Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The KSA Memoir: Why I dropped-out of school + I hate singing as a kid…

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KSA....The boy had an ambition to lead the world with Music - Copy
Today on Your Africa’s number 1 Celebrity Encounter blog, Asabeafrika, the King of World Beat, King Sunny Ade  uses the story of his juvenile rascality at school amidst a surge of emotion to find the right path to career and creativity to educate us on more of the story of the making of an African Music legend and enigma. The story of the childhood of KSA is a big education for every parent raising a child. He loved education but music loved him more even though he hated singing. Enjoy!

 My head, hand, ear & school…
“Many people remain curious about my educational qualifications.  For the avoidance of doubt, I dropped out of secondary school after just one term.  While a truckload of degrees is no cast-iron guarantee for success in life, education remains the biggest factor that shapes a man’s direction in life.  I was desperate to go to school and every day, I envied children who were already in school.  Their uniforms and behavior made me itch to be one of them.  In 1953, my chance seemed to have come. I was taken to a primary school for enrolment, but was rejected by teachers in charge of the enrolment process.  The basis for turning me back was a common one in those days.  Apart from attaining school age, any child brought for enrolment was required to take his or her hand across the head until it reached the ear on the other side of the head.  I stood before the teachers, attempted to touch my left ear with my right hand, but it fell a few inches short.  The teachers were beyond sentiments and simply ordered me to fall off the queue of enrolment seekers and come back another time.  I was gutted”.

KSA, Mum and Dad (Inset) Mum was passionate for  KSA but KSA was passionate for Music

The Second Chance…
“A year later, I got another chance when my mother told my sister to go and register me at the African Primary School, Osogbo.  It was owned by the African Church.  This time, I thought I would have no problem getting enrolled.  I do not remember why I assumed it was a done deal because I had not actually attempted to touch my left ear with my right hand after my failure the previous year.

“I didn’t even like anyone singing around me.  It almost gave me fits. I, however, got punished for the broken glass.  But then, it was a small price to pay for early freedom from those dreary singing classes.  The broken glass gave me the chance to mess with the clock as I liked”. 

As I stood on the queue, my little eyes roamed the school compound, settling intermittently on my prospective school mates and teachers, who were waiting to ask us questions.  It soon came to my turn.  I answered the questions asked by the teachers.  Even at the risk of sounding conceited, I can say that the teachers were impressed by my composure. The satisfaction on their faces convinced me that I was on my way to becoming a pupil.  I started imagining myself in a school uniform and chatting excitedly like the kids who were already in school.

KSA the Drummer Boy

But there was still one more river to cross: the hand-over-the-head test.  A teacher motioned to me to come and take the test.  I quickly moved over; the result?  Same as the previous year!  It was as shocking as a heart-attack, as I was again considered ineligible for enrolment because my hand still had not reached the ear on the other side. What made it more painful was that I saw kids my age scaling this hurdle.  I was confused.  My head and mind were in whirl.  For a few minutes, I remained rooted on one spot and decided that I was not going to leave the school.  At the time, I had enough stubbornness to support my decision.  I also did not know how to cry.  Even when flogged at home, I never cried, except if I did not commit the offence for which the punishment was dished.  Whatever the severity of the flogging, I never cried if I did anything wrong.  When I grew up, I realized it was an Ondo trait.  An Ondo man could kill if he was wrongly punished.  That is why they call OndosOmo do pa, do kuti’ (those who can kill and gallantly admit that they carried out the killing).  This is their way of protesting injustice.  That was the attitude I adopted in the failure to get enrolled at the second attempt.

KSA....'I had to dump School when i couldn't handle it again'

The Miracle of Shakara!
However, a miracle was in the offing.  While my sister was also distraught at what had happened, she at least found her voice and told me that we should leave for home.  Leave?  She must be kidding, I thought.  Realizing that I was going to remain unyielding, my sister went for a cane in the belief that the sight of it would melt my resistance.  The plot failed, as I remained adamant.  At that point, she realized that it was futile to flog me because I would not cry and she resorted to pleading that we should leave.  Her pleas did not move me either.  I moved away from her, but she followed me until I got to the part of the school where the church was.  In those days, schools and churches were built on the same premises because most of the schools were founded by missionaries.  We eventually got close to the reverend’s quarters, where I stood watching the kids playing.  The sight of those happy kids filled me with dejection.  Why, I wondered, was I prevented from being happy like those kids?  Hard as I thought, the answer eluded me.  Suddenly, my brain regained its power and I remembered that one of the elders of the church was a close friend of my parents. His name was Pa Akinmoyede.  I asked my sister to let us go and tell him what had happened.  I suggested this because I knew that if my mother had come with me, she would have gone to tell Pa Akinmoyede of my rejection and seek his assistance.

My sister agreed that we should see him and we made to leave for his house.  Just as we were stepping out of the school, I heard someone call us and I told my sister.  We turned round and saw a man who did not acknowledge our greetings before tongue-lashing my sister for attempting to take me away from the school.  The man was sent by Pa Akinmoyede who had heard what happened to me and sent the man to put in a word for me with the school authorities.  The man asked us to follow him to see the teachers.  It was at that point that I began to experience a surge of triumph.  But rather than jump at the new chance offered me, I told my sister and the man that I was not ready to go with them to see the teachers!  They almost collapsed in disbelief.  I am sure they must have thought something had scrambled my head.  Something actually did, but it was feeling of elation arising from the fact that Pa Akinmoyede’s man coming to tell the teachers they were wrong to have turned me back.  It was plain shakara.  Why would I turn down something I had almost missed out on if not for shakara?

