The KSA Memoir: Why I dropped-out of school + I hate singing as a kid…

KSA….The boy had an ambition to lead the world with Music – Copy
Today on Your
Africa’s number 1 Celebrity Encounter blog, Asabeafrika, the King of World Beat, King Sunny Ade  uses the
story of his juvenile rascality at school amidst a surge of emotion to find the
right path to career and creativity to educate us on more of the story of the
making of an African Music legend and enigma. The story of the childhood of KSA
is a big education for every parent raising a child. He loved education but
music loved him more even though he hated singing. Enjoy!

 My head, hand, ear
& school…
people remain curious about my educational qualifications.  For the avoidance of doubt, I dropped out of
secondary school after just one term. 
While a truckload of degrees is no cast-iron guarantee for success in
life, education remains the biggest factor that shapes a man’s direction in
life.  I was desperate to go to school
and every day, I envied children who were already in school.  Their uniforms and behavior made me itch to
be one of them.  In 1953, my chance
seemed to have come. I was taken to a primary school for enrolment, but was
rejected by teachers in charge of the enrolment process.  The basis for turning me back was a common
one in those days.  Apart from attaining
school age, any child brought for enrolment was required to take his or her
hand across the head until it reached the ear on the other side of the
head.  I stood before the teachers,
attempted to touch my left ear with my right hand, but it fell a few inches
short.  The teachers were beyond sentiments
and simply ordered me to fall off the queue of enrolment seekers and come back
another time.  I was gutted”.

KSA, Mum and Dad (Inset) Mum was passionate for  KSA but KSA was passionate for Music

The Second Chance…
year later, I got another chance when my mother told my sister to go and
register me at the African Primary School, Osogbo.  It was owned by the African Church.  This time, I thought I would have no problem
getting enrolled.  I do not remember why
I assumed it was a done deal because I had not actually attempted to touch my
left ear with my right hand after my failure the previous year.

“I didn’t even like
anyone singing around me.  It almost gave
me fits. I, however, got punished for the broken glass.  But then, it was a small price to pay for early
freedom from those dreary singing classes. 
The broken glass gave me the chance to mess with the clock as I

I stood on the queue, my little eyes roamed the school compound, settling intermittently
on my prospective school mates and teachers, who were waiting to ask us
questions.  It soon came to my turn.  I answered the questions asked by the
teachers.  Even at the risk of sounding
conceited, I can say that the teachers were impressed by my composure. The
satisfaction on their faces convinced me that I was on my way to becoming a
pupil.  I started imagining myself in a
school uniform and chatting excitedly like the kids who were already in school.

KSA the Drummer Boy

there was still one more river to cross: the hand-over-the-head test.  A teacher motioned to me to come and take the
test.  I quickly moved over; the
result?  Same as the previous year!  It was as shocking as a heart-attack, as I
was again considered ineligible for enrolment because my hand still had not
reached the ear on the other side. What made it more painful was that I saw
kids my age scaling this hurdle.  I was
confused.  My head and mind were in
whirl.  For a few minutes, I remained
rooted on one spot and decided that I was not going to leave the school.  At the time, I had enough stubbornness to
support my decision.  I also did not know
how to cry.  Even when flogged at home, I
never cried, except if I did not commit the offence for which the punishment
was dished.  Whatever the severity of the
flogging, I never cried if I did anything wrong.  When I grew up, I realized it was an Ondo
trait.  An Ondo man could kill if he
was wrongly punished.  That is why they
call Ondos
Omo do pa, do kuti’ (those who can
kill and gallantly admit that they carried out the killing).  This is their way of protesting
injustice.  That was the attitude I
adopted in the failure to get enrolled at the second attempt.

KSA….’I had to dump School when i couldn’t handle it again’

The Miracle of
a miracle was in the offing.  While my sister
was also distraught at what had happened, she at least found her voice and told
me that we should leave for home. 
Leave?  She must be kidding, I
thought.  Realizing that I was going to
remain unyielding, my sister went for a cane in the belief that the sight of it
would melt my resistance.  The plot
failed, as I remained adamant.  At that
point, she realized that it was futile to flog me because I would not cry and
she resorted to pleading that we should leave. 
Her pleas did not move me either. 
I moved away from her, but she followed me until I got to the part of
the school where the church was.  In
those days, schools and churches were built on the same premises because most
of the schools were founded by missionaries. 
We eventually got close to the reverend’s quarters, where I stood
watching the kids playing.  The sight of
those happy kids filled me with dejection. 
Why, I wondered, was I prevented from being happy like those kids?  Hard as I thought, the answer eluded me.  Suddenly, my brain regained its power and I
remembered that one of the elders of the church was a close friend of my
parents. His name was Pa Akinmoyede.  I asked my sister to let us go and tell him
what had happened.  I suggested this
because I knew that if my mother had come with me, she would have gone to tell Pa Akinmoyede of my rejection and seek
his assistance.
sister agreed that we should see him and we made to leave for his house.  Just as we were stepping out of the school, I
heard someone call us and I told my sister. 
We turned round and saw a man who did not acknowledge our greetings
before tongue-lashing my sister for attempting to take me away from the
school.  The man was sent by Pa Akinmoyede
who had heard what happened to me and sent the man to put in a word for me
with the school authorities.  The man
asked us to follow him to see the teachers. 
It was at that point that I began to experience a surge of triumph.  But rather than jump at the new chance
offered me, I told my sister and the man that I was not ready to go with them
to see the teachers!  They almost
collapsed in disbelief.  I am sure they
must have thought something had scrambled my head.  Something actually did, but it was feeling of
elation arising from the fact that Pa
Akinmoyede’s man coming to tell the
teachers they were wrong to have turned me back.  It was plain shakara.  Why would I turn down something I had almost
missed out on if not for shakara?
we approached the teachers, the man decided it was time to banish the
stubbornness from my heart.  He went for
a most abrasive tool: a cane.  Before I
was asked any question, the cane landed on my forehead and I started seeing
stars.  He said if I thought I was going
to bring my stubbornness to the school I should have a rethink because teachers
have potent antidotes to stubbornness.  I
stood still.  The man then went to speak
with the teachers and they decided to enroll me.

