To every Yoruba from the western part of Nigeria, Fuji music needs no introduction. It is so engrained in the socio-cultural life of the people such that the genre easily appeals to their feelings and admiration.
The support Goldberg Lager Beer, a product from the stable of Nigerian Breweries Plc, is giving to Fuji, is another impetus that lubricates the genre to the admiration and enjoyment of Yorubas and others.
Goldberg had in 2012 inaugurated what it called Fuji t’o Bam, a talent hunt initiative that is meant to discover promising Fuji artistes. The initiative has, over the years, produced young Fuji musicians with bright future. Goldberg took a step further this year towards taking Fuji to the next level by organising the maiden intellectual forum on the genre, called Fuji Roundtable.
The forum deepened discussions about the origin and role of Fuji music in the socio-cultural development of Yorubas, wherever they live.
Were, the traditional origin of Fuji, laid a solid foundation for the music. That was an instrument used to wake up Muslim faithful before dawn during the Ramadan fasting season to observe sari, that mandatory meal taken before dawn, during the month. As the words of Ajiwere, the enthusiasts of Were pierced through the night, with an insistent enthusiasm and unmistakable clarity, so were the Muslim faithful roused from their deep slumber, back in the day, to observe the Sari.
Expectedly, there were different groups of the itinerant Ajiwere, all over Ibadan and the Lagos metropolis, specifically, from Isale Eko (downtown Lagos) to such parts of the Mainland like Mushin, Odi-Olowo and Oyingbo. These groups, largely, deployed such local instruments as Agogo, Sekere, Bembe and Sakara to boost their songs. Some of the prominent Were singers of the time were Baba Ralia, Saka Layigbade, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, Captain Muniru, Kawu Aminu, Basiru Abinuwaye, Gani Agboluaje, Muniru Maiyegun (Baba Wasiu) who was from the Isale Eko end, Ajadi Ganiyu, who represented the Oluwole area, Kasali Alani (Jolly L’awa) from Ita Alaga, Wester Layeye and Dauda Epo Akara from Ibadan.
Curiously, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister was the toast of Were music, among his peers then. Such was the size of his musical stature and talent that many Were groups, in Lagos, invited him to lead them in singing. Indeed, around 1953, when he was only five years old,
Barrister began to exhibit the sparkles of an early start by singing to entertain his friends and neighbours in Mushin, Lagos.
Little wonder, at the age of 10, in the year 1958, ‘Alhaji Agba’ won a cup at one of the Were competitions. That was, to all intents and purposes, how his steady rise to fame began.
Truthfully, Barrister was in clear contention above his peers, at the time, because he was always infusing Quranic recitations in his own Were lyrics.
While Barrister and his group continued with the trend of introducing new innovations into their craft, a variant of Were music called Fuji was thus created.
One may be tempted to ask who was behind the epochal and ground-breaking accomplishment. It was no other person, but Sikiru Ayinde Barrister. Since then, Fuji music has grown in leaps and bounds. The brand, which started in the western Nigeria, has successfully carved out a niche for itself, even in different parts of the nation. The music, which is a fusion of musical elements like Sakara, Apala, Juju and to an extent, Highlife is now savoured even by people from other parts of Nigeria.
In order to deepen intellectual discussions on it, Goldberg organised the Fuji Roundtable in Lagos, recently, with Patrick Olowokere, Corporate Media & Brand PR Manager, Nigerian Breweries, stating that the development of the company’s host communities remains an utmost priority in the policy schedule of the company. He said Nigerian Breweries does not play with the socio-cultural life of its host communities anywhere it operates.
“As part of our efforts towards community development anywhere we operate, Goldberg, in 2012, inaugurated its initiative of Fuji t’o Bam. We respect people’s cultures and values. Our gathering here today is a testament of our resolute determination to contribute to the socio-cultural development of the people in the western part of our nation.”
In his keynote address, Olawale Obadeyi, a Fuji analyst traced the origin of this genre of music to the period when Were, the local brand of music was in vogue among the Muslim faithful.
He acknowledged that the music has grown astronomically over the years featuring different artistes who have contributed in different dimensions to its development. He said the innovations brought into Fuji by those artistes have deepened ties across boundaries in the region.
Obadeyi identified Fuji music as a unifying force that easily bonds Yorubas together.
“Goldberg had appropriated Fuji music as a veritable platform through which cultural values could be used to validate the essence of Yorubas living in the region and beyond.”
Sikiru Ayinde Agboola (a.k.a SK Sensation), Chairman, National Project Committee of the Fuji Musicians Association of Nigeria, who corroborated him, advised Fuji musicians and other stakeholders in the country to take the music to the next level.
According to him, it is the only surviving genre of music that has its origin in Nigeria and deserves concerted efforts from stakeholders to proffer possible ways through which it could be developed. “It is the duty of all stakeholders to take the music to the next level.” He therefore, commended Goldberg Lager Beer for the support it gives to the music. Agboola said the support by Goldberg is second to none and should be emulated by other companies in the country.
In his opening remarks at the programme, Emmanuel Agu, Portfolio Manager, Mainstream Lager and Stout brands, Nigerian Breweries Plc; said the importance of music to any country cannot, be over-emphasised. According to him, the role of music in nation building is monumental, as it fuels the minds and the creativities of listeners.
Agu said that Fuji music exerts a strong influence on the social life of the Yorubas. He stated that through the music, foreigners can easily feel and connect with the culture of the Yoruba people. “The influence that Fuji music exerts on the social life of the Yorubas is therefore very strong irrespective of their locations.”
Giving the rationale for the event, Agu said the company always strives to champion, promote and associate with the culture of its host communities. “This is what Goldberg has been doing with its initiative of Fuji t’o Bam since 2012, when it inaugurated the concept. We respect people’s cultures and values.”
He stated that the Goldberg Fuji t’o Bam initiative has successfully brought to life the twin tradition of companionship and celebration. “The initiative readily identifies and celebrates the rich musical tradition of sustaining the cultural values of the people in the region.
The indigenous musical platform, which is currently in its fourth edition, had in the last three editions led to the discovery of budding Fuji talents and artists.
“I have strong conviction that our gathering here today would in no small way help in contributing ideas to the development of the Fuji music and the culture of the Yoruba people,” he stated.