As we approached the teachers, the man decided it was time to banish the stubbornness from my heart.  He went for a most abrasive tool: a cane.  Before I was asked any question, the cane landed on my forehead and I started seeing stars.  He said if I thought I was going to bring my stubbornness to the school I should have a rethink because teachers have potent antidotes to stubbornness.  I stood still.  The man then went to speak with the teachers and they decided to enroll me.

KSA....The boy had an ambition to lead the world with Music

My School Life…
I spent four years in the school before moving to Methodist Primary School, also in Osogbo.  It was in my second year or Standard Two, as it was referred to in those days that the free education programme of the Chief Obafemi Awolowo-led Action Group government in Western Nigeria began.  It was also in my second year that my father died, leaving the task of raising three children to my mother.  I was aged eight.  However, I completed my primary education at my second school.

I changed from African Primary School to Methodist for two reasons.  One, because many of my friends with whom I had been in African Primary School crossed over to Methodist.  The other reason was that I had become fascinated with Catholic priests and wanted to become one.  African Primary School also became unattractive because it has no football field.  The Methodist school was opposite St. Benedict’s School, owned by the Catholics.  As much as possible, I wanted to be close to the priests.  I actually wanted to go to St. Benedict’s, but I was not offered admission.  Some of my teachers had grown fond of me and they did not want me to leave because I was good in sports, particularly football, athletics, table tennis and sack race.  I was also showing signs of academic brilliance.

My dream to become a Catholic Priest…
I desperately wanted to become a priest and I thought my future lay in being one.  Even up to now, when I see a priest coming, especially a Catholic priest, the roe and all, I still think they are angels on earth.

In those days when we see Reverend fathers or Sisters coming from about 100 yards away, we bowed or knelt as though we were seeing God.  For a number of reasons, I believed that the Catholic Church was miles ahead of the Methodist Church.  I just wanted to be a part of the Catholic Church.  I was enthralled by the carriage of the priest, whom I could observe at close quarters because our house was on top of a hill overlooking the church.  It was not that I did not love the African Church, with which I became familiar in Osogbo, but I was too taken in by the Catholics.  What I loved most about the African and Methodist churches was that the worshippers danced a lot.  When it came to dancing or music, the African and Methodist Church members danced well.  The African Church choir could out sing birds.  Once the Reverend Father ordered the choir to sing, it was like heaven had come.  At a time, I was desperate to know how he managed to galvanize the choir into churning out those danceable songs.  It got to a stage that dancing was what sustained my interest in the church.  If there was any song and people were just shaking their heads, I would be wondering why they were not dancing because I thought songs were sung to make people dance.  Since I could not get into the Catholic school, I resigned to going to the Methodist school.

My teachers were unhappy to see me leave the African School because they thought, with my interest in a wide variety of things; I could be a source of pride to the school.  I was made the time-keeper and had also begun to develop an interest in music.  That started with a fascination with drums in the church.  I could have stayed, but I didn’t regret leaving African Primary School.  I also think the credit for whatever I became would have gone to that school if I had gone to the university.  However, I believe in destiny.  In my view, the direction I eventually took was my destiny.  I was to croon in one of my songs many years later: My destiny can never be changed at allMy destiny is in the hands of God”.

KSA...The Band Leader

The Red Devils & the broken church clock…
In school, I was very active.  I had started playing drums because of my exposure to them in church.  My drumming got better because I was a member of the Boys’ Brigade Movement.  What I disliked, as I said earlier, was singing.  I felt sad anytime we were due for singing lessons.  My friends knew this and they never failed to ask me how I would sing in the church.  My belief was that the time we spent singing was being wasted by our teachers who ensured that we sang almost the same songs every time.  The teachers did not exactly have things their own way.  As the time-keeper and hater of singing lessons, I always ensured – may God forgive me– those lessons ended 15 minutes from scheduled time.  How I did that?  Simple!  The clock we used was the type that rang every hour; one of those grandfather’s clocks.  One day, I deliberately ensured that it fell from where it was hung so its face, made of glass, could break.  This was done to enable me use my fingers to manipulate the hands of the clock.  It succeeded because I was just desperate to spend as little time singing as possible.

KSA....The Boy left the class room for the club house

I didn’t even like anyone singing around me.  It almost gave me fits. I, however, got punished for the broken glass.  But then, it was a small price to pay for early freedom from those dreary singing classes.  The broken glass gave me the chance to mess with the clock as I liked.  And once it was a quarter of an hour to the end of a singing lesson, I adjusted it for the purpose and rang the bell.  The sound of the bell would send pupils trooping out of the classroom.  There was nothing anyone could do about it.  About eight of my friends knew this trick, but they never exposed me.  After all, what are friends for?  As a matter of fact, they supported what I was doing.  We were almost like a club and we named ourselves ‘Red Devils’.

Mum chased KSA around town for education but Music later chased KSA away from Mum

Now, I look back at those days and realize that there was some sort of intervention in my life.  The intervention process that made me a singer and musician defies easy categorization, but I think it will fall under one, if not all of these: miracle, mystery, wonder and surprise. Take your pick.  Yet, I have had cause to regret not taking my singing classes seriously because I would have had sufficient song training long before I became a singer.  It was only when I started getting involved in music that I began thinking more about singing.  However, when it came to dancing, I required no incentives.  I could even forget to eat or drink as long as music was playing and I was shuffling to the rhythm”.

(Excerpts from the book; KSA: My Life, My Music by King Sunny Ade. Read ‘Day KSA nearly got drowned in River Niger’ tomorrow on this blog)

Gbenga Dan Asabe

Africa's Number One Celebrity Encounter Blog


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