Fuji music icon, K1 De Ultimate, discovered his interest in music when he was eight years old. His parents initially opposed but he continued to pursue his passion and by the time he was 15, he had won various local musical competitions. He later became member of Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister’s band, the Supreme Fuji Commander from 1975 to 1979. He released his first solo album, ‘Abode Mecca’ in 1979, followed by ‘Iba’ (Tribute), which sold like hot cake until he dropped another of his most successful albums titled ‘Talazo ‘84 in 1984. That year, the much-admired ‘Arabambi of Fuji Music’ went on a global tour of North America and Europe, which marked the beginning of his glorious journey to global acclaim. At his Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State based kingly country home, the yet unmatched Fuji music king sat with Global Excellence magazine’s Editor, FOLORUNSHO HAMSAT for a 90-minute interview that chronicles his vision, passion and ambition from the word go. Enjoy reading…
Barrister, Fuji music and I.
In the business of Fuji music, it is impossible for somebody like me to attack Alhaji Ayinde Barrister, especially when the person we are talking about is no more. I’m a cultured Yoruba man. The Yoruba have this wise saying that, you don’t speak ill of the dead. Why would anyone want to attack the person that has passed? One reason is, this person would not be there to defend himself, to counter whatever you have to say about him or her. So, I would never do that. My statement about Barrister which some misunderstand is, beautifying more the legacy he left behind which we younger ones are enjoying presently. Of course, Alhaji Barrister fought all his life, from his younger days, to establish his authority in Fuji music and make it acceptable to the old and young. However, it is also important to remember others who came ahead of him in the Fuji business. That is if truly, Fuji music was transformed from were music. Those who were in the business before, played were music; it was Alhaji Barrister who transformed it and made it popular. The song I did on Fuji history was a credit on Alhaji Barrister. Now, those who twisted my statement on Barrister, I want to believe, did so to feed their selfish desires. Right-thinking people did not misunderstand me. If anybody would criticize or attack Barrister, that person won’t be me. But their plot, as I have observed, is to continue to instigate crisis in the Fuji music industry. They never want us to speak with one voice. But we thank God, we have seen the light. I want to appeal to us, Fuji music practitioners, also, to not encourage division. We should not work against whoever God has put in leadership. By supporting the leadership, we would not be denying the Fuji House the benefit of advancing.
What is the most important thing to you in life?
The most important thing to me in life is to know God and fear him. In knowing God and fearing him, you would want to be fair in dealing with fellow human beings at all time. That is my attitude to life.
Your brand has passed through phases; from Barrister to Kwam 1 to K1. Would you like to share your experiences at these stages?
There is not much difference. The only reason you can talk about is, name change. And the name change came about by reason of advancing. It is just like transforming from being a child to adulthood. So, bearing Barrister was the starting point, and then KWAM 1 came at a level when one was the level of young adult. Now, K-1 is the age of adulthood, the age of maturity.
Are you the richest Fuji musician?
You do not quantify success by riches alone. I’m in my 60s now. Can you compare now with when I was in my 30s? No. I started music at between ages 16 and 17. So, the circumstances of these stages are different and the successes that come with them are also not the same. If you asked if I’m the richest Fuji musician, I would claim it and thank God. But I want to give glory to God for giving me the grace to be able to feed and clothe comfortably and help others with the little that I can afford.
Aside music, you are also into various other businesses. What is the magic that gets you going?
Well, I was taught as a kid not to eat with all 10 fingers. You eat some and you keep some. The some you keep would be handy for other purposes and for the rainy days. That is what any wise man with an opportunity should do. While I dispense, I also invest. There is a time when one will not be strong enough to run around. This is the time one should think about when you have the opportunity.
All your life you have been in music. Did it ever get to a point where it was not comfortable for you to continue?
I have never felt like quitting music since I started. It is not by power but by God’s special grace.
Tell us about the relationship with your band boys.
