Friday, 4 November 2016

The KSA Memoir: How Bolarinwa Abioro turned us to beggars in London …Over New Success Moves!

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KSA, Abioro & African Songs Ltd Management 

“My intention was to go and see how London looked like.  I was able to get my passport through the help of Chief Bolarinwa Abioro.  We were supposed to travel in 1971 with the band but I sneaked out and went on my own in 1970 with a brother of mine. 
In those days, you didn’t need to have much document as a Commonwealth Citizen, I remember that I even forgot my passport at the airport in Nigeria.  They would just ask you a few questions and look into the records and just stamp any paper around them and then you go.  I was in London for a few days before I returned as I had little money on me.  When I alighted from the plane it was in the night, and you can imagine, when you see so many white people in the same place for the first time.  I tried to be my self as if I had been there before but it did not work.
KSA with his boss-friend-foe Bolarinwa Abioro in London, 1971
I then saw my brother waiting for me.  I did not think of anything at all because this was me in London. I took some pictures.  It was the only way to show that you were in London – go to Trafalgar Square to take pictures with pigeons.  When I came back, I could not tell anybody because it was like preparing for the band, since I went there behind them.  It was more or less like sight-seeing for me.

In 1971, we were told that we were going to London with the band. First, for recording.  Second, for a performance.  We travelled with the assistance of African Songs Ltd.  While we were preparing, we were about 15.  But only nine eventually travelled.  We were so happy that we were going to London that we started telling people.  We wanted the whole world to know that we were going to London.  I did not tell members of the band that I went to london in 1970 until 25 years after.
KSA, Abioro & African Songs Ltd Management 
When we got to London, we went straight to Chief Lekan Salami’s brother’s house in Brixton.  After giving us dinner, we were told my band boys will stay in different places.  That was the first time I had a sleepless night.  I did not understand why they could not keep us in the same place.  They had to share the members, some in threes to one place, others in twos  to other places.  I became a bride with everybody requesting me to go with them.  “Oh, I’d rather take Sunny.  I’d rather take Sunny”.  But I was not happy. I didn’t know where the members were taken to; though they gave me their phone numbers, but  so many questions went through my mind:  How do we rehearse? How do we start the show?  How do we co-ordinate?  It was a very sad experience that very night.  For good three days I wasn’t at peace.  I couldn’t relate with my boys the way we normally do.
By Friday that week, they now said  we were going to play, that they had rented equipment for us.  By Friday morning they started bringing in my band boys.  They looked like strangers to me because for five days I could not relate with them. That made me to request for a place for the band members.  They said the only way was to rent a hotel for us.  I then suggested that instead, we should approach the people renovating some houses around the place with signs of “To Let”.  That was eventually what we did.  We rented one of them for three months.  We then went to town to buy fairly used mattresses.  We spread them on the floor.  I remember we bought about four for one pound each.  We bought two television sets – one big one and a small one.  We also bought cooking utensils.  Mere being with the boys brought real happiness to me.  We felt so close.  We didn’t know anywhere in London and no one could take us out except the people who brought us.

“The entire place was freezing cold.  By the time we managed to park at a filling station, about two or three of the boys could not move.  The rest rushed out putting their hands on anything warm.  They were like mad people including me in the restaurant drinking hot tea and doing anything to keep them warm.  Up till now, I’m still suffering from the effect of that trip.  I had pneumonia which still affects both sides of my chest since 1971 till date”. 
KSA....A star foretold
My first London show…
The show started around 8p.m and you can imagine seeing Nigerians wearing Nigerian dresses, coming in large numbers.  I did not know whether they came purposely to watch the show or this was what they normally did.  What was uppermost in my mind was to impress the people of Britain, and to impress Nigerians.  I just considered them to be Britons because a lot of them left home long ago.  We started, and as God would have it, we had an impressive show that night.  By that time, we did not normally start up to play.  You have to sit down and we sat on the stage and people danced on the floor, some moving to the stage.  At a point you in the audience would not see the band members because we were surrounded by those dancing.

