Adekunle is one of the children of popular juju singer, Admiral Dele Abiodun. He talks about the life his father leads off the stage with TOLUWANI ENIOLA
Tell us briefly about yourself.
I am a graduate of computer science and I also hold a master’s degree in public administration. I am into sales and marketing.
Can you share some of the childhood memories you shared with your father?
I had a wonderful childhood with my father. People have an erroneous belief that popular musicians don’t have time for their children and family. My father is an exception to that belief. He is an amazing father who created time out of his very busy schedules to attend to his family.
He even took us out to see movies in cinemas as well as amusement parks. That still baffles me till today. This has dispelled the myth that you are as caring as you wished to be, whether you are a busy man or not. My father is the type that values education so much. We, his children, see him as our best friend.
What kind of person is he at home?
He is fun to be with at home. Once in a while, he used to crack jokes at home. He is a jovial man. He takes his career as a musician seriously but when he gets home, he is very friendly.
Did he tell you about his road to stardom?
He told us he had the vision to become a musician quite early in life and he pursued it with all his mind and strength. He dropped out of school and travelled to Ghana to learn music. He told us how his parents began to look for him because they didn’t know his whereabouts. He told us they had to go to television and radio stations to notify the public that he was missing. When they could not see him for a while because they thought he was lost, he later reconnected with his family.
Which popular Nigerians used to visit your father when you were younger?
I used to see the likes of Segun Adewale and Sir Shina Peters and the late highlife musician and guitarist, Sunday Akanite, otherwise called Oliver de Coque.
How did he handle rivalry among popular juju singers during his time?
Contrary to the views of music lovers, my father has a cordial relationship with his contemporaries such as King Sunny Ade and Chief Ebenezer Obey. He met them in music and he took time to also learn from them.
Why did he refuse to release more than an album in a year?
He used to release an album in a year and it was consistent until the late 90s or thereabouts. I think he realised there was no point releasing too many albums in a year when the album of the previous year had not been accounted for. Again, juju music became something else at a point. His own juju is a departure from those of KSA and Obey because it has rich highlife flavour. In those days, there were many things involved in producing music. They used to go through audition before producing albums. These days, it is not the same. People go to studios to use digital technologies to produce songs. If you listen to juju music of yore, you will realise that it is a far cry from what we currently have. So, he likes to put in his best in his work. I think this is why he only released one album in a year.
What kind of person was he at home?
He commands a lot of respect when he is at home even though he is also very down-to-earth. He is highly organised and ensures that things are in the right places.
What punishment can you recall that he gave you when you were a child for doing something wrong?
He used the cane on me on some occasions. But he was quick to forgive. One minute he beat me, the next minute, he held me close to himself. I remember he would hold me close to his chest and say sorry. He would tell you that he did use a cane because he loved me. I guess I must have provoked him to use the cane then.
How did he get the stage name?
According to him, after he came back from Ghana, he started as a band member with one Sola. When the man was about to leave the music scene to start a ministry, he left the band for him.
That was how he met the record label owner, Olumo Records. In the course of music production, they asked him to write his name. As a young man, he wrote all the names his parents gave him. He was then asked to choose just two. He then adopted Dele and Abiodun out of what he wrote.
Did he encourage his children to do music?
Like I said earlier, my father values education. He encouraged us to go to school first. I used to go to shows with him at some point. I started playing the drums at the age of nine or 10. I would sit on his lap while I played the drums.
As time went on, my father asked me to leave and pursue my education. All he wanted was for us to acquire education first even if we have plans to do music later. He is not averse to us pursuing a career in music. In fact, one or two of us are into music. One of my siblings is a disc jockey in the UK.
How does he relax after performing at shows?
He takes time out and comes back home to eat and relax. Sometimes, he would play table tennis in the compound.
Who are his role models?
I can’t really say, but he listened to older musicians. He enjoys the songs of KSA and Ebenezer Obey. These were people he met on board. He told us that he listened carefully to KSA and Obey and others and then came up with his own unique juju.
What was the most important advice he gave you?
He always told me education was number one. He always said, “Don’t forget the son of who you are.” He always told us not to destroy his name. He is not an overprotective dad.
What are his likes and dislikes?
He is someone who likes people who are sincere and forthright. He dislikes people who are not trustworthy and faithful. He takes time before making decisions.
He detests proud attitude. He always says that whatever one has the gift to do is a privilege and one should not boast or think too highly of oneself. Another thing he likes doing is cooking. He is a good cook. We call him “olowo sibi.” He told us he learnt the skill from his late mum. Cooking is his hobby.
What is his best food?
That should be pounded yam which he likes a lot.
What was the most difficult part of his career?
