How Gani Fawehinmi fought Bolarinwa Abioro for my royalties + Why Abioro refused to release my master tape till he died

KSA & Chief Abioro, other artistes during a contract signing process 

“When we returned, I vowed not to have anything to do with African
Songs
Ltd
again.  I even granted an
interview to journalists at the Lagos
International Airport on our arrival
stating how we were almost stranded in London.  Chief Gani Fawehinmi who had been my
lawyer but who I see as a big brother being from the same town with me took up
the case.  But somehow I went back to African
Songs
due to the intervention of Chief Lekan Salami and Chief
Leke Oshinjirin
.

To be candid, Chief Lekan Salami is a unique human
being. Since he decided to promote Sunny Ade, he did it  with his whole heart. He did it as if he was
my father.  He did it as if he was a
little god for me.  He was always  telling me: “Sunny, I want you to get there”. 
He would spend his own money on anthing he felt would promote me.  And some musicians who I will not mention
used to abuse him any time he did that. 
But he didn’t care. He would say, “this
is my boy”.
  He was the one who introduced
me to General Adeyinka Adebayo, the governor of Western State at that
time.  And when I played that very night
for Adebayo
in his home town, Ekiti, I became his musician. 
I also became his boy, his son. 
He was so impressed.
KSA & Chief Abioro, other artistes during a contract signing process


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What
people don’t know about Chief Abioro…
So when Chief Salami asked me to go back to African
Songs
, I could not say no.  If it
was Chief
Abioro
, I wouldn’t have ever done that. 
If Chief Abioro sprayed you money on stage, he would demand it
back.  But Chief Salami never did
that.  To be fair, Chief Abioro was good on
one side – the area of publicity and in what was necessary.  When I went back, Chief Gani Fawehinmi was
very angry with me.  But there was
nothing I could do.  Within the period of
our return, we recorded about 20 albums.

Late Gani Fawehinmi


In those days, all I was interested in was to record.  To be seen as a good musician.  I must confess I was not interested in the
business side because I regarded the royalty of 20 kobo as something too small
to worry about.  I did not know that that
was the real thing.  If I had known how
important it was, I would have taken it more serious at the time and may be
things would not have turned the way they eventually did with me and African
Songs
.  Chief Gani Fawehinmi had
warned me to look into the business side and understand it well, but I never
did.

“If Chief Abioro sprayed you money on
stage, he would demand it back.  But Chief Salami never did that.  To be fair, Chief Abioro was good on one side – the area of publicity and in
what was necessary.  When I went back, Chief Gani Fawehinmi was very angry
with me.  But there was nothing I could
do.  Within the period of our return, we
recorded about 20 albums.  In those days,
all I was interested in was to record. 
To be seen as a good musician”
KSA released so many works for African Songs Ltd but he was highly underpaid

When I first signed the contract in 1968, it was for five
years (1968 – 1972).  They made me to
sign another one in 1971 without the first one running out.  I was upset. 
I said I was not going to sign, arguing that we had only spent four
years. But because of Chief Lekan Salami, I signed another
five years without waiting for the remaining year to run out. It was more or
less like being blindfolded.  So I signed
and when I did, Chief Gani Fawehinmi was so annoyed that he said he was going
to sue me!  For good one year, I could
not go to Chief Fawehinmi’s office.

