
Tunde Baiyewu's 18th Century Ancestral home at Stanmore
On February 17, 2002, we made the impossible possible, Tunde gave us a very warm welcome into his sanctuary in Stanmore, Middlessex. According to a literature on the property, “The Clock Tower”…is one of Stanmore’s oldest, most prominent and best loved landmarks. This Grade II listed property dates back to the early 18TH century having been originally commissioned by the Clutterbuck Family as stables for their shire horses and drays.
Please, relax as you begin to enjoy the exciting story of one of Africa’s greatest ambassadors.
Can we have a bit of your background?
Tunde Baiyewu & the hits; Tunde Baiyewu & the Ovation International publisher
A bit of my background….Yeah sure. I was born in London in the mid 60s. By the age of about 5, my dad passed away. I think he died of cancer, cancer of the liver or something. Before he passed away, actually he went back to Nigeria, I think he knew he was going to, he was going to go, so he went back and he died back home in Nigeria. When I remember actually as a kid, one particular day, this is one of my very strong childhood memories, early childhood memories, coming into the house; this is in London, my mum sitting on a stool and just crying her eyes out, which like really upset me as a kid.
Tunde Baiyewu in front of his Abeokuta ancestral home
So I remember going up to her and saying you know ‘stop crying’, begging her to stop crying and she, you know, kinda like…down a little bit but as a kid at 5 you don’t know what’s going on. Apparently what happened was my Dad had died, the reason she was crying, so shortly after that, we went back to Nigeria. With my sister and I so from that age I grew up in Lagos, I was a little bit of a rascal and I had to be transferred to another school in Ikere Ekiti.
Ikere Ekiti?
Tunde Baiyewu @ home
Ikere Ekiti yeah, the reason I was transferred was by the time i… you know what it’s like with African parents, they want you to be either an Engineer or a Doctor or a Scientist and to be honest with you, by the time I got to the 4th form I was more interested in Arts subjects.
Tunde Baiyewu on stage
Like Literature you know and arts and a little bit of Music. But I was forced into doing physics, Chemistry and Biology, the Biology bit so I just kinda like lost interest in at that age and played truant a lot, wouldn’t go to school. So, in short, I was expelled from school (laughs). I was kicked out of school. I actually remembered then, having to go back home you know to explain with my reports, report card form. My mum came back home early you know what it’s like in Nigeria. Like my mum drives and as your parents would normally turn into the streets and from the top of the road you could hear the horn beeping Pom! Pom!! Pom!!!. Exactly, so I was very familiar with the sound of my mum’s horn. So she came home early from work. She worked at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH)
What’s her name?
Up: Tunde on his Guitar. Down: Tunde meets Bob Dee (Chief Dele Momodu)
Mrs. Elizabeth Titilola Baiyewu. She passed away about two years ago….and so I remembered trembling thinking ‘ooh my God’. She came early and asked for my report card. I gave it to her (laughs) actually, stupid me when I got home the first thing I did was to ravage the kitchen ‘cos I was very hungry; which is not the sort of thing you should be doing in that kind of situation. Actually you should be down as meek as a lamb. Anyway she looked at my report and completely lost it, she got really upset, angry. Anyway, that’s how I ended up going to a boarding school in Ikere Ekiti, Ondo State (Now Ekiti State). I was out there repeating the fourth form. And you know what it is like in a Boarding School learning to be sharp and smart. It’s a different kettle of fish schooling out there.
Tunde Baiyewu
For me, it’s been quite different. Being in the middle of nowhere, like six or seven hours drive, no planes, no trains or anything you are just left out there all on your own to fend for yourself and learn how to survive. Even when there are promises from friends like ‘don’t worry ma we will look after him’ and all that stuff just to get some provisions for me was a problem. Anyway, I was in Ondo for two years and after that I spent a year in Ogun State Polytechnic doing my A-Levels. I now decided that next time I come to London I was going to stay for good. And so in 1985, I came to London and I have been here ever since.
At what stage did you get into Music and did you school here at all?
Well I went to University here for a couple of years, worked for a while at the Westminster City Council in their Social Service Department.
Did you do any odd job?
Tunde Baiyewu & Paul Tucker the Lighthouse Family duo
Oh yes totally. The first three years doing bits and bobs here and there. Yeah I went through the whole gamut of waking up at 4 O’clock in the morning to the freezing cold to go and clean offices. Up till today when I drive past Baker Street (cos some of those offices were on Baker Street) I remember those days of cleaning cups, Cigarette ashtrays, and all the stuff. Not very pleasant but it was something I did for extra cash.  So after all these jobs I thought that I had to go back to school. So I applied and got an admission into Newcastle  (Northumbria University) and did Accounting for three years, and then into music thing. The first thing I realized after studying accounting was that I don’t want to be an Accountant. Don’t ask me why I did it. But life has its twists and turns. I worked in bars for about two years. I was working in this bar pulling pints trying to work out what I really wanted to do. This was when I met Paul, the guy who I started the Lighthouse family with.
What is his full name?
Tunde & Paul lighting up many families with their creativity
Paul Tucker. He was also a student at the University. He has always being interested in music and he had a song he had written three to four years before we met. He was also working in a bar. Our Path never crossed but we had mutual friends who were DJs some of them were studying Music Technology at the University. I had done one or two songs with my DJ friends as part of their course work or projects. This was when they realized I could sing. Paul at the same time was looking for a vocalist to record. He has even put posters out. My DJ friends introduced us. I met up with Paul and he played the song and I sang to it. He fell in love with it. It was a song called “Ocean Drive”. So we went in to the studio and recorded it and to be honest, it was just a laugh.
