The KSA Memoir: How I broke mum’s heart + The funny lies I told her to appear for shows

KSA holding his Mentor, Baba Salah passionately as Ebenezer Obey, late Fatai Rolling Dollars looked on

The battle for
freedom…
“Back
in Osogbo,
I found solace in Ariyo and I usually sneaked to watch his band rehearse.  It was at one of such rehearsals that I
decided to show him my drumming skills. 
He could not believe what I could do with drums.  He asked who I was and I replied that I was Sunny.  Ariyo took to me immediately, both
for my drumming skills and because we were namesakes.

I
carefully explained to him that my mother, sister and brother would kill me if
they heard I was coming to play in his band. He understood my plight and
remained discreet about my musical interest. 
That was how I began to get more involved in music.  For two years, I went with him to shows.  His music was similar to I.K Dairo’s, the biggest star of that era and one of my greatest
influences.  He didn’t play dis-tuned
guitar and he didn’t sing flat.  He was a
master of controlled voice and he had rhythm. 
He could adopt every song pattern and voice level almost without
effort.  Ariyo was very similar to him and also hailed from Ijesaland.
Despite my success at sneaking to Ariyo’s
shows, I knew my limits; I stayed off anytime he had a show outside Osogbo
because I could not think of any lie that could take me away from home for
days.


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I
eventually came up with a line I believed would fool my mother, telling her
that the school was taking us on excursions outside Osogbo.  ‘Where?’; she would ask firmly. 
Ilesa,’ I always
replied.  It never fooled her as she
usually refused to allow me out of the house. 
Her regular refusal taught me that I had to come up with tighter lies.
One
day, I decided to tell her about Ariyo.  Immediately I mentioned his name, my mother
said she knew where I was headed. She asked if I wanted to be a musician, I
said no.  ‘Do you want to sing?’  My
reply was the same.  ‘Do you want to follow musicians?’ I still said no.  After all the denials, I admitted that I
wanted to be a musician.  My mother
reiterated her distaste for musicians. 
They were low-lifers, she argued.

KSA….Started leading as a teenager

But
somehow, Ariyo, became a friend of
my family and visited regularly.  Our
discussions, by mutual agreement, never included music.  When in our house, the topic was off-limits
because my mother considered it offensive. 
Initially, my mother was not sure he was a musician or else he would not
have been allowed in.  I first told her
that he was a carpenter, which he was originally.  However, my mother started hearing stories
from neighbors and she asked me if Ariyo
was not the musician everyone was talking about.  But there were times I would, forgetfully, say:
‘he
plays good music’
.
She
returned home one day, looking very angry. 
She had just confirmed that Ariyo
was not a carpenter, but a musician.  My
mother’s rage was almost tangible. 
Speaking slowly, but sternly, in Ondo dialect, she warned me to stay
off Ariyo.
At
about the same time, I met Idowu Owoeye,
a musician who was very close to I.K.
Dairo.
  He played the accordion,
guitar and talking drums.  I started
accompanying him to Park Hotel where
he played.  But because I was still
underage, tickets were not sold to me.

 “As any gig approached, my mother, brother and
sister would go and wait on the way to the venue. It worked for them until some
musicians told me I should be leaving well ahead of time. Some musicians also
kept an eye on the movement of my family and neighbors on gig dates.  On such dates, I would leave home in my
school uniform and lie that we were having extra lessons.  But I would have packed clothes to be worn at
the gig”.

KSA, Obey & Dollars in historic performance for his mentor, Moses Olaiya aka Baba Salah