I would not know exactly but from the stories he told us, he had some setbacks in life. There was a time that almost all his entire band members left him. That was the same year he released a hit album. I think it was in 1983/84. By God’s grace, he was able to assemble a set of new members who did rehearsals within a short time and produced the album which was a hit. He never knew they would leave him. He is one person I respect so well. He used to educate his band members on the value of education. He advised those who wished to further their education to do so and learn a trade. He believes people should take advantage of formal and informal education. He dropped out to pursue his dreams.
When was his most fulfilling moment?
I was not there when he started music. I think he was always happy because all his albums were hits. I can’t recall witnessing a low period when he released an album.
What would he have loved to change about himself?
You may have to ask him that but I remember he once said that if he had not become a musician, he would have loved to be a director in a multinational which was why he encouraged us to value education.
He socialises with the Yoruba culture. Where is he actually from?
We initially belonged to the Mid-West in the old Western Region. At some point, some people were saying he is an Ijebu man. He simply told them he was from the Mid-West region, the old Bendel State. After that era and more states were created, it became Edo State. His town is a boundary town between Ondo and Edo states. The town is more of Ondo because it is surrounded by Ondo towns.
Would you say he regards himself as a Yoruba than Edo?
I would not say that.
What are things that people don’t know about him?
He had done many great things that he does not boast about. I would reserve that for Nigerians to talk about.
How does he like to dress?
He likes to dress simply.
What does he do now?
He still makes music and performs at events. He is still very strong. He does not sit during performances. He still performs close to eight hours on his feet at 70. For him to be able to do that at that age is a feat. I am sure that some of his contemporaries cannot do that, even those that are younger than him.
What are his thoughts about the level of acceptance of juju music now?
I think he is not happy that the quality of juju music has gone down. It has to do with the loss of values such as hard work and ingenuity in music production.
In his time, before you produce an album, there was always an audition to select people to take part.
Without an audition, you cannot record any album. People do music anyhow these days and I think it gives him concern. I would not say the present juju musicians in Africa are lazy. These days, I am sorry to say that when I listen to some juju songs, I marvel and shake my head and ask, “Is this really juju music.’’
Juju music goes far beyond what we are listening to. It takes lots of rehearsals and research to create something unique. When the likes of Ebenezer Obey and KSA came to the limelight, people knew them for their unique styles of juju. The late IK Dairo invented his own style of juju. That was how people embraced them.
When my father came out also, he invented a Ghanaian-style highlife and with a fusion of juju and afrobeat that was dubbed adawa (translated as ‘independent being’). He didn’t copy anybody. How many juju musicians of today have identities? What you find is a rehash of other people’s styles. They copy others.
He understands too that what you call hip-hop of today is an offshoot of juju. Listen to our contemporary hip-hop and the old time juju music; you will see that some lines were taken from juju musicians. That is what they copy. Even Fuji artistes were influenced by juju musicians. My father’s music would later inspire other Fuji musicians like KWAM 1, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister and Kollington Ayinla.
Would you say that your father’s name opens doors for you?
It has robbed off positively on my career, but I am the kind of person that does not tell people about my background. Many of my friends were surprised to know that he is my father. When they express shock on knowing that I am his son, I always ask them this question, “what if I am his son?”
For people whose fathers are not Dele Abiodun, don’t they survive and thrive, don’t they succeed? Being a son of a popular musician has not taken anything from me. It has helped me in many ways. Wherever I am, people hardly know I am his son except I say it. I am not the type that announces himself except when people introduce me as his son.
What are his regrets about Nigeria?
My father is disappointed and sad that Nigerian politics has become a mess. I remember a time some people came to him. They asked him to nominate one of his children to be a councillor to represent our ward.
They said they wanted a son of a respectable person like him to contest. When my father discussed it with me, I told him I was not interested in politics.
Later, I said, “Let’s see how it goes.” We started moving from one place to the other and I found the process so disgusting. At some point, some people would come and knock at my door as early as 4am for financial assistance. I said if people could be this desperate at the level of a councillor, what would be the case if I was contesting a higher position?
It is unfortunate that people see politics as a means to get rich. That is what pains my father. Sometimes, when I went to work, I would meet people at my gate, waiting for one form of assistance or the other.
For the fact that people see politics as an opportunity to make money rather than to serve is saddening. My father is not happy about that. I was wondering what would become of me if I eventually become a councillor. These days, my father is sad that we have lost our core values; and that ethnicity, religious sentiment have taken over because some want to protect their vested interest. I pray this come to an end soon.
What would he like to be remembered for?
He would like to be remembered as someone who made a positive impact on the lives of others and helped others attain their potential.
How does he keep healthy?
He sleeps well and also does exercises.
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