The KSA Memoir: How I became a band leader @ age 20

KSA served Bolarinwa Abioro but

With Moses Olaiya’s blessings, I began my
transformation from a band member to a leader in 1966.  It was everything but smooth shift. The
instruments from Chief Amuwo were in my possession alright, but there were many
loose ends to be tied up.   

I did not pay
for the instruments, which were handed over to me in December 1966, meaning
that Amuwo
still owned them.  There was an agreement
between us, granting him two-thirds of the money the band made at any gig.  The agreement also stipulated that if the
band got invited to play through Amuwo, he was entitled to half of
the money paid to the band.
The
agreement was not a problem, as we would have gladly played for nothing. Just
getting a chance to play was more than enough. 
One of the challenges I faced was what name to give to the band.  Chief Amuwo wanted me to continue with
the name of his old band—High Society band.  I had no problem with this because I also
realized if I had named the band after myself, members of my family would have
discovered that I had been playing music – something known only to my mother.  The thought of what they could do to my
mother scared me.  I suggested High Society band, led by Sunny
Adex
to Chief Amuwo.  But I
quickly realized that there was a musician named Tony Adex.  For obvious reasons, Adex seemed off-limits as
part of the band name.  Again, I
suggested High Society band led by Sunny. 
That was also rejected when a band member reminded me that there were
already many ‘Sunnys’.  There were Sunny Agaga and Sunny Oguns,
to name just two.
KSA with Band Boys at Trafalgar Square, London in 1971
‘Sunny who will yours
be?’
,
asked the band member.  Arriving at a
name took much of my time because, even as the leader, I felt I had to consult
widely and not impose my views.  With no
other option coming up, we settled for High
Society Band
, led by Sunny Adex.  My biggest challenge, however, was how to
raise a band.  For weeks, my mind was
filled with names and faces of possible band members.  At some point, my mind conjured images of a
fully-fledged band with me as the leader. 
But these images were quickly wiped off by the reality that I was going
to encounter difficulties in getting band members.  But I had to do something.
“Some of the members
felt it was a wise decision, given that it was a common thing among musicians
seeking independence.  However, a few
felt otherwise.  Those opposed to the idea
argued that the money the band was making was too little; hence there was no
need to set anything aside for the purchase of equipment”.
KSA…The Enigma

The Making of my
first band…

The
first person I approached was one of the guys I shared a room with in Olaiya’s
house.  His name is Micheal Babalola and he
remains with me till today.  When I
explained the situation to him, he showed interest but raised the question of
where we would live after forming the band because it would not seem healthy to
continue living in Olaiya’s place.  ‘A hotel’, I replied.  Babalola was shocked; he had good
reasons to be.  We had no money for accommodation,
meaning that we would not have a place to sleep until the guests who came for
gigs had gone home.
Reluctantly,
he bought the idea.  With Babalola
in the bag, I continued shopping for more members.  I would approach bands, call a few members
aside and tell them about the instruments I had and that I was setting up a
band.  ‘Would you join me?’  I
asked.  Most times, the response was a
standard ‘me? With you?’  It also did not help that those I wanted to
poach were already playing for established groups and were considerably older
than I was.  A few, however, decided to
go with me and the band started with six members.  In addition to myself and Babalola were Tajudeen
Fadeyi
, Jimoh Ashapaye, Ademola Balogun and Folorunsho
Oni
.