But people like it and encouraged us to get something out of it. Paul sent copies to record companies. We had friends, deejays who worked at Radio Stations and they played the song. To be honest, I never took it serious because of my African and Nigerian background.
Tunde Baiyewu....Blessed with a great Baritone Voice
As much as I was still thinking of what to do, singing was not on my list. I did not even know how I will tell my mother, after studying all these years that I got a job as a singer.  Anyway, we started getting positive response from record companies and publishers.
I remember the guy that signed us. His name is Cohn Barlow. I’ve had his number for weeks on my information board; I gave it to Paul to get in touch with him. We met him in London. Unlike other A&R, Cohn Barlow was straight to the point, “Listen guys I want to sign you” and that was basically the genesis of the whole thing and that was how it all began. It took a lot on my part to really see the potential of Lighthouse Family. It has been a journey of self discovery really, to realize you know what you are capable of doing.
How many albums have you done so far?
Tunde Baiyewu & Paul Tucker in one of their auspicious photo shots
Three albums; the first one was Ocean Drive recorded in 1995, and the second was Postcards from Heaven released in 1997 and the third one, is Whatever Gets Up Through the Day
And how many have you sold so far?
So far…over 8 million albums
Which one will you say really made you?
Up: Tunde & Paul's major hits, Ocean Drive & Postcards from Heaven. Below: Ovation Magazine Publisher, Chief Dele Momodu & Tunde Baiyewu
Both (Ocean Drive and Postcards from Heaven) the third one is just out so at the moment it has just gone over a million. In the last eight years those two records took Lighthouse family far and wide.
Where and where have you performed around the world?
All over the United Kingdom, all over Europe, South America, Brazil, Argentina, South East Asia. We haven’t done much yet in Africa.
What from your African background would you say has influenced you?
Just all the stuff I grew up with as a kid, Fela Kuti and even now Femi Kuti. Most importantly I remember as a kid that I loved Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey’s Eni ri Nkan hee…I’ve always thought that this song is very spiritual and holds a lot of significance.
Do you ever plan to do anything with Yoruba Music?
Definitely, it’s always been at the back of my mind, even something like Ebenezer Obey’s song. We would like to bring African elements into what we do. There is a lot to explore in that area.
Who would you consider your greatest musician of all times or someone that you admire so much musically?
Up: Tunde Baiyewu's dinning room; Below; Tunde on the Guitar
I love Otis Redding, I love Marvin Gaye, James Taylor, Carole King, Ebenezer Obey without a shadow of doubt; King Sunny Ade’s stuff. I like Fela and Femi Kuti. There also a guy from Brazil, Antonio Okalus Jobine, he wrote a song Girl from Bahima. He has composed over 600 songs and that is the kind of thing I am talking about; a lifetime of classic stuff.
Well as for literature, do you read books, novels?
I don’t really, well, I love bookshops. I am obsessed with bookshops. When I go into bookshops, I go for African poetry arts and music. I’m not a mad fiction person. I like things that you can apply. I am getting back into African Literature. I bought a simple book on learning Yoruba through names and meaning as a way to understanding the Yoruba culture.
Do you play games?
I play a bit of squash and a bit of table tennis. I’m not a football freak. I watch it when it is on. I don’t know who is at the top of the league and personally I do not care. I like Martial Arts but not crazy about Kung Fu. I think it is good exercise especially for my work.
What is your taste like for food?
I can eat anything. I love African Food most especially Iyan and Egusi
Do you visit Nigerian Restaurants?
All the time when I hang out with my friends, there is a particular one called “Mama Calabar”. I also like continental food like sushi.
What plans have you for people back home especially those that look up to you as a role model?
Tunde Baiyewu with Best Nigerian Friend, Femi Adeagbo
Yes I have thought about it and we have actually discussed it with the President (Then President Obasanjo). It is about exposing our own talent to the international scene. I have formed a management with some friends to that effect.
How old are you?
36 (Then in 2002)
So how come you are not married?
Well I don’t think I am ready yet. But at the end of the day when you do meet the right person then it is fine. You know I will go ahead and do it but right now I’m just following my heart and I don’t think I am in that position yet (He married Tope Adeshina, a London based fashion buff in March, 2007)
Would you marry a Nigerian?
Of course, I will consider marrying anyone that I fall in love with.
How do you spend your typical day?
At the moment most of my days are spent promoting and traveling and when I get back, I become an indoor person. I do get to my friend’s house and hang out and go to restaurants and from time to time, we will go out clubbing.
Do you go to church?
Tunde Baiyewu 'I dont go to church but i strongly believe in God'
No, I don’t go to church but I believe in God strongly, but I don’t go to church, in fact, my spiritual teaching is Eckanker. I am sure a lot of Nigerians will be familiar with it.
What is the main teaching of Eckanker?
It teaches you about God and love, about your life. All I can say is that it is important to dream, you know, have goals and dreams. You must believe strongly enough in them but also you should be prepared to work hard enough to achieve them. Nothing comes easy and sometimes you may falter in terms of your not believing strongly enough in your dreams or not being confident enough. Life acts as a magnet that pulls you forward. For me, the only way is to be pure and honest in your dealings.
Finally, you have been featured by newspapers, radio and television worldwide. This is probably your first interview in the African media?
Yeah this is the first major feature by any African Magazine
Thank you

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