Wednesday, 19 October 2016

The KSA Memoir: How I got ‘admission’ into University of Lagos (UNILAG) +Story of my first guitar

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KSA signed to Record by Bolarinwa Abioro 
It was not until after two years that I returned to Osogbo to see my mother.  The visit was at the instance of Olaiya, who gave me money and insisted that I went.  Olaiya explained that I was still underage and he needed someone to be my guarantor in case anything went wrong.  Before then, however, I had sent a message to my mother, through a man at Idumota, that I had been given admission into the University of Lagos.

When I eventually got to Osogbo, I did the explaining all over again, telling the same lie.  My mother just stared at me.  She was too shocked to utter a word.  My sister, however, was livid, telling me about the crisis I had put my mother through.  Of course, she did not believe that I was in the University and demanded an evidence of my studentship.  She also invited teachers and friends of my family to ask me where I had been.  The only thing I said was that I had told my mother where I was.  They asked my mother, who told them to ask me.  They asked and I repeated what I said earlier.  When they kept asking, I said: ‘Come to Lagos and you will see me or do you want me to wear a uniform before you become convinced.  We don’t wear uniforms for your information’.
One of KSA's recording at Bolarinwa Abioro's African Songs Ltd
I could not say I was playing music in Lagos because my mother could be in trouble with my father’s family.  So, I called her aside and confided in her, pleading that she should keep it a secret.  I assured her that I was comfortable and that I would go to school soon.  I also showed her the picture of our band and asked her to pray for me.  I owe a lot to my mother.  I sing for her every time I see her.  If she had revealed that I was playing music to other members of my family, I would not have liked it at all.  My family members would have criticized me and I would not have the kind of good relationship that exists among us now.
KSA recorded many songs for Chief Bolarinwa Abioro
Why I don’t drink or smoke…
I rejoined the band on my return from Osogbo.  On weekends, we played at Palace Hotel, where occasionally, they would dress me in adult clothes so that people from Osogbo would not recognize me.  Sometimes, we played in places like Ado-Ekiti and Benin City, once or twice monthly.

Also to avoid being recognized, I rarely mixed with people and never drank nor smoked.  I was strictly a band boy whose responsibility was to take care of the instruments before or after each session.  I did the setting and packing each time.
I could not say I was playing music in Lagos because my mother could be in trouble with my father’s family.  So, I called her aside and confided in her, pleading that she should keep it a secret.  I assured her that I was comfortable and that I would go to school soon.  I also showed her the picture of our band and asked her to pray for me.  I owe a lot to my mother”
During my stay with Olaiya, I was able to save money.  I did so by being so humble.  As the youngest band member, it was my job to buy food for older colleagues.  Whenever they wanted to eat, they would call ‘smallie’ (me) to go and buy food.  I usually went with as many as five plates at a time. The favorite food was amala.  Soon the amala seller became familiar with me. For each plate I bought, she gave me a little extra. That extra was mine, while the full places were for those who sent me. For this reason, I never needed to pay for my own meals.  I will forever remain grateful to the Olaiyas.