I have said it earlier that one thing I would always do is to fear God and do that which is fair at all time. I have done my affairs with utmost fairness. Whatever is due to anyone that works with me, I give to them in time. There is the popular phrase that says, ‘separate the wheat from the chaff’. You have to do that in order to enjoy fully your own share of the deal. That is my attitude to life.
You had this tie with acting. You had your days with the Ojo Ladipo theatre group. Why did you not go fully into acting?
That is right. I was practically a member of the Baba Mero (Ojo Ladipo theatre) family. But I had started playing were music long before then. The story is, I met Oga Bello (Adebayo Salami) while I was playing were music around as a very young boy and we developed affection for each other almost immediately. I met Baba Mero too. We lived in the same area. Myself and Oga Bello, his brothers and sisters that were age mates, we played together and went about together. They came to my house and I went to theirs and we spent time together. That is the kind of Lagos we lived at that time, a very open Lagos when you wouldn’t suspect the next man for any reason. My parents knew them and theirs knew mine. I tried to become an actor because that was the environment I found myself. When you find yourself in a particular environment, you want to do what everybody there is doing. I picked interest in acting then because the music thing was not regular. And I had not become a professional singer then. I knew I would be a professional musician but I had to find something else doing before then. Before you become a professional, you have to look for an opportunity that would push your goal.
At what point did you turn a professional singer?
That didn’t happen until I had consecutively won trophies in three different classes of competitions. I became a professional after then with followership. Having won those prizes, I knew I had graduated from the amateur class and I had something to offer. That was the point when singing started paying my bills.
‘Talazo ‘84’ album brought you to the musical limelight. Was that your break in music and did it pay you your first millions?
That is not correct. ‘Talazo ‘84’ was not my first album and it didn’t give me the break. I had made my break even before I started making albums. My first breaking album was sold in large quantities even more than ‘Tala’84’. Can you imagine that up until I released ‘Tala’84’ album, my first break, ‘Iba’ (Tribute), was still selling very well. ‘Iba’ was released after I returned from Mecca in 1979. ‘Tala’84’, no doubt, was a fantastic break too because at that time, I was able to win the youth in large followership from across the world. You can call it the beginning of the success too.
When are you going to retire from singing into your other businesses?
I don’t know what you mean by retiring. I’m not retiring. Well, a civil servant can retire not a singer. If I had wanted to retire, I would have done so over 20 years ago. I had set up a musical equipment trade over 20 years ago that still fetches me good money which anyone can retire for. There are other businesses also that bring me good returns. So if I didn’t retire because God has blessed me with all these, what then would make me retire from music? I’m still very much available.
Are you working on any new project?
The bakery is one project. Apart from this, I also have many songs on ground that will soon be released. That is why I was shocked when you talked about retirement. It is normal for people to guess that I may be setting up all these businesses because I’m planning to retire from music. Chief Ebenezer Obey, God has blessed him with many other businesses, he has not retired. King Sunny Ade too, God has blessed him tremendously, he is still very much active in music. I’m far junior to these icons in everything. So, I’m just starting.
You are above 60 years of age. What plans do you have for your 90th birthday?
God has the power. But my wish is to stay agile and active even beyond 90. My regular prayer to almighty God is to give me whatever I desire in life, and I’m certain He will always answer my prayers because I don’t go outside His commandments. For instance, my mother clocked 99 years old in October 2017. I’m just over 60. If at 99, my mother can still be very active, walk around and do things without aid; that shows I have long years ahead of me. I wish to be kicking musically even at 100 because I have more than enough to still offer the world.
When you are not singing or going on vacation abroad, what else do you do with your free time?
I consider taking a vacation at every opportunity that comes. If I have five or six days free of shows, I decide to step out for obvious reasons. I have my family abroad. I have the businesses I do too. I use every chance that is open to attend to my kids and my personal businesses. When I have free time, I want to invest my money in any venture that brings me good returns immediately. I don’t sit money in the bank. I have people running things for me but I use my free time to do the checking.
Did you also have stage fright when you started singing?