That was the first time of having foreign currency pasted on my forehead.  Not only one or two that they normally sprayed us in Nigeria but some, one pound, other, ten pounds!  Tha was also the first time of sharing foreign currency with my members.  I decided after that that before we left London, we should buy a bus to take to Nigeria.  I then took permission from the organization to do this.
KSA....Chief Bolarinwa Abioro and his men couldn't stomach our little success away from London and they just dumped us and went away'
The first week we played was like a trial.  Then, the second week.  And we started having shows.  The only thing was that we only played on weekends – Fridays and Saturdays.  Sometimes we played two shows.  The organizers of these shows were not promoters.  They were not publicists.  They were more or less like the social secretaries for the groups that came to our show.  Such groups include Egbe Omo Oduduwa, Ibadan Descendants Union, Ondo Descendants Union, different clubs, societies and unions.  I never knew basis of the entry to the events, by gate fee or by membership of the associations..  All we did was play for them.  And they would give us some money.
The KSA Questions Abioro couldn’t answer…
After three weeks, we now held a meeting with African Songs and we told them that we wanted to start taking the money meant for the band.  This was not discussed in Lagos.  For good one year when we started planning for the trip, nothing like that came up, because my understanding was that they were the promoters of the artiste, called Sunny Ade; they were the ones selling his records; they were the ones to publicise Sunny Ade and my being in London was to promote that name and the record and then return.  They now started calculating how much they spent on transportation; how much they spent on food; how much they spent on accommodation.  I then asked, “What is the role of African Songs?”  They said, “Well, the role is that we brought you here under some conditions”.  I asked, “What are the conditions?”  They said, “the condition is this, any money you make has to be divided into two, one part to your band and the other to us”. So I asked, “What is the role of the company?”  They said they were promoting us.  I said, “In that case, let us go back home.  These conditions are not what we can work with”.
KSA....A Philosopher-King
Well, may their souls rest in peace, Chief Abioro is  now dead.  Chief Lekan Salami now stood up and said, “Tell these boys what they are supposed to do, if they don’t agree with you let us see what can be done”.  So I said to Chief Abioro, “I don’t think it makes sense for you to be taking the money.  That is what we are supposed to live on.  We don’t know anywhere here”.  He now said we have to go back home, because they could not spend their money anymore.  So I said, “Lets go back home. How much do we get on stage?  It’s not like Nigeria that we buy little things but over here you know we have to go to town, we cook our own food ourselves.  At least when we are going back, we should be able to buy one or two dresses”, but after that meeting, I learnt Chief Salami called the boys that we should continue what we were doing.
KSA; The New Sensation of the 70s
A trip to Germany & the trials of Brother Sunny Ade…
As our departure approached I added the money government gave me with the money we had and travelled to Germany with Mr. Biodun Ali and another Nigerian studying in London.  That was my first time of being on a boat.  We bought a Mercedes bus.  I think it was for about 650 Pounds.  On our return journey, Ali became very, very sick.  I didn’t know what to do.  But something came to my mind.  I asked if they had any medical person on the boat.  Within three minutes, doctors came with their bags and attended to him.  They just gave him a tablet and within 30 minutes, he started laughing.  He said, “If the enemy doesn’t want us to bring this bus home, he has failed”.  We started laughing.  It was the Nigerian student who drove the bus to the ship.  He is now an engineer and a big man in Ogun State government.  He used to come and drive us to wherever we want to go and help us without any pay.
I don’t know whether because the African Songs directors saw the bus or whatever, we were left on our own from that time without the help from anybody.  Within that period, the man that was always helping us, Chief Salami, left for Nigeria.  And there was no money with us.  We then decided to do a show in Mancester to raise some money.  Looking back it was not worth the trouble.  We drove to Manchester and played.  We were given little money just enough to buy petrol, eat and so on.  On our way back, the heating system in the bus failed.  This was during the winter.  It was a little bit okay in London; but in Manchester, it was very cold.  And there was a 100 miles difference between Manchester to London.  We had a lady with us called Modupe Adewunmi. I remember her very well.  She was showing us the way.  We started feeling cold.  We were on the highway and did not know where to park to ask for help.  First, I removed my jacket for the lady.  Mr. Ali wore big Aso Oke.  But he was shaking as well as the other boys.
KSA....His crisis in Manchester left an indelible pain in his heart till date
For about 60 miles, we became so cold that the man driving said he could no longer drive.  He parked. I was wearing only a shirt and trousers and I said, “God, I am the leader, I brought all these people to this land, may you give  me the strength to take them back.  If it is going to cost me my life, I don’t mind”.  I took over the driver’s seat.  At a point, my hands became stiff.  I could not bend my hands.  I could only see the lines on the road as I drove along.  And that was about 5’o clock in the morning.  The entire place was freezing cold.  By the time we managed to park at a filling station, about two or three of the boys could not move.  The rest rushed out putting their hands on anything warm.  They were like mad people including me in the restaurant drinking hot tea and doing anything to keep them warm.  Up till now, I’m still suffering from the effect of that trip.  I had pneumonia which still affects both sides of my chest since 1971 till date.  I only manage it.
‘Alao the Master Driver’…
We stayed there for about one hour before anybody could speak to each other.  I started watcing my boys one by one.  Then the words of Chief Salami came back to me.  “If you know you cannot work with these boys get them back to Nigeria”.  After three hours, we decided to hit the road again.  We had about 50 or 60 miles to go.  We couldn’t go inside the bus because it was very, very cold, almost freezing.  Miraculoursly, I found the cause of the leak in the bus and fixed it.  I then told the boys to go into the bus as the heater came on.  The boys broke into songs of joy. They sang different songs as we drove along.  They called me Alao the master driver, Shaky, Shaky.  Finally we got to London.
KSA & his band at Trafalgar Square, London, 1971
The Great Escape…
There was no money to take us to the Airport.  Then I went to the Nigerian High Commission and saw Mr. Adebayo Kazeem, may his soul rest in peace.  He was the owner of Kaz Chicken.  I narrated everything to him – how we were stranded and what we did.  Then he asked where we were.  I told him.  He said we should pack our things into the bus and drive to the Airport where he would be waiting for us.  He bought us the same type of shirts.  He was the one who made us look like a band on coming back.  I will never, never forget what he did in my life.  Unfortunately, we had to leave the bus behind at the London Airport.  We never saw it again.

(Excerpts from the book; KSA: My Life, My Music by King Sunny Ade. Read ‘How Gani Fawehinmi fought Bolarinwa Abioro for my royalties’ tomorrow on this blog)

Gbenga Dan Asabe

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