KSA...The Music Man
How I bought my first guitar…
From my savings, I teamed up with two other band members to rent a room in Moses Olaiya’s house. I also bought something that is now my identity – a guitar.  It was an acoustic bought from Dr. Victor Olaiya at the cost of one pound and nine shillings.  I successfully hid it from my colleagues out of fear that they could tell our band leader that I was planning to leave the band or even push me out.  I decided to teach myself how to play the guitar.  In the night, I would go outside to one of the kiosks and start strumming.  I started with ‘Do, Re, Mi’ and later began playing songs.  Back then, there was a superstition that ghosts would hurt anyone playing guitar at night.  Each time I played outside, I saw people, not ghosts.  As a matter of fact, I was ready to dare the ghosts. Gradually, I mastered it.  Still, my colleagues were unaware that I could play guitar until one day that our boss was not available to lead us at a gig.
KSA with his first set of Musical Instruments
Day I broke my virginity…
That day – I do not remember whether our boss was tired or had other engagements – we did not know he was unavailable until it was too late.  About four bands were billed to play before us and we thought he would arrive before it was our turn.  He did not.  At our turn, I told my colleagues that I would play the guitar.  They were shocked.  ‘Can you play?’  One asked.  ‘I will try’, I said.  In any case, I had no choice or we would not play at all and nobody would give us money.  Then I picked up the guitar and said: ‘Let’s play’.  They hesitated, afraid of the embarrassment that I could cause them with my presumably silly stunt.  The fear was almost tangible.  Then, all of them asked, at once, if I could play.  I said yes.  But question of who was going to lead was still unresolved.  I called John Bull, the blind man who originally played drums and sang to be the lead singer.
KSA with Dr. Yemi Farounbi (R) and others
Encounter with Chief Tunde Amuwo…
I told him to sing all the songs we were already familiar with and we would jointly sing the chorus.  We started singing, injecting people’s names and singing their praises.  As we played, one man kept looking at me.  Occasionally, my eyes met his and I would become uncomfortable.  My mind told me that he would slap me after the show for ruining his evening with my amateurish guitar riffs.

Those thoughts proved unfounded.  After the show, he called me and introduced himself as Chief Tunde Amuwo.  He was a politician and musician of the Action Group.  ‘Where did you come from?’ he asked.  I told him I was a member of the band.  ‘Where is Olaiya?’ I said he did not come, probably because he was tired.
KSA signed to Record by Bolarinwa Abioro
‘Tell him that I want to see him.  I have some instruments at home.  You are a good boy.  You can lead a band’.  That was the last thing I wanted to hear.  But he still went on to say he would tell my boss what he had told me.  I do not know if he did, but after some months, my boss told me that a friend of his wanted to give me his instruments.

He also asked if I would like to form my own band.  I was stupefied.  At 20, I considered myself too young to lead a band.  I told my boss that I did not come to Lagos to lead a band if that was his plan, he should send me back to the theatre group.  Rather than back down, our leader said: ‘Sunday, I think you have to go and try your luck’.  My eyes were misty and he saw the sadness in them.  Yet, he did not stop.  He commended the loyalty I had shown to his band and said if I was his son, he would encourage me to take the chance.
KSA performing at a show in the early 70s
Olaiya realized that his words were making no sense to me.  He also sensed my fear of failure – if I eventually said yes.  He offered a safety net.  ‘Form your own band and after nine months, come back if it fails’, he said.  He told me to go and take the instruments; I thanked him and walked away.

For a whole week, I could not sleep because of a constant headache.  I thought he wanted me out of his band by all means and I wondered what I could have done to deserve expulsion.  When I could find no reason for such, I approached his senior wife to plead on my behalf. But after listening to me, she said: ‘Oga o ri be.  Lo try’.  (It is not so, go and give it a shot).  Her words failed to comfort me.  I moved on to older band members and told them the story and, surprisingly, they all advised that I should begin to think about it.
The King of Guitar
I concluded that there was a conspiracy to get me out of the band.  Why? I could not figure out.  About two weeks after, our boss asked if I had gone to look at the instruments.  I said I had not. ‘Why?’  He asked.  I kept quiet.  ‘Go there tomorrow’, he ordered.  I went to Chief Amuwo, who owned the Western Coliseum at Apongbon.  The place was one of those pulled down to build the Eko Bridge.  He showed me the equipment and they were the type used by big bands like I.K Dairo and Dele Ojo.  They were not new, but in very good condition.  What else could I do?

(Excerpts from the book; KSA: My Life, My Music by King Sunny Ade. Read ‘How I became a band leader @ age 20’ tomorrow on this blog)

Gbenga Dan Asabe

Africa's Number One Celebrity Encounter Blog


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