By Charles Ike-Okoh and Adeyemi Adewale
Segun Adewale, the band leader who shared the stage with some of the greatest juju musicians Nigeria ever produced, including Greats like IK Dairo and Prince Adekunle. Here he shares the highs and the lows of his remarkable career-including his close shave with Prostate Cancer and playing days with Sir Shina Peters.
FRI 15 JAN, 2021-theGBJournal- I know you would like to ask, who is Segun Adewale? Segun Adewale is a native of Oshogbo, Osun State. I was born to a Muslim family in 1949 to Mr Adedeji Adewale and Christiana Adewale. I attended Alafia Institute, Mokola Ibadan in present day Oyo State. I later proceeded to St. Peters Blessed School in Lagos.
On leaving the school after my Primary School Leaving Certificate, I went to Premier College, Yaba and later to Ahmadiyya College to do my Higher School Certificate (HSC).
After my HSC, I went on to the University of Ife (Obafemi Awolowo University). I left the University in my third part (year) to pursue my dream-which is music.
I joined my first band led by the legendry juju musician IK Dairo in 1964. We did some fine records together. I was the last to join the seven-man band. I spent about two and half years with Ik Dairo before joining another band. But within my time with IK Dairo, we did about four records-Short play records- including Onile Gogoro.
At a point, the band travelled to Congo for a show. I stayed back but before their arrival from Congo, I left Ibadan where we were based to Lagos to join M.A Jaiyesimi, another juju musician and his band.
I was made the captain of the band because of my skills and knowledge of song composition-a gift from God. We did two LPs together.
During my stay with Jaiyesimi, one of his cousins realised my singing talent also and persuaded Jaiyesimi for me to be the lead singer and the songs we did were hit records. The brand of music we played, with me as lead singer, quickly got noticed and we were invited to England for a show.
But I didn’t make the trip with them because of my previous experience in the country-their weather didn’t suit me I didn’t want to repeat the experience I had when I first went to the country at about age 18.
Jayesimi is juju musician but with me as lead singer and composer, I infused Afro into his music and we played songs that reflected the difference in our type of juju genre. I am proud of him for his innovative approach. In his band, we used the most audible loudspeakers then.
When I left M.A Jaiyesimi, I joined up with another juju maestro, Prince Adekunle (late). It was there that I first met Shina Peters. Here, I was not sure I trusted his capacity to play juju music. So I after my brief stay with him, I went on sabbatical leave for 2 years- to get refreshed.
In between my sabbatical however, I formed a band-in 1972. But the band died a natural death due to funding. I later found myself back with Prince Adekunle band again.
Like I said earlier on, I met Shina Peters during my first stint with Prince Adekunle. Adekunle later informed me that Shina Peters had been with him for about 7 years.
‘’If you join us I will be happy because I have heard a lot about you and I heard you are a very good composer,’’ he told me in a bid to get my full commitment to the band.
In the period he was angling for me to fully join his band and I wasn’t sure whether to stay with him, I made a request I thought he wouldn’t be able to fulfil. I said to him, if you want me to join your band, you will have to pay me N10,000 -which was a huge sum of money in that era. I mentioned that the amount to scare him like I earlier alluded to. I expected him to retort in an angry manner over the request which then was outrageous. Surprisingly, he accepted to pay me the amount. He paid eventually after some days. He said he paid because of my talent, the belief in my capacity and because he wanted me desperately in the band.
On the day he paid, I quickly went to Apapa- Mandilas Motors, and bought one Volkswagen 1500 even though I couldn’t drive a car then. It was a huge opportunity and given that I was resident at Agege at that time, it facilitated my movement to and fro from work.
Anyways, Prince Adekunle quickly made me the captain of the band as well as the band’s chief composer, Chief Arranger and Welfare manager of the band.
In the coming days, I realised that most of the band boys didn’t know what a ‘’key’’ was in terms of music. Music is a serious business and if you don’t have the right type of people you are never going to make a good music.
