• July 22, 2019

The KSA Memoir: How Bolarinwa Abioro turned us to beggars in London …Over New Success Moves!

KSA, Abioro & African Songs Ltd Management 

“My intention was to go and see how London looked like.  I was
able to get my passport through the help of Chief Bolarinwa Abioro.  We were supposed to travel in 1971 with the
band but I sneaked out and went on my own in 1970 with a brother of mine. 

In those days, you didn’t need to have much
document as a Commonwealth Citizen, I
remember that I even forgot my passport at the airport in Nigeria.  They would just ask
you a few questions and look into the records and just stamp any paper around
them and then you go.  I was in London for a few days before I returned
as I had little money on me.  When I
alighted from the plane it was in the night, and you can imagine, when you see
so many white people in the same place for the first time.  I tried to be my self as if I had been there
before but it did not work.

KSA with his boss-friend-foe Bolarinwa Abioro in London, 1971
I then saw my brother waiting for me.  I did not think of anything at all because
this was me in London. I took some
pictures.  It was the only way to show
that you were in London – go to Trafalgar
Square
to take pictures with pigeons. 
When I came back, I could not tell anybody because it was like preparing
for the band, since I went there behind them. 
It was more or less like sight-seeing for me.
In 1971, we were told that we were going to London with the band. First, for
recording.  Second, for a
performance.  We travelled with the
assistance of African Songs Ltd.  While
we were preparing, we were about 15.  But
only nine
eventually travelled.  We were so happy
that we were going to London that we
started telling people.  We wanted the
whole world to know that we were going to London.  I did not tell members of the band that I went
to london in 1970 until 25 years after.
KSA, Abioro & African Songs Ltd Management 
When we got to London,
we went straight to Chief Lekan Salami’s brother’s house in Brixton.  After giving us
dinner, we were told my band boys will stay in different places.  That was the first time I had a sleepless
night.  I did not understand why they
could not keep us in the same place. 
They had to share the members, some in threes to one place, others in
twos  to other places.  I became a bride with everybody requesting me
to go with them.  “Oh, I’d rather take Sunny.  I’d
rather
take Sunny”.  But I was not happy. I didn’t know where the
members were taken to; though they gave me their phone numbers, but  so many questions went through my mind:  How do we rehearse? How do we start the
show?  How do we co-ordinate?  It was a very sad experience that very
night.  For good three days I wasn’t at
peace.  I couldn’t relate with my boys
the way we normally do.
By Friday that week, they now said  we were going to play, that they had rented
equipment for us.  By Friday morning they
started bringing in my band boys.  They
looked like strangers to me because for five days I could not relate with them.
That made me to request for a place for the band members.  They said the only way was to rent a hotel
for us.  I then suggested that instead,
we should approach the people renovating some houses around the place with
signs of “To Let”.  That was eventually what we did.  We rented one of them for three months.  We then went to town to buy fairly used
mattresses.  We spread them on the
floor.  I remember we bought about four
for one pound each.  We bought two
television sets – one big one and a small one. 
We also bought cooking utensils. 
Mere being with the boys brought real happiness to me.  We felt so close.  We didn’t know anywhere in London and no one could take us out
except the people who brought us.


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“The
entire place was freezing cold.  By the
time we managed to park at a filling station, about two or three of the boys
could not move.  The rest rushed out
putting their hands on anything warm. 
They were like mad people including me in the restaurant drinking hot
tea and doing anything to keep them warm. 
Up till now, I’m still suffering from the effect of that trip.  I had pneumonia which still affects both
sides of my chest since 1971 till date”. 
KSA….A star foretold

My
first London show…

The show started around 8p.m and you can imagine seeing
Nigerians wearing Nigerian dresses, coming in large numbers.  I did not know whether they came purposely to
watch the show or this was what they normally did.  What was uppermost in my mind was to impress
the people of Britain, and to impress
Nigerians.  I just considered them to be Britons because a lot of them left home
long ago.  We started, and as God would
have it, we had an impressive show that night. 
By that time, we did not normally start up to play.  You have to sit down and we sat on the stage
and people danced on the floor, some moving to the stage.  At a point you in the audience would not see
the band members because we were surrounded by those dancing.
That was the first time of having foreign currency pasted on
my forehead.  Not only one or two that
they normally sprayed us in Nigeria but some, one pound, other, ten
pounds!  Tha was also the first time of sharing
foreign currency with my members.  I
decided after that that before we left London, we should buy a bus to take to Nigeria. 
I then took permission from the organization to do this.
KSA….Chief
Bolarinwa Abioro and his men couldn’t stomach our little success away
from London and they just dumped us and went away’
The first week we played was like a trial.  Then, the second week.  And we started having shows.  The only thing was that we only played on
weekends – Fridays and Saturdays. 
Sometimes we played two shows. 
The organizers of these shows were not promoters.  They were not publicists.  They were more or less like the social
secretaries for the groups that came to our show.  Such groups include Egbe Omo Oduduwa,
Ibadan
Descendants Union
, Ondo Descendants Union, different
clubs, societies and unions.  I never
knew basis of the entry to the events, by gate fee or by membership of the
associations..  All we did was play for
them.  And they would give us some money.
The
KSA Questions Abioro couldn’t answer…
After three weeks, we now held a meeting with African
Songs
and we told them that we wanted to start taking the money meant
for the band.  This was not discussed in Lagos. 
For good one year when we started planning for the trip, nothing like
that came up, because my understanding was that they were the promoters of the
artiste, called Sunny Ade; they were the ones selling his records; they were
the ones to publicise Sunny Ade and my being in London was to promote that name and the
record and then return.  They now started
calculating how much they spent on transportation; how much they spent on food;
how much they spent on accommodation.  I
then asked, “What is the role of African Songs?”  They said, “Well, the role is that we brought you here under some conditions”.  I
asked, “What are the conditions?”  They said, “the condition is this, any money you make has to be divided into two,
one part to your band and the other to us”.
So I asked, “What is the role of the company?”  They said they were promoting us.  I said,
“In that case, let us go back home. 
These conditions are not what we can work with”.
KSA….A Philosopher-King
Well, may their souls rest in peace, Chief Abioro is  now dead. 
Chief Lekan Salami now stood up and said, “Tell these boys what they are supposed to do, if they don’t agree with you
let us see what can be done”.
  So I
said to Chief Abioro, “I don’t
think it makes sense for you to be taking the money.  That is what we are supposed to live on.  We don’t know anywhere here”
.  He now said we have to go back home, because
they could not spend their money anymore. 
So I said, “Lets go back home. How
much do we get on stage?  It’s not like
Nigeria that we buy little things but over here you know we have to go to town,
we cook our own food ourselves.  At least
when we are going back, we should be able to buy one or two dresses”
, but
after that meeting, I learnt Chief Salami called the boys
that we should continue what we were doing.

