“Live play” is a performance rendered directly to the audience.To the best of my knowledge, ‘live play’ cassettes began journey to limelight in Nigeria in the late 70’s. The prominent ‘live play’ cassettes in market then were those by Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey and King Sunny Ade of juju music. Only Dr Sikiru Ayinde Barrister’s fuji shared the space with them.
From early 80s to later part, juju music ‘live plays’ of Obey and KSA practically disappeared from market, leaving only Barrister.
As an inquisitive child then, I tried to find out reason other musicians ‘live play’ cassettes were no longer available in the market. My research revealed that other musicians withdrew their ‘live plays’ because ‘live plays’ offered them no economic benefit. Only record sellers were making money because there was no way to control or take stock of number of the ‘live plays’ sold.
Many people love ‘live plays’ because they give them feelings of presence at the party where they were recorded. Also, through ‘live plays’ one can know the personalities at the occasion. Barrister usually greeted them thus: “ e ku kaale“ or “e ma wole ma raba” or “ eleda mi a sin yin dele“ as situation required.
‘Live play’ also allows musician like Barrister to show their extraordinary raw talent and creativity. For instance, Barrister can creatively turn any unpleasant situation to infectious humour. He did this in many of his ‘live plays’. Another example: There were situations when he might be feeling uncomfortable with his “agbada” and jokingly say, “mo le bo agbada mi sile…” and would stylishly remove the flowing apparel. Also, there was a time he was on show break but when he was called back to stage, he mistakenly wore a pair of different shoes. Instead of changing them, he creatively and jokingly said that he had used that as a means of wealth medicine. “mo mu yen se awure “.
Barrister used to show good sense of humour, an act which he had done many times when dealing with his band members on stage. His drummers might abuse him jokingly on stage, and he would reply that “awon brother yin le n bawi nile.” In a particular ‘live play’, where his band members were telling him that his hair was receding. Barry replied them with justification that “apari o se sa ogun si “.
Another benefit of ‘live play’ is that one can figure out what to expect from upcoming album as Barrister would occasionally announce “record ti nbo lona nbe ni ……, to ba ti jade tete lo ra tie, emi a ra temi, or se ki nko die nibe fun yin naa, awon elegbe mi ni ki n mo be“ . In essence, you don’t need to be at a party to catch fun of what happened there if you have the ‘live play’. I could remember a certain period when dates and other identities were inscribed on ‘live play’ cassettes for easy access. One could easily get any ‘live play’ of any show anywhere just after a week.
Musicians may not eulogise some of their acquaintances in their albums but one can notice the type of cordial relationship they have for some people in their ‘live plays’. In the case of Barrister, people like Late Chief Adisa Akinloye, Bashorun Adebisi Adesanya of Coca Cola, Late Iyalode Aminat Abiodun and Alhaji Ishola Lasisi etc all fell in the category of people Barrister never praised in his albums but respected for their patronage of his music.
Barrister during the Second Republic used ‘live play’ to lay a solid foundation for fuji music as the main music of the road transport workers in Nigeria and politicians. That foundation he laid still remains solid till today, and all Fuji musicians are beneficiaries.
No doubt that ‘live play’ played important role in boosting Barrister’s career and helping rapid development of Fuji music in every corner and street of Yoruba land. In those days, whether new elpees were released or not, ‘live plays’, released almost on a weekly basis, would always give followers and fans something new to relish.
Those who followed Barrister’s steps in this regard never regretted because their discretion has assisted them to grow their career. Among Fuji artistes that followed Barrister in releasing their ‘live play’ to the public are K1 Mayegun the Ist, Rasheed Ayinde Merenge, Adewale Ayuba, Obesere ,Osupa Saheed, Pasuma Alabi , Malaika and many others, while those who fail to follow his footsteps in the direction of giving their ‘live play’ out, have their career limited to releasing albums only, and this impacted negatively in the general acceptance of their music and limited their fans base.
Probably K1 Mayegun, who is Barrister’s musical son, may have overtaken him in the quantity of ‘live plays’ released due to death 10 years ago, the truth of the matter, which no one can contest, is that there is no musician, dead or alive, that has released the quality and varieties of ‘live play’ in the class of those released by Barrister in his lifetime.
Humility, hard work, dexterity and high professionalism that Barrister always displayed on stage made his career a scandal-free and will also be a record to beat anytime any day.
‘Live play’ as an art popularised by Barrister came as bail out or palliative for Nigerian musicians across all genres during the coronavirus pandemic. Musicians organised online shows for their fans all over the world in corners and backyard of their homes to kill boredom occasioned by the lockdown, and fans showed appreciation to them in cash and kind with the hope of getting the ‘live play’ where they have been praised.
Like albums, there are some ‘live plays’ that stood the test of time and can be tagged evergreen. Some of such live plays from Barry Wonder, the live play sustainer himself, include “Up National”, “Agiliti or New Year 84”, “Houston Texas ‘86”, “Hope ‘83” and “Oloto at 50” while “Igbaja” Oju Opon and “Berlin Show” from K1 Mayegun remains evergreen. Some of Rasheed Ayinde Merenge’s live plays too can be rated, particularly Rasheed Alaago live play.
If one goes by the fact that all other musicians of music genre that are senior to Barrister in music industry abandoned releasing ‘live play’ because it was not economically viable to them, this is a fact that confirmed what Barrister always stressed that he was sent by God to deliver Fuji music to the world and not to make money out of it only. He always said that if he wanted to make money from his Fuji music he would have easily become a billionaire.
Many associates of Barrister like Otunba Adisa Osiefa, Barrister Organisation Director-General, Late Alhaji Mojeed Mayabikan, his Public Relations Consultant, Elder Dayo Odeyemi, Alhaja Aolat Tomisin Sule and Otunba Tokunbo Muhilly have also echoed and confirmed Barrister’s stand. Chief Tunde Busari, a fan, once confirmed the same stand in one of his write ups, stating that, “Barrister was not in true sense singing for money and material benefits “.
Taking into consideration his self-sacrifice by sustaining and making ‘live plays’ part and parcel of fuji act in Nigeria entertainment industry, it will not be an over statement regarding and calling him the grandfather of ‘live plays’ in Nigeria. It’s a merit he rightly worked for and deservedly too.
Fuji music he created produced the highest number of ‘live plays’ that exist in the Nigeria music space among other genres of music throughout the universe and like he once sang, “We lead and others follow behind…”.
May Barrister’s soul and that of all departed souls continue to rest in perfect peace. Masha Allah.
Agbaakin Ademola Adesigbin writes from UK.