That never happened to me. I had been a bold person from the very first day. That is why my age mates saw me as a role model from the beginning. They were very proud of me because they saw me as their representative. Even those that were much older than me would accept me as one of them and even carry me high on their shoulders because of my confidence.
Wearing agbada was popular with Fuji musicians in the past. Is that gone with time?
We spoke about rebranding. I think that was the vogue then. Now, you have to adjust yourself to the new world. That is what modernizing Fuji music actually represents. Besides, musicians still wear agbada now. There is nothing wrong with wearing agbada. What you don’t do is, whatever you are wearing, don’t dress poorly before your patrons.
You look smart in your dress, where do you like to shop for your wears?
I have different designers that I patronize locally and abroad. They are good at what they do. They clothe you and make you appear your perfect image and a good representative of your brand. Of course, I do shop at upscale shops because of the kind of job I do. You want to dress well because people are looking at you.
Don’t you wish to set up a clothing business too?
I don’t have interest in running a clothing line or tailoring; although, my father used to be a tailor. He did tailoring on a large scale with a lot of staff. He had sewn the Nigeria police uniform at a particular time. Tailoring is a business that needs 24/hour attention.
What do you do when you find yourself sitting for more than an hour?
I’m not the type of person that sits in one spot. If I sit in one spot for too long, my brain gets trapped into that spot. I like moving about, keeping my brain functioning. I don’t enjoy sitting in one place for too long.
You have just invested in bakery. Tell us about it.
Bakery is the minimum of other businesses I have invested in outside music. I have bigger investments that are functioning well and giving good returns. All my businesses are legal. I will not be proud having my name linked with shady businesses. I love investing in good businesses and I’m still not stopping.
Is it love for bread that made you to think of setting up a bakery?
Fortunately, my mother used to sell bread and when I was young, I hawked bread for her. That was her first major business back then. And in the course this, I would shuttle between different bakeries in the morning to collect bread. I would get to the bakery before 5am, collected bread and left to sell before 6am. Many families loved early morning bread for their breakfast, so I had to sell to them before going to school. When I returned from school, I would go to the bakery again to collect fresh bread, joined them with the ones left in the morning and took them out to sell. I would return home around 7pm. So, selling bread is a business that I have always known how to do.
What is the unique thing you are bringing into selling bread?
Selling bread is a good business. I just told you that it is a business that I’m familiar with. That should tell you that we are going to be unique in the business. Besides, any business that has to do with consumption is an essential business, an everyday thing that people cannot do without. We are going to put our best to see the business grow.
What kinds of TV shows or movies do you like watching?
I’m an entertainer. So I watch every show that entertains. If you move around my house, you will see television at every point. And each television is tuned to a different channel. You can watch different channels on them like sports, movies, news, documentaries, both local and foreign. So, I’m home with any interesting show because I want to be well informed about happenings around me and globally. I want to have firsthand information about any topic around the world. It helps with the kind of job that I do.
What kind of music do you enjoy listening to?
I listen to good music. In spite of the fact that I worked with him, I have been a very good fan of Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barriter’s music for a long time. Also, I listen to Alhaji Kollington Ayinla’s music. I listen to different kinds of songs. When there is a reason for me to listen to a particular song, even on TV channels, I always do. I’m also a good lover of music aside that I’m an artiste. I listen to Adewale Ayuba’s music because it makes sense. And I listen to others’ too.
You love keeping pets. How did it start?
Ordinarily, I love nature. Yes, I love keeping pets. It’s my love for nature that informs that. With the kind of job that I do, one should stay away from wherever his brain could be disturbed. Someone like me needs a quiet life, a quiet place where I would be able to think very well and put out the best for my fans. And loving nature includes hearing the whistling of birds and animals. As you grow old, you need a countryside life. I have crocodiles, birds and snakes. Sometimes, I leave them to move freely within the premises, except snakes.
How do you thank God for all the blessings?
I give thanks to God at all time. It doesn’t mean you must have money before thanking God, your creator. The fact that one has life, all hope is not lost. Tomorrow can be better.