Today , December 16, it’ll be exactly 9 years since the death of that Fuji god, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister. Ayinde’s arts are all shades of beauty & wonder captured in irresistible rhythm. To my mind, it’s a shame that the accolades/recognition have been few and far between.
First off, it’s quite tempting to approach much of Ayinde Barrister’s arts as by-products of introspection. In his immensely popular album, REALITY, he painted a rather pitiful picture of the fratricidal forces he had to contend with, far far away from the klieglights.
Decades earlier, in AIYE! we had an insight into his troubled, challenging beginnings. In FANTASIA FUJI, he expressed worries over the prolonged presence of military men in our administrative space.
In QUESTIONNAIRE, he threw up an avalanche of posers, a few rhetorical striking at the heart of the dynamics of our socio-political concerns as a nation. So whether the subject is biographical or otherwise, it becomes plausible to conceive his art as one permanently stuck in the past: if he wasn’t offering anecdotal exposé on his humble background as a Nigerian Breweries’ motor-boy in Obalende, or a melancholic take on how he literally binged on poverty while growing up with his beloved Odere Subuola Sifau, he would be dissecting Nigeria’s tortuous journey from the 50s through the 90s and beyond.
Yet, this artiste who was overly reflective could sometime be clairvoyant, or more appropriately now, prophetic. And like many great artistes, whom, as clichés go, are prophets (a space in the pantheon comes with the crystal ball), Barry was no less prognostic.
Barry was a socially conscious thinker capable of dissecting the future with insights of the past and variables of the present. If we choose to embrace some mischief and stretch the imagination a little further, even, we could as well build some mysticism around his arts.
For instance at some point in his 2007 ouvre, ‘Image & Gratitude’, released three years before his eventual death in 2010, we could safely imagine Barry as one conducting his very own burial rites, eulogising those present at the Fidau prayers, singing their praises in tens.
And hundreds. And the rationale for this,although mischief-laden, could pass the logic test: because no one could satisfactorily entertain and appreciate visitors like Barry, the master raconteur himself,he would deliver his words of gratitude ahead of time, even while alive.
Only that we would have to expunge the context, for effect:
“Gbogbo yin pata eseun,
Gbogbo yin pata eseun…
Eyin to duro tiwa o…
Gbogbo yin pata eseun.”
Barry wasn’t talking about death or funeral in those lines, to b e sure.
Yes, a few lines away, he offered some touching, melodious tributes to Lamidi Adedibu, Toto Abuga, Wahab Folawiyo, Sunny Okosun, Alade Aromire, etc, all deceased. Yet, quite interestingly, footage would emerge shortly after his death, depicting these very words as his messages of gratitude to those who were at his funeral. For an artiste who spoke fearlessly about death, with deep philosophical lines on how he was ready for the Grim reaper whenever it was time, this depiction, although mischievous, might not be overly inapt.
Biku she l’agbara to
Ko s’oloogun to le ri tiiku she o (X2)
Ta l’asarahilu n d’eruu ba
Ta n’iku wa a nle mo, nigbati ko soogun
What’s more, three years after, every of the characters who got a mention in those verses played prominent roles in his burial rites: Lati Alagbada, media owners, Buhari Oloto, EkoRemix, carpenters, vulcanisers, fashion designers. Talk about the artiste as, er, soothsayer!
Beyond the heavy percussion and melodious saxophone tunes, Barry’s ‘Image & Gratitude’ was in many ways a tribute to self, an elegy written before transition, a picture of the artiste as prophet. The quest to dissect this enigma, this wonder among wonders, is never-ending.
As I type these lines, one of Sikiru’s most enduring oeuvres, ‘E sinmi Rascality’, is on auto-replay, situating me right in the heart of Ayeye, Ibadan—-literally almost.
And as I listen now to Sikiru’s, I choose to approximate Chris Abani (who on his part, too, appropriated Turkish poet Orhan Veli Kanik): And I am listening to Ibadan with my eyes closed.
Back to the subject of death: Sikiru wished for one major thing; he wanted to survive his beloved Subuola Odere Shifau and God granted him that wish. He did’nt say much about what we owe him but I think he deserves more than he gets from us at the moment. He really does.
May the good Lord ease his path in that other world.
Agbaakin Sikiru Ayinde Abinuwaye Balogun lives on.
Deyimika weyin to ba ti dorun o
Ko weyin o, ko weyin o….
Ko ma fi Fuji si’le funya je