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KSA with late boss, Chief Bolarinwa Abioro at Buckingham Palace, London in 1971
Two
weeks after, we were joined by Tafa Alabi and Bello Ajileye. These were
the people with whom I started out.  The
same year, I also got Tunde Alade and Cidona Akinyele.
Even
with the band in place, I was still unsure of the brand of music to play.  With Moses Olaiya, we played something
similar to I.K. Dairo’s music.  But
I realized that if I had stuck to that, I would have provoked allegations of
wanting to challenge I.K. Dairo’s pre-eminence.  In those days, this was a big social and
cultural crime, particular for an upstart, as I would have been regarded.  Yet, my band members were more familiar with I.K.
Dairo’s
brand because it was the rave at the time.  Without a clear-cut musical direction, I
decided to adopt a medley of styles created by reigning masters like I.K.
Dairo
, Dele Ojo and Ambrose Campbell.
However,
the styles were inter-cut by a few things I had managed to develop on my
own.  I told my band that we would
continue with this approach until we were able to create our own identity.  If I played the guitar, some of my band
members would say:  ‘That sounds like Ambrose
Campbell’
.  I would say yes, but
let’s just play music.  So we played
whatever hit us on any particular day – I.K. Dairo, Ayinde Bakare, Dele
Ojo
or J.O. Araba.  But anytime we
had young people, particularly the educated ones, we played all.  Simply, what we did was play music that would
ensure we did not starve.  It worked
because I.K. Dairo was in Ilesha; Campbell was out of the country.  So we were not accused of competing with
either of them and were able to build our own fan base.
Our lucky gigs …
However,
it was not as though gigs kept falling on our laps.  To a large extent, I would say we were
lucky.  But I am not sure we were exactly
qualified for the luck.  Pa
Ayinde Bakare
and his band used to play at that Western Coliseum, owned
by Amuwo,
every Tuesday and Friday night.  Those nights were normally packed with
people.  About one month after we started
rehearsals, we were booked to start playing after Ayinde Bakare.  I must
confess it was a tough one because Bakare’s
band was a big one and the only way we could attract any kind of following was
to play in another venue, to avoid comparisons with Bakare.
KSA…’Chief Abioro’s suspect of our waving success in the USA made him abandon us in the cold’
The
thought of playing before or after Bakare
petrified us, but Chief Amuwo said it was an opportunity for
us to prove that we were serious musicians. 
He actually told us that it was for this reason he gave out his
instruments to us.  I could not argue
with him because he owned the Western Coliseum and the band I was
leading.
Despite
Amuwo’s
efforts at shoring up my confidence, I remained scared.  While I wanted to be adored like Pa
Bakare
, I realized the adoration will not come easy as most people were
already familiar with his brand of music. 
On  Tuesday, 15 December, 1966,
Chief
Amuwo
directed me to inform my band members to prepare for a battle
that would prove whether we were well-equipped for serious business or
not.  It was the day we were going to
play alongside Ayinde Bakare.  ‘Can;’t Amuwo ge us to play in another place’, I thought angrily.  It was an impotent rage.  Amuwo was determined to test us that
night; and against a giant – Bakare.  ‘Well,
they would not kill us if we failed to live up to expectation’,
I told the
band.
The
show kicked off and we were asked to open. 
Fortunately, a sizeable crowd had gathered earlier than 10p.m that we
were expecting them.  In fact, by 8p.m,
the Western
Coliseum
was chock-full. 
Bakare’s band men were setting their instruments when we started playing
and, quite gracefully of them, they did not disturb us by testing their
equipment.  I am sure they must have
wondered where this rag-tag team dropped from. 
However, judging by the crowd’s reaction, our music was appealing and a
few people came out to give us money, a total of about one pound and two
shillings.
KSA…A Greatness foretold
Our days of humble
beginning…
Big
money!  It indeed was, at least for a
band whose members were more accustomed to trekking than commuting by bus.  In those days, we trekked from Apongbon to idi Oro, a distance of about 7 to 8 kilometers.  The fact that we were many and chatted all
the way made such journeys less of torture. 
We would leave Apongbon through
Idumota down to Iddo Terminus, which was like a foreign land.  By the time we got to Oyingbo, we would window-shop at Bhojsons.  From there, we
would move to Olopomerin where there
were well lit and tree-lined streets. 
Once we got to idi-Oro, we
would decide when to meet the next day because we would have to sleep in the
morning rather than rehearse and sleep at night.  We were used to rehearsing in the night and
sleeping in the morning.  So, if we
finished playing at about 2 or 3a.m, we would trek to places where bands
played.  By 5 or 6a.m, we would head back
home to sleep.  That was our routine.
KSA & his Band Boys in the early days 
When Authority
blessed KSA…
The
money we made left us giddy with excitement. 
We sat down to watch Ayinde Bakare play, because we were
also due to take over when he went on break. 
During one of the breaks, Ayinde Bakare came to us and said we
had done very well.  He also prayed for
us.  It was if I did not hear him
well.  Ayinde Bakare praising
us?  It seemed too good to be true
because he was a master; to play alongside his band had to be the ultimate
experience.  Before he started playing at
all, fans would throw money at him in adulation.  The fact that he rated me at all was almost
the equivalent of a Papal blessing for a Catholic.
KSA & his Band Boys in the early days 
That
night, I told my band that we would split the money into two, take one half and
give the other half to Chief Amuwo.  The moment we told him that we made over one
pound, I also told him that tradition demands that one’s first earning must be
taken home to our parents.  He split what
we brought into three and took one part. 
He later gave it to us, calling us one after the other and giving us our
share.  We were too excited to take a
taxi from Apongbon to Idi-Oro, a ride that would have cost
two shillings.  Sometimes, it cost one
shilling, three pence.  On the way, I
bought food, but could not eat.  I took
the food to Idi-Oro, but also forgot to touch it until the next day.
Our
experience with Ayinde Bakare convinced me that I was not in the wrong trade
and I also started thinking how to improve the standard of our music.  I decided to take the band out of Moses
Olaiya’s
place in Idi-Oro, Moses Olaiya’s place, to
Railway Line located between Alakara and Idi-Oro.  From there I moved on to another house on Labinjo Road, close to Eko Boys’ High School.
The
shows kept coming and my confidence kept rising.  Yet, there was still a long way to go.  The first step on that way was to get our own
equipment and stop depending on Amuwo’s.  This was explained to band members and I told
them that there was a need for us to keep a certain percentage of the money we
were making for the purchase of equipment. 
The way to go, I reasoned, was not to declare everything we made to Chief
Amuwo
.  Some of the members felt
it was a wise decision, given that it was a common thing among musicians
seeking independence.  However, a few
felt otherwise.  Those opposed to the
idea argued that the money the band was making was too little; hence there was
no need to set anything aside for the purchase of equipment.  They did not stop at that.  They also formed a habit of disclosing
exactly how much we were making to Chief Amuwo.  At a point, they got angry and decided to
quit the band.  I pleaded with them not
to leave, explaining that once we got our own equipment, their remuneration would
improve.  But it was dialogue with the
deaf.  They carried out their
threat.  The agreement with Amuwo
also collapsed.  However, I had been
investing money in musical instruments, in anticipation of a severance of ties
with Amuwo.
One of KSA’s albums for Chief Bolarinwa Abioro’s African Songs Ltd
The
investments in equipment were not as big as I would have wanted them before the
friction with Amuwo and I risked having far less equipment than I required.
 (Excerpts from the book; KSA: My Life, My Music by King
Sunny Ade
. Read ‘Meet the man who dashed
me my 1st set of musical equipments’
tomorrow on this blog
)

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