KSA…Iwaju lo’loko yi wa mi lo’
One year to the end of the contract, they came again with a
new contract for me to sign for another five years.  That was when I said, “Not until I finish this
contract I would not sign”.
  At this
point I was threatened by Chief Abioro who said that for the
remaining one year, they were not going to promote me or do anything for me
anymore.  When he saw that I was not
moved, he said, “Sunday, look at my
face.  I’m going to fight you
like a wounded lion”.  Calmly, I replied: “I am a toothless sheep but don’t touch me because I am one of the
sheep that Jesus Christ used to
guard.  When I got lost, he left the
remaining sheep to look for me”
.  I
knew the battle line had been drawn as I left his office. But it was really
long overdue…
KSA….Recently won N500 million intellectual property war against late Bolarinwa Abioro
The
mixed grill shop…
African Songs for
me was a mixed grill.  It was good for me
in the area of publicity but very bad on the monetary side.  Anywhere in the world musicians rely on
royalties but my own case was different. 
For years I was on 20 kobo royalty while musicians on other labels were
enjoying 50 kobo as royalty.  When I
asked for a raise to 50 kobo I was told that they were treating me better than
other musicians on their label.  “How?” 
I had asked.  Their only answer
was that a review could only come at the expiration of the existing
contract.  That was even after I had appealed
to some of his big friends to intervene – General Adebayo, Prince
Sijuade
among others.  “An agreement is an agreement”, Chief
Abioro
had told them.
KSA with Chief Bolarinwa Abioro in Buckingham Palace, London, 1971 tour
It was in anger that I decided to wax the album, Ekilo
Fomo Ode
which I planned to give him and say, “This is my album.  I would want N1 as royalty instead of 50 kobo.  I know what it cost.  It was done abroad”, things like
that.  That was what I had in mind.  But unfortunately, by the time the package
containing the records got to Ikeja
Airport
, the owner of the company, who I later learnt was a friend of Chief
Abioro
gave him a copy.  And
before the close of work that day, Chief Abioro had sued me for breach
of contract.  I had to do something
fast.  I registered Sunny Alade
Records
as the label for the music overnight.  The case was an eye opener for me…
Chief Gani Fawehinmi who
represented me was able to point out that on the issue of royalty, I was being
paid 15 kobo instead of 20 kobo.  He
wanted to know what they did with the 25% taken out of my money.  While the accountant said it was standard
practice, Chief Abioro said it was for publicity.  That was when Chief Gani Fawehinmi
asked, “Is Sunny Ade paying for his
publicity?  What is the role of the
company?  Do you have an agreement
covering that?”
  Chief Abioro said
yes.  When they brought it, it stated: “To
promote the artiste and Chief Abioro
himself”.  The judge then said he wanted to see the
three year statement of accounts.  That
was were everything came out – they were making almost three million naira a
year on my records and in the nine years I had been with them, all I got was N52,000!
KSA & Band Boys @ Trafalgar Square, London, 1971
 But on the record I
released, I must confess it was a good record, still is, the judge awarded N300
cost against me and ruled that I should not wax another album for the next six
months.  That was when I first received N5000 bundle in my life.  When I got it, I tore the nylon and put N1,000 each inside different sides of
my pocket and placed the remaining one on my chest.  I then said, “I have  to enjoy myself”.  After that I decided not to get close to African
Songs
not because I was expecting Chief Abioro to do any harm to me
but it was like when you have been given your freedom, why go there again?
KSA’s album for African Songs Ltd where he Praised sing Chief Bolarinwa Abioro
Bolarinwa
Abioro’s gimmick…
So I waited for about 20 years and in this period they
refused to give me my masters.  In any
contract, the company sells the sound while the artiste owns the master.  It’s an intellectual property.  But they refused.  Chief Abioro then called me one day
when he returned from abroad.  I went
alone because I did not even want my driver to know I was going there.  This was because I did not want anyone to be
held responsible if anything bad happened to me.  He spoke to me very well as a father and he
asked, “What are you going to do?  I don’t want to release this thing (master tape)
without having something.  If I release
it how do you want me to eat?”
  Then
I asked too, “if you don’t release it,
how do you want me to eat?”
  He now
said he would release it but added “can’t
you find a way we can release it under a different condition?”
  I said,
“Okay, put it in
writting”.  He said,
“Ah, no, its like me looking for another trouble of yours.  Go and discuss with your lawyer.  As your father, I want to make some money
too.  I know it is your property but”
I didn’t return to him, so he sent for me again.  Unfortunately, before the message got to me,
he passed on.  But I was told he said he
had something to give me and I believe that those were the master tapes and
maybe he wanted to say, “Sunny, please
forgive me”
– maybe not.  Anyhow, I
have forgiven him; I regarded him as a father.
KSA…shocked the way he was treated by Bolarinwa Abioro
As time went on, I thought the children would call me and
make their own arrangement. But I started seeing my albums in America,
in London
and in different places.  Then I
challenged them and they told me it’s their father’s property.  That was why I went to court.  The case is still in court.  Recently, the son started looking for  me, going as far as Nigerian Association of Recording
Industries
, NARI, getting across to even Mr. Kazeem, my promoter
and marketer during that era.  They have
all spoken to me and I said whatever they have to say, for us to settle out of
court, they should bring all my masters, then we would now talk about the
business…
(Excerpts
from the book; KSA: My Life, My Music by
King Sunny Ade. Read ‘Funny things I did on my first trip to
America’
tomorrow on this blog
)

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