KSA; The New Sensation of the 70s
A
trip to Germany & the trials of Brother Sunny Ade…
As our departure approached I added the money government gave
me with the money we had and travelled to Germany
with Mr.
Biodun Ali
and another Nigerian studying in London.  That was my first
time of being on a boat.  We bought a Mercedes bus.  I think it was for about 650 Pounds.  On our return journey, Ali became very, very sick. 
I didn’t know what to do.  But
something came to my mind.  I asked if
they had any medical person on the boat. 
Within three minutes, doctors came with their bags and attended to
him.  They just gave him a tablet and
within 30 minutes, he started laughing. 
He said, “If the enemy doesn’t
want us to bring this bus home, he has
failed”.
  We started laughing.  It was the Nigerian student who drove the bus
to the ship.  He is now an engineer and a
big man in Ogun State government.  He
used to come and drive us to wherever we want to go and help us without any
pay.
I don’t know whether because the African Songs directors
saw the bus or whatever, we were left on our own from that time without the
help from anybody.  Within that period,
the man that was always helping us, Chief Salami, left for Nigeria.  And there was no money with us.  We then decided to do a show in Mancester
to raise some money.  Looking back it was
not worth the trouble.  We drove to Manchester
and played.  We were given little money
just enough to buy petrol, eat and so on. 
On our way back, the heating system in the bus failed.  This was during the winter.  It was a little bit okay in London; but in Manchester, it was very cold. 
And there was a 100 miles difference between Manchester to London.  We had a lady with us called Modupe
Adewunmi
. I remember her very well. 
She was showing us the way.  We
started feeling cold.  We were on the
highway and did not know where to park to ask for help.  First, I removed my jacket for the lady.  Mr. Ali wore big Aso Oke. 
But he was shaking as well as the other boys.

KSA….His crisis in Manchester left an indelible pain in his heart till date
For about 60 miles, we became so cold that the man driving
said he could no longer drive.  He
parked. I was wearing only a shirt and trousers and I said, “God,
I am the leader, I brought all these people to this land, may you give  me the strength to take them back.  If it is going to cost me my life, I don’t
mind”.
  I took over the driver’s
seat.  At a point, my hands became
stiff.  I could not bend my hands.  I could only see the lines on the road as I
drove along.  And that was about 5’o
clock in the morning.  The entire place
was freezing cold.  By the time we
managed to park at a filling station, about two or three of the boys could not
move.  The rest rushed out putting their
hands on anything warm.  They were like
mad people including me in the restaurant drinking hot tea and doing anything
to keep them warm.  Up till now, I’m
still suffering from the effect of that trip. 
I had pneumonia which still affects both sides of my chest since 1971
till date.  I only manage it.
‘Alao
the Master Driver’…
We stayed there for about one hour before anybody could speak
to each other.  I started watcing my boys
one by one.  Then the words of Chief
Salami
came back to me.  “If
you know you cannot work with these boys get them back to Nigeria”.
  After three hours, we decided to hit the road
again.  We had about 50 or 60 miles to
go.  We couldn’t go inside the bus
because it was very, very cold, almost freezing.  Miraculoursly, I found the cause of the leak
in the bus and fixed it.  I then told the
boys to go into the bus as the heater came on. 
The boys broke into songs of joy. They sang different songs as we drove
along.  They called me Alao
the
master driver
, Shaky, Shaky.  Finally we got to London.

KSA & his band at Trafalgar Square, London, 1971
The
Great Escape…
There was no money to take us to the Airport.  Then I went to the Nigerian High Commission and saw Mr. Adebayo Kazeem, may
his soul rest in peace.  He was the owner
of Kaz
Chicken
.  I narrated everything
to him – how we were stranded and what we did. 
Then he asked where we were.  I
told him.  He said we should pack our
things into the bus and drive to the Airport
where he would be waiting for us.  He
bought us the same type of shirts.  He
was the one who made us look like a band on coming back.  I will never, never forget what he did in my
life.  Unfortunately, we had to leave the
bus behind at the London Airport. 
We never saw it again.
(Excerpts
from the book; KSA: My Life, My Music by
King Sunny Ade. Read ‘How Gani Fawehinmi fought Bolarinwa Abioro
for my royalties’
tomorrow on this blog
)
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