The news broke today that he's off to Fuji heaven. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, one of the greatest names in Fuji music, died this morning in St Mary Hospital in London. News now confirmed by a close family source. He was 62.
This piece of news has sent me back to my London days. How my generation of then young Nigerians raised on Juju and Western music back in Nigeria discovered Fuji as part of the hip crowd in London as we flowered into womanhood and in the case of some, manhood. Early 90s, we suddenly became proud wearers of iro-and-buba and gele, going to owambes in Hackney and Brent Park, Brixton Recreation Centre and Dalston and all sorts of other places. Fuji, which when I was a young lass in Nigeria I only ever heard in cars when I passed through some neighbourhoods, cut across class and background massively in the early nineties, such that we took great delight in playing Ayinde Barrister, Ayinla Kollington, Wasiu Ayinde; and at parties, we danced to them like there was no tomorrow, with what can only be described as excessive joy. We came fully into our Nigerianness; Nigeria 'found' her children in England; our worlds were expanded, and Ayinde Barrister was part of that wondrous transformation. Golden times. I remember a serious 'disco' party in Willesden in 1995, ladies in hot dresses and guys looking fly. Me, I wore an above the knee A-Line Karen Millen number; my hair (in my pre-natural hair days) was a bouyant bob. We danced to Hip-Hop, RnB and the usual usual.... We were Yorubas, Urhobo, Edo and what have you. Then, someone whispered Ayinde Barrister to the deejay, like some social experiment, just to see what would happen. And what do you know, all these hip, English-spouting, arty-farty people started to sing along! And boy, did we dance!
"Hiii Hiiii, ladies and gentlemen
Come and dance to Fujiii
Fuji sound is better for you
Because, Fuji sound is beautiful
E je ka jo ko [let's sing it together]
A a aaa.....
A a aaa....
A a aaa....
A a aaa....
All sung with the infectious 'YorubAmericanised lingo of that record, cut by Barrister as a tribute to a successful tour of the United States. It's a long album, the tracks all rolled into one, as was the norm in the indigenous music of the time. Serious joy-inducing music. Meaningful at the same time. Different parts of it speak to me at different times. Here's one:
Ti mo ba r'omobinrin to ni'se lapa
Ise lo'ogun 'se
To pretty pupo
Omoge agunleyinju Omoge eyinfunjowo
It goes on in playfully amorous fashion:
Je ka'jo wo yara ka mo'ra wa o [let's go into the bedroom and 'know' ourselves]
Je ka'jo wo yara ka mora wa.
But the bit about 'Omobinrin to ni'se lapa' (a young woman who works for herself) appeals to the feminist in me. 'Independent Woman' before Destiny's Child even knew what was what.
And that's the song playing in my brain today: 'Hi hi, Ladies and Gentlemen'. I don't even know if that's the correct title. We knew these songs in our souls, not as facts on paper.
Rest in peace, Chief Sikiru Ayinde Barrister.
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