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Recalling the life and times of Fuji Lord Sikiru Ayinde Barrister by Lukman Omikunle

That the late Fuji music legend rose to stardom was no fluke as he was known all over Lagos for his rare sonorous voice at the age of 10.

Late Chief (Dr) Sikiru Ayinde Barrister was born in 1948 to the famous Balogun family of Adakeja bi esu compound, Ayeye in Ibadan the capital of the old western region.

The late Sikiru Balogun became popular in 1958 when he began ‘were’ music which is known for waking Muslims at midnight during the month of Ramadan.

At the age of 10, he was already leading a group of boys who sang during Ramadan (Muslims’ fasting period.)

Barrister later transformed this ‘were’ to Fuji music, which today has attracted several controversies over the real creator of this genre of music.

Mr. Fuji, as fondly called, continued to be one the leading purveyors of Fuji, exciting, amplified dance music combining Juju, Apala and traditional Yoruba blues that he introduced in the late ‘70s.

He laid the foundation for Fuji which he named after Mt. Fuji, the Japanese mountain of love.

He adopted the name Barrister as a stage name, while he named his band, Supreme Fuji Commanders, which later metamorphosed to African International Music Ambassadors.

One of the few Fuji musicians who had an education. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister attended a Muslim School before he moved to the prestigious Yaba College of Technology in 1961, it was gathered that he was forced to abandon his studies due to financial constraints. After leaving school, he was employed as a stenographer.

During the Civil War that swept through Nigeria between 1967 and 1970, he served in the Army and left as a retired sergeant.

His days as a soldier saw him serving under the then Colonel Murtala Mohammed and Colonel Olutoye.

His military career took him to places like Oturkpo, Asaba, Lagos and other parts of the country.

In one of his hit records titled ‘Oke Agba’ the late Fuji legend narrated how he was lured back into music by his close associates and fans.

He stated in the album philosophically that so many people had chosen wrong careers because they did not know which suit their destiny and that singing was his chosen career from heaven.

After dumping the Army for what he knew how to do best, Dr Sikiru Ayinde Barrister became an instant household name all over Nigeria and the West African region.

The Fuji Music creator was signed by the Nigeria-based Africa Songs label where he recorded many evergreen and groundbreaking singles in the ‘70s through ‘80s.

Some of the albums that are still selling fast till date include ‘Oke Agba’, ‘Family Planning’, ‘Aiye’, ‘Ori Mi Ewo Ni Nse’, Fuji Reggae’, ‘Fuji Funky’, ‘Fuji Vibration’, ‘Ajuwe Juwe’.

The late Fuji icon later established his own record label, Siky Oluyole Records and the recording company also has many hit albums on its credit.

The hit albums, which were produced by Siky Oluyole Records include ‘Fuji Vibration,’ ‘Fuji Superiority,’ ‘Okiki, Fertilizer,’ ‘Barry Wonder,’ ‘Dimensional Fuji,’ ‘Fuji Garbage 1-3,’ ‘Fuji New Waves’ and many more.

Apart from highly philosophical lyrics that distinguished his songs from others, Barrister’s music was known for heavy percussion.

He introduced the piano and Hawaiian style guitar into Fuji music.

International recognition came for his style of music when he was honoured with the key to Rhode Island, USA.

He was also honoured by a number of universities across the world.

The Fuji exponent, however, had many firsts in his illustrious career.

He was the first Fuji musician to perform both in the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

He was the first Fuji musician to bag an honorary degree outside the shores of Nigeria.

He was decorated with doctor of music at the prestigious City University, Los Angeles, United States of America in the ‘80s.

He was the first to win the best traditional musician of the Nigerian Music Awards.

He was the first Fuji musician to be decorated with national honour- Member Federal Republic (MFR).

Dr Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, until his death, remains one of Nigeria’s best-known singers/songwriters and has played an essential role in the evolution of music in Nigeria.

One thing that has not been taken away from the Fuji Music lord is the fact that despite the influx of several youths into Fuji music, none of them has been able to play his style.

He had exceptional heartfelt vocals; set of rhythmic mix of talking drums, claves, bells, shekere, drum set and Hawaiian-style guitar.

The style has been described as ‘’juju without the guitars’’ and a ‘’percussion conversation.’’ This was aptly represented in one of his evergreen albums- ‘family planning’.

A musical based website described Barrister’s style as ‘’high speed assault by 12 wild percussionists.

In his lifetime, Ayinde Barrister was highly revered by Nigerians, especially those in love with the Fuji music. He was fondly referred to as “Alhaji Agba” being the oldest Fuji musician. Others referred to him as “Mr. Fuji” in recognition of his status as the originator of the Fuji brand of music. He died last week at St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington London.

Certainly, Barrister’s death has created a vacuum in the music industry, especially Fuji. He was a shining example to several youngsters who have found solace in the brand of music and he was a star with a rare kind of talent that may be difficult to replicate.

Just as the music superstar has sung in many of his albums, we are all pilgrims in this world, death will come when it will come, what matters is the legacy we will leave behind. This, the son of Sifawu Subuola Odee had in abundance and he would be greatly missed as a multi-talented act, a megastar and a musician, who entertained all with his talents.

Note: This note was written by Lukman Omikunle in 2010,  a week after the Fuji legend died at St. Mary’s Hospital, Paddington London…

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