Monday, 7 November 2016

How Gani Fawehinmi fought Bolarinwa Abioro for my royalties + Why Abioro refused to release my master tape till he died

By on 14:25
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KSA & Chief Abioro, other artistes during a contract signing process 

“When we returned, I vowed not to have anything to do with African Songs Ltd again.  I even granted an interview to journalists at the Lagos International Airport on our arrival stating how we were almost stranded in London.  Chief Gani Fawehinmi who had been my lawyer but who I see as a big brother being from the same town with me took up the case.  But somehow I went back to African Songs due to the intervention of Chief Lekan Salami and Chief Leke Oshinjirin.

To be candid, Chief Lekan Salami is a unique human being. Since he decided to promote Sunny Ade, he did it  with his whole heart. He did it as if he was my father.  He did it as if he was a little god for me.  He was always  telling me: “Sunny, I want you to get there”.  He would spend his own money on anthing he felt would promote me.  And some musicians who I will not mention used to abuse him any time he did that.  But he didn’t care. He would say, “this is my boy”.  He was the one who introduced me to General Adeyinka Adebayo, the governor of Western State at that time.  And when I played that very night for Adebayo in his home town, Ekiti, I became his musician.  I also became his boy, his son.  He was so impressed.
KSA & Chief Abioro, other artistes during a contract signing process

What people don’t know about Chief Abioro…
So when Chief Salami asked me to go back to African Songs, I could not say no.  If it was Chief Abioro, I wouldn’t have ever done that.  If Chief Abioro sprayed you money on stage, he would demand it back.  But Chief Salami never did that.  To be fair, Chief Abioro was good on one side – the area of publicity and in what was necessary.  When I went back, Chief Gani Fawehinmi was very angry with me.  But there was nothing I could do.  Within the period of our return, we recorded about 20 albums.
Late Gani Fawehinmi
In those days, all I was interested in was to record.  To be seen as a good musician.  I must confess I was not interested in the business side because I regarded the royalty of 20 kobo as something too small to worry about.  I did not know that that was the real thing.  If I had known how important it was, I would have taken it more serious at the time and may be things would not have turned the way they eventually did with me and African Songs.  Chief Gani Fawehinmi had warned me to look into the business side and understand it well, but I never did.
“If Chief Abioro sprayed you money on stage, he would demand it back.  But Chief Salami never did that.  To be fair, Chief Abioro was good on one side – the area of publicity and in what was necessary.  When I went back, Chief Gani Fawehinmi was very angry with me.  But there was nothing I could do.  Within the period of our return, we recorded about 20 albums.  In those days, all I was interested in was to record.  To be seen as a good musician”
KSA released so many works for African Songs Ltd but he was highly underpaid
When I first signed the contract in 1968, it was for five years (1968 – 1972).  They made me to sign another one in 1971 without the first one running out.  I was upset.  I said I was not going to sign, arguing that we had only spent four years. But because of Chief Lekan Salami, I signed another five years without waiting for the remaining year to run out. It was more or less like being blindfolded.  So I signed and when I did, Chief Gani Fawehinmi was so annoyed that he said he was going to sue me!  For good one year, I could not go to Chief Fawehinmi’s office.
KSA...Iwaju lo'loko yi wa mi lo'
One year to the end of the contract, they came again with a new contract for me to sign for another five years.  That was when I said, “Not until I finish this contract I would not sign”.  At this point I was threatened by Chief Abioro who said that for the remaining one year, they were not going to promote me or do anything for me anymore.  When he saw that I was not moved, he said, “Sunday, look at my face.  I’m going to fight you like a wounded lion”.  Calmly, I replied: “I am a toothless sheep but don’t touch me because I am one of the sheep that Jesus Christ used to guard.  When I got lost, he left the remaining sheep to look for me”.  I knew the battle line had been drawn as I left his office. But it was really long overdue…
KSA....Recently won N500 million intellectual property war against late Bolarinwa Abioro
The mixed grill shop…
African Songs for me was a mixed grill.  It was good for me in the area of publicity but very bad on the monetary side.  Anywhere in the world musicians rely on royalties but my own case was different.  For years I was on 20 kobo royalty while musicians on other labels were enjoying 50 kobo as royalty.  When I asked for a raise to 50 kobo I was told that they were treating me better than other musicians on their label.  “How?”  I had asked.  Their only answer was that a review could only come at the expiration of the existing contract.  That was even after I had appealed to some of his big friends to intervene – General Adebayo, Prince Sijuade among others.  “An agreement is an agreement”, Chief Abioro had told them.
KSA with Chief Bolarinwa Abioro in Buckingham Palace, London, 1971 tour
It was in anger that I decided to wax the album, Ekilo Fomo Ode which I planned to give him and say, “This is my album.  I would want N1 as royalty instead of 50 kobo.  I know what it cost.  It was done abroad”, things like that.  That was what I had in mind.  But unfortunately, by the time the package containing the records got to Ikeja Airport, the owner of the company, who I later learnt was a friend of Chief Abioro gave him a copy.  And before the close of work that day, Chief Abioro had sued me for breach of contract.  I had to do something fast.  I registered Sunny Alade Records as the label for the music overnight.  The case was an eye opener for me…