KSA….The boy had an ambition to lead the world with Music

My School Life…
spent four years in the school before moving to Methodist Primary School,
also in Osogbo.  It was in my second
year or Standard Two, as it was referred to in those days that the free
education programme of the Chief Obafemi Awolowo-led Action Group government in Western Nigeria began.  It was also
in my second year that my father died, leaving the task of raising three
children to my mother.  I was aged
eight.  However, I completed my primary
education at my second school.
changed from African Primary School to Methodist for two reasons.  One, because many of my friends with whom I
had been in African Primary School crossed over to Methodist.  The other reason was that I had become
fascinated with Catholic priests and
wanted to become one.  African
Primary School
also became unattractive because it has no football
field.  The Methodist school was opposite
St. Benedict’s School, owned by the Catholics.  As much as possible, I wanted to be close to
the priests.  I actually wanted to go to St. Benedict’s, but I was not offered
admission.  Some of my teachers had grown
fond of me and they did not want me to leave because I was good in sports,
particularly football, athletics, table tennis and sack race.  I was also showing signs of academic
My dream to become a
Catholic Priest…
desperately wanted to become a priest and I thought my future lay in being
one.  Even up to now, when I see a priest
coming, especially a Catholic priest,
the roe and all, I still think they are angels on earth.
those days when we see Reverend fathers or Sisters
coming from about 100 yards away, we bowed or knelt as though we were seeing
God.  For a number of reasons, I believed
that the Catholic Church was miles
ahead of the Methodist Church.  I just wanted to be a part of the Catholic Church.  I was enthralled by the carriage of the
priest, whom I could observe at close quarters because our house was on top of
a hill overlooking the church.  It was
not that I did not love the African Church, with which I became familiar
in Osogbo,
but I was too taken in by the Catholics. 
What I loved most about the African
and Methodist churches was that the
worshippers danced a lot.  When it came
to dancing or music, the African and Methodist Church members danced
well.  The African Church choir could out sing birds.  Once the Reverend Father ordered the choir to
sing, it was like heaven had come.  At a
time, I was desperate to know how he managed to galvanize the choir into
churning out those danceable songs.  It
got to a stage that dancing was what sustained my interest in the church.  If there was any song and people were just
shaking their heads, I would be wondering why they were not dancing because I
thought songs were sung to make people dance. 
Since I could not get into the Catholic school, I resigned to going to
the Methodist school.
teachers were unhappy to see me leave the African School because they thought,
with my interest in a wide variety of things; I could be a source of pride to
the school.  I was made the time-keeper
and had also begun to develop an interest in music.  That started with a fascination with drums in
the church.  I could have stayed, but I
didn’t regret leaving African Primary School.  I also think the credit for whatever I became
would have gone to that school if I had gone to the university.  However, I believe in destiny.  In my view, the direction I eventually took
was my destiny.  I was to croon in one of
my songs many years later: My destiny can never be changed at allMy destiny is in the hands of God”.

KSA…The Band Leader

The Red Devils & the
broken church clock…
school, I was very active.  I had started
playing drums because of my exposure to them in church.  My drumming got better because I was a member
of the Boys’ Brigade Movement.  What I
disliked, as I said earlier, was singing. 
I felt sad anytime we were due for singing lessons.  My friends knew this and they never failed to
ask me how I would sing in the church. 
My belief was that the time we spent singing was being wasted by our
teachers who ensured that we sang almost the same songs every time.  The teachers did not exactly have things
their own way.  As the time-keeper and
hater of singing lessons, I always ensured – may God forgive me– those lessons
ended 15 minutes from scheduled time. 
How I did that?  Simple!  The clock we used was the type that rang
every hour; one of those grandfather’s clocks.  One day, I deliberately ensured that it fell
from where it was hung so its face, made of glass, could break.  This was done to enable me use my fingers to
manipulate the hands of the clock.  It
succeeded because I was just desperate to spend as little time singing as

KSA….The Boy left the class room for the club house

didn’t even like anyone singing around me. 
It almost gave me fits. I, however, got punished for the broken
glass.  But then, it was a small price to
pay for early freedom from those dreary singing classes.  The broken glass gave me the chance to mess
with the clock as I liked.  And once it
was a quarter of an hour to the end of a singing lesson, I adjusted it for the
purpose and rang the bell.  The sound of
the bell would send pupils trooping out of the classroom.  There was nothing anyone could do about
it.  About eight of my friends knew this
trick, but they never exposed me.  After
all, what are friends for?  As a matter
of fact, they supported what I was doing. 
We were almost like a club and we named ourselves ‘Red Devils’.

Mum chased KSA around town for education but Music later chased KSA away from Mum

I look back at those days and realize that there was some sort of intervention
in my life.  The intervention process
that made me a singer and musician defies easy categorization, but I think it
will fall under one, if not all of these: miracle, mystery, wonder and
surprise. Take your pick.  Yet, I have
had cause to regret not taking my singing classes seriously because I would
have had sufficient song training long before I became a singer.  It was only when I started getting involved
in music that I began thinking more about singing.  However, when it came to dancing, I required
no incentives.  I could even forget to
eat or drink as long as music was playing and I was shuffling to the rhythm”.
from the book; KSA: My Life, My Music by
King Sunny Ade. Read ‘Day KSA nearly got drowned in River Niger’
tomorrow on this blog


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