Small boy in Big
Man’s Agbada…
To
get me into a nightclub, they usually dressed me in bigger clothes which made
me look older.  On a regular basis, I
began playing with older men and earning money. 
After one show, they paid me a shilling. 
It was more than what I had ever seen, let alone owned.  I took the money to school and told my
friends how much I made playing with Idowu
Owoeye
for just one night at the Park
Hotel.
  My friends were aghast.  “Sunday, the musician”, they called
me.  That was not as bad as “Sunday,
Oko asewo”’
an allusion to musicians’ penchant for sex with
prostitutes.  It was inconceivable that a
primary school pupil could be hanging out where vices abound and with a class
of people noted with presumably huge appetite for such vices.  My disclosure made me the butt of very cruel
jokes and I had to beg my friends to stop so that our teachers would not get to
hear of it.  My friends were not moved
and I had to spend the shilling earned, buying groundnut, popcorn and biscuits
to bribe them.  Even at that, they kept
threatening to report to our teachers that I had started seeing prostitutes at
nightclubs.
I
denied having sex with any prostitute. 
Sadly, this did not stop the jibes until the news got to my mother.  She was very sad about the development and
decided to watch me more closely.  She
also enlisted the support of neighbors, who monitored my movement and gave her
information on forthcoming gigs.
KSA turns James Bond
As
any gig approached, my mother, brother and sister would go and wait on the way
to the venue. It worked for them until some musicians told me I should be
leaving well ahead of time. Some musicians also kept an eye on the movement of
my family and neighbors on gig dates.  On
such dates, I would leave home in my school uniform and lie that we were having
extra lessons.  But I would have packed
clothes to be worn at the gig. My musician friends would then tell me what
route to take to beat those who might be waiting to take me back home.  When returning from such outings, I would be
met at home by my brother and sister. 
Their faces would betray their anger; questions would follow: ‘where have you been?’ ‘Did we not see you
sneaking off with some musicians?’
My response was a standard one: “The person you saw only looked like me”. 
They never believed and I always got punished
How I broke mum’s
heart…
I got tired of the
punishment and one day, I decided to tell my mother that I wanted to be a
musician.  The words hit her like a
violet punch.  She looked dazed and said
nothing.  But her eyes revealed
disappointment, despair and resignation. 
When she broke her silence, it was with tears, not words.  The tears streamed down her face, turning it
into a mask of grief.  I was
shattered.  But my mother rarely gave up,
even in the worst situations.  She proved
this by suddenly regaining her voice, saying I would not become a musician as
long as she was alive.  Seeing her
resolve, I told her that I was only joking. 
She believed me, but not totally.
That
day, I.K. Dairo was coming to play
in Osogbo and I begged my mother to
allow me go to his gig.  She
refused.  I pleaded that it would be the
last show I would attend.  She eventually
gave in, but warned that I should be back home by the evening.  I told her that I would be unable to return
at that time because the show was billed to start in the evening.  In anger, she said I should return at 9
p.m.  I was forced to promise that I would
return by 10.  That sat well with her and
she allowed me to go.
I.K Dairo’s gigs were simply too
good to miss.  He drew huge crowds
because his music was sweet, almost heavenly. 
But there was always a problem for me. Because I was still a child,
nobody would sell me a ticket even if I had money.  I had to devise ways of beating this
restriction.  What I usually did was to
get into the venue long before the show would start. It worked a few times when
policemen did not insist that everyone should go out and present tickets for
readmission into the venue.

KSA….learnt his art from Baba Salah

How I created new
strategies to enable me attend gigs…
With
time, I was forced into more desperate measures.  Once I heard that I.K. Dairo was bringing his band to Osogbo, I waited for his arrival at the end of the town.  There, I would stand with other children in
the hope of familiarizing ourselves with members of the band.  On arrival, the band would be driven, slowly,
around Osogbo to promote the
gig.  From the end of the town, we would
jog behind the vehicle, following it over great distances.  Once in a while, they stopped to acknowledge
cheers from crowds that would have formed on the streets.  These brief stops afforded us the chance to
meet with them and introduce ourselves. Panting and perspiring heavily, we
would tell them that we were available if they needed anyone to run errands for
them during the how.  Such errands
included buying cigarettes for those who smoked and passing their messages to
women they admired.  We also offered to
help carry their instruments whenever they were unpacking.

KSA….The Man

Of
course, this was a design to catch their attention so they could get us into
the venue of the gig without paying.  I
always reminded them that I was the one running errands for them so they could
protect me from being thrown out of the venue by policemen.  Sometimes, I got lucky to be remembered by
band members for whom I had run errands. Other times, it was the opposite,
particularly when the police failed to listen to any story on errand
running.  Once they came, they simply threw
out non-paying customers and the people for whom you had run errands would be
more concerned with getting ready for the show than bother about your eviction.
Evictions
never killed my desire to watch the band play. 
If I got thrown out, I simply went back in, over the wall.  I would get tossed out again, but after a
while.  Sometimes, I landed right in the
middle of policemen who did not care if I was a kid or not and I would be back
outside, instantly.  Basically, I had
little time for studies, as I sometimes played in clubs or be at gigs every day,
apart from Monday.
The
sleepless nights ensured that my eyes were ever bleary.  Naturally, my eyes attracted questions.  Any time I was asked why my eyes were red; I
would blame it on malaria.
My
favorite in the band was Gani, a
drummer.  Everyone called him Gini. 
Though everyone wanted to hear I.K.
Dairo
play, they also loved to hear Gini
strike the tom-tom.  Once he started, the audience would go
wild.  He was a genius and I mastered all
his styles just by observing him.

KSA…Blessed by his early association with Baba Salah

And KSA dumps school…
I
was struggling to cope in school and I knew something had to give.  Sooner than later, I quit school but still
made it look – out of fear of my mother’s reaction—that I was in school”.
(Excerpts
from the book; KSA: My Life, My Music by
King Sunny Ade. Read ‘How I ran away from home to Baba Sala’
tomorrow on this blog
)

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