Chief Gani Fawehinmi who represented me was able to point out that on the issue of royalty, I was being paid 15 kobo instead of 20 kobo.  He wanted to know what they did with the 25% taken out of my money.  While the accountant said it was standard practice, Chief Abioro said it was for publicity.  That was when Chief Gani Fawehinmi asked, “Is Sunny Ade paying for his publicity?  What is the role of the company?  Do you have an agreement covering that?”  Chief Abioro said yes.  When they brought it, it stated: “To promote the artiste and Chief Abioro himself”.  The judge then said he wanted to see the three year statement of accounts.  That was were everything came out – they were making almost three million naira a year on my records and in the nine years I had been with them, all I got was N52,000!
KSA & Band Boys @ Trafalgar Square, London, 1971
 But on the record I released, I must confess it was a good record, still is, the judge awarded N300 cost against me and ruled that I should not wax another album for the next six months.  That was when I first received N5000 bundle in my life.  When I got it, I tore the nylon and put N1,000 each inside different sides of my pocket and placed the remaining one on my chest.  I then said, “I have  to enjoy myself”.  After that I decided not to get close to African Songs not because I was expecting Chief Abioro to do any harm to me but it was like when you have been given your freedom, why go there again?
KSA's album for African Songs Ltd where he Praised sing Chief Bolarinwa Abioro
Bolarinwa Abioro’s gimmick…
So I waited for about 20 years and in this period they refused to give me my masters.  In any contract, the company sells the sound while the artiste owns the master.  It’s an intellectual property.  But they refused.  Chief Abioro then called me one day when he returned from abroad.  I went alone because I did not even want my driver to know I was going there.  This was because I did not want anyone to be held responsible if anything bad happened to me.  He spoke to me very well as a father and he asked, “What are you going to do?  I don’t want to release this thing (master tape) without having something.  If I release it how do you want me to eat?”  Then I asked too, “if you don’t release it, how do you want me to eat?”  He now said he would release it but added “can’t you find a way we can release it under a different condition?”  I said, “Okay, put it in writting”.  He said, “Ah, no, its like me looking for another trouble of yours.  Go and discuss with your lawyer.  As your father, I want to make some money too.  I know it is your property but”

I didn’t return to him, so he sent for me again.  Unfortunately, before the message got to me, he passed on.  But I was told he said he had something to give me and I believe that those were the master tapes and maybe he wanted to say, “Sunny, please forgive me” – maybe not.  Anyhow, I have forgiven him; I regarded him as a father.
KSA...shocked the way he was treated by Bolarinwa Abioro
As time went on, I thought the children would call me and make their own arrangement. But I started seeing my albums in America, in London and in different places.  Then I challenged them and they told me it’s their father’s property.  That was why I went to court.  The case is still in court.  Recently, the son started looking for  me, going as far as Nigerian Association of Recording Industries, NARI, getting across to even Mr. Kazeem, my promoter and marketer during that era.  They have all spoken to me and I said whatever they have to say, for us to settle out of court, they should bring all my masters, then we would now talk about the business…
(Excerpts from the book; KSA: My Life, My Music by King Sunny Ade. Read ‘Funny things I did on my first trip to America’ tomorrow on this blog)

Gbenga Dan Asabe

Africa's Number One Celebrity Encounter Blog


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