One thing that cannot be taken away from Adewale Ayuba is his Afrocentric yet modernist approach to music. The legendary musician, who has about 23 albums to his credit, believes firmly in the uniqueness of indigenous African music genres, such as Afrobeat, Highlife, Fuji and Juju.
Although he is one of the few artistes with a cross-over appeal, Ayuba says that one of the high points of his career is his duet with Jazzman Olofin in 2006. He was featured in the production of the latter’s hit song, Raise the Roof.
“I was the first fuji artiste to sing with a Nigerian hip hop artiste. Before then, no one believed that such collaboration was possible. When you realise that younger artistes are taking the shine off the older musicians, you must look for ways to collaborate with them in order to remain relevant,” he says with smiling.
Eight years after, Ayuba still believes that any musician of his generation who wants to remain relevant must learn to re-invent himself by the day. Although there is so much competition among music artistes, the singer is worried about certain developments in the industry.
He says, “As far as I am concerned, Davido O and the likes sing Fuji. The truth is the music they play is sweeter than American hip hop and rhythm ‘n’ blues. So why call it hip hop? That is why they cannot enter for the Grammies as that tag ‘hip hop’ is limiting.
“They have to rename it ‘hip hop Africo’ so that the West will know that it is Nigerian. Rhythm ‘n’ blues and hip hop music in Nigeria is like a candle that will die soon because there is no door to the outside world. And any music you can’t take to the outside world is not worth doing.”
To the layman, the average fuji artiste is a college drop-out or tout. But this erroneous impression does not bother Ayuba as much as the quality of music videos that such artistes churn out.
He says, “Fuji musicians don’t spend money or make out enough time to shoot good videos. But you can’t blame them for this because they don’t believe it is worth doing, since their songs don’t get enough air play on radio stations.
“Many of the people behind the consoles at these radio stations are aged between 18 and 23 years. The kind of music they know and prefer is hip hop. And you know Nigerians love anything that comes from the western countries.
“See what happened 10 years ago with Makossa music. It practically took over our churches and mosques, though most fans didn’t even understand the language.”
To chart a new course for fuji in Nigeria, Ayuba plans to give back to a new crop of talented singers. Having recently set up a state-of-the-art recording and editing suite, he intends to shoot free videos for select fuji singers.
“Since you require as much as N1.5m to shoot a standard music video, I will help them by shooting world class videos, as long as the song is right. They won’t be able to compare the quality of the videos to the ones that cost a paltry N100, 000 to produce,” he reveals.
As far as Ayuba concerned, fulfilment comes in different forms. But he believes that the staying power of any artiste depends on how happy he is.
As a recording artiste, he is contented with the acclaim he has received from music fans.
“I am not happy with what the nation is doing to us. Piracy is killing us. King Sunny Ade and I should have bought private jets by now. I can’t even release an album because I know I may not recover my money,” he says.
A director of the Collecting Society of Nigeria, Ayuba laments that many artistes are ignorant of the activities of the body.
He says, “Some of them think it is all about sharing money. Some don’t even have albums, but they expect to be paid royalties. Others have dead albums. In spite of this, COSON still gives between N30, 000 and N40, 000 annually to artistes who don’t even have albums. Those who have albums receive between N500, 000 and N4m every year.”
The artiste, who has avoided getting entangled in scandals these past years, speaks glowingly about his wife of many years.
He says, “I can never be ashamed to talk about my woman. After God, she is next. I cherish my home a lot. If you don’t have a settled home, you can’t have a successful career. More so, I believe in one man, one wife.”
Having clinched the two Kora awards in 2005, Ayuba says he has his eyes on what he calls the bigger picture for now.