Of Traditional Musings and Modern Nonsense


Abdul-Warees Solanke


Growing up under my father, a fanatical follower of the Late Baba Legba, Yusuf Olatunji and the late Eegunmagaji, Dauda Ayinla Omowura, I did not particularly take to liking his obsession with the duo who dominated the music scene in southwestern Nigeria in the late 60s, the 70s and part of the 80s. But because their brands of Sakara and Apala suffused most Yoruba households, you cannot but unconsciously sway to their rhythms and hymn along as their music bellows from the environmental nuisance that most record dealers at motor parks and in the neighbourhoods  constitute. 

Somehow, I memorized quite a bit from the LPs in Baamiís collections which were very priceless to him. He invested a great deal in the LPs of Ayinla omowura, Yusuf Olatunji, Saka Olaigbade, Yusuf Akinbami, and some volumes of Baba n Gani Agba, the Apala exponent from Ijebu Igbo, Late Chief Haruna Ishola, all of blessed memory. Even as I resisted being a devotee of these traditional Yoruba music icons, I cannot resist comparing them with their successor generation who have not only deviated from their cultural missionary path, but have also desecrated the essence traditional Nigerian music: communicating change, historical reminiscences, motivation and warning. But I find an exception in the Beautiful Nubia, Segun Akinlolu who I place on the same pedestal with Uncles Tunji Oyelana and Jimi Solanke(not related to me) for his cultural virginity and originality.

I had a chance encounter with Segun Akinlolu in 2001. As News Editor and Member of the Editorial Board at the defunct Muyiwa Adetiba published National Guide, it was my mandate to interview Uncle Bola Ige, then a minister under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. Ige was in town as a special guest at a musical show at the Alliance Francaise where the Beautiful Nubia was on stage. With Segunís mother on seat to watch the brilliance of her veterinary surgeon son turned musician, the Beautiful Nubia put up a spectacular but deeply traditional musical performance rooted in Yoruba folklore and mores that held the entire audience at the French Cultural Centre spell bound. He took all to the roots on that rainy, cold night at Ikoyi.

Chief Ige in his appraisal of Akinloluís brand of music extolled his perfection and originality as he noted that the difference between something that is good and something that is excellent is attention to details. In that I took a lesson in personal development. Chief Ige predicted would go far in his career. The veterinary doctor, Akinlolu, has indeed taken his music to the entire world as a Yoruba cultural ambassador.

Later that night at Late Chief Igeís House, on Kingsway Road Ikoyi where I was to interview him after the show, Akinlolu also showed up to meet the political legend. We both waited in a side room where I had chance to interview the dreadlocked musician on his passion, his style and what fires or gives him energy and turns his almost a maniac on stage. I had a feeling that perhaps he courts the bottle, and that like Fela, Marley or Majek, he is hooked on ganja, or that he lives stuffs like cracks, Chinese capsule or LSDs, pumping himself with some cocktails like, like Jackson or Houston, to shoot his adrenalin up. He confessed there was none of that but rather he was a deeply spiritual person, so none of such pushers is in his bloodstream to drive his stage performance or give him inspiration. Compare him with many of his compatriots in entertainment!

While not being a follower of any of the modern day youthful Nigerian musicians, you cannot escape their noise and nonsense on our airwaves, on the roadside shops marketing their CDs, on screens inside BRT buses as you commute to work daily, during lunchtime shows on TVs etc, and you wonder where is Nigeria headed towards in terms of cultural identity as expressed in music from Nigeria. I can summarize their themes thus: LSMD.

Most Nigerian artistes are only playing out their emptiness and disconnectedness from the authentic Nigerian values of fidelity, decency or decorum, humility and integrity. They worship and celebrate Liquor, Sex, Money and Drugs. Unfortunately too, they have co-travellers in the Actors Guild and Nollywood stars. They have promoters and supporters in the soft sell publications and independent producers. As they invade our homes and assault our senses, our children are left at the mercy of deviants and miscreants now being celebrated as whizkids.

Therefore, when Uncle Lekan Ajia of the National Broadcasting Commission and Auntie Nkem Orakwe of the Tales by Moonlight fame appeared as guests on Kaakaki, AIT super morning show to discuss the Role of Folk Tales and songs in child upbringing few weeks back, I concluded that the chicken has come home to roost for us in Nigeria, now experiencing dearth (or death) of parenting. In their critical dissection of this cultural misfortune, both former broadcasters openly indicted corporate bodies for not doing enough to promote or support children broadcasting and literature.

But beyond the condemnation of the promoters of our cultural invasion and desecration, we are all guilty in our collective lack of discretion in the adoption of just any value, taste or culture because we must move with time. We have evolved from our value-laden traditional past to the emptiness of the West that is camouflaged as modernity. We see it in the anomic suicides around us every day. What policy measure do we need in place to reverse this tragedy! Letís debate our cultural future.


Abdul-Warees Solanke

Head of Training,

Voice of Nigeria,