So, what followed was a total overhaul of the band. Out of the 13 musician in the band, I sacked seven immediately and replaced them with more competent hands- good guitar soloist and drummers. I trained the new recruits for just nine days, prepared them for studio sessions and subsequently announced to Prince Adekunle that we were ready to go to the studio to wax a record. I was confident that the music we were going to wax then was going to lift the bands fame even beyond and place Adekunle among other great juju musicians such as Chief Ebenezer Obey and Sunny Ade.
The record we waxed was an instant hit. The big song there was called ‘’Ileya ti de’’ We did another hit called ‘’Eda n reti eleya’’, a very philosophical song.
Recall that he paid N10,000 for services for 2 years. But by the end of the year after the our record release, the record had sold over N700,000. That underscores the impact of the record in the market.
As part of my duties which includes managing his itinerary as well, I took him to the then Briscoe Motors and convinced him to buy a Volvo car to reflect his rising profile as a great juju musician. We added two Civilian buses for the band tour which we bought at a cost of N14,000 each.
The fortune and glory of the band changed almost immediately. We rebranded his name by adding the word ‘’Great’’ to his original name-Prince Adekunle. It was a reflection of my impact in the band.
I played and led the band for four years and within that period and about five months before my departure from the band we were invited to London for shows on four consecutive occasions. People in London embraced not only the music they also embraced the band and the Great Prince Adekunle himself. We were vibrant, we had unique dance steps and our music was unique. We played with a unique instrument then known as the ‘’SAKARA’’ and introduced the SAKARA steps.
After the fourth appearance of the band in London with myself, Shina Peters and the band, we were told by Prince Adekunle- surprisingly and unexpectedly too, that our services were no longer required.
It as a shock but I took it in good faith and left. To my surprise, as I was leaving the band, eight members in the Prince Adekunle band went with me and I formed my band, Adewale and the Super Stars international.
After a period of reflection, I went to my bank-Agbomagbe Bank which is modern day Wema Bank, got some money, bought some drums and box guitars and then began composing songs, something different and sharp from the usual juju sound.
In between, Shina Peters revealed to me that he was equally affected by the lay-off at the Prince Adekunle’s band. He joined my band and then I changed the name of the band from Adewale and the Super Stars international, after deciding it was wise to include his name, to Shina Adewale. We both went into the studio and came out with a chart buster.
The record ushered Prince Adekunle out of the scene. The song, ‘’Halleluyah’’, a song of thanks was a massive hit and it made an instant impression on our fans . We did another song three months later ‘’Awani Superstar International’’ (We are the Super Stars International). The song was massive, money rolled in, we were sought after and engaged frequently now for shows. Our third song cemented our presence in the juju music scene in the country.
In 1989, another bombshell came by way of our marketing manager. ‘’Will it not sound wise if you both split.’’ I disagreed totally to the suggestion because I believed in the fire power of Shina Peters on his guitar. And Shina Peters relied on my vocal power, power of composition and arrangements.
But Shina Peters left.
My marketing manager worked in a company called ‘’Ibukun Orisun iye’’ They market a lot of stars like Ebenezer Obey, Sunny Ade and Sikiru Ayinde Barrister. I called Peters for almost seven months, I didn’t hear from him. That was when I realised he had moved on. In fact, he was already in the studio doing his own thing.
I got my boys together, did some rehearsals after the disappointment of Shina Peters exit. And I played a song which did quite well and better than anticipated. Within a year I did three records and my fame grew.
My song ‘’Endurance’’ was a huge departure from what anyone in the juju music industry did then. And it was a challenge thrown down by some American music moguls who were looking for Nigerian artists who could challenge the dominance of Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey.
Endurance was my answer to the challenge. Given the success of the song, I was invited seven times to the U.S. to tour-twice in a year. I kept the buzz for going for another 10 years with my songs and performances.
Then I fell ill with prostate cancer. I was told it was a death sentence-it was the next thing to death. My medical doctor told me that 2 out of 10 patients survive it. It was traumatizing. But I knew I was a fighter. And I did survive it. Many till date are not sure how I survived the cancer because within three weeks after my operation I was up.
And today, I still perform on stage.
I remember the year we went to England, around 1986 for a concert tagged ‘’Run the Race’’. About 2.5 million people watched Segun Adewale and his group play on stage at Hyde Park. That was the highlight of my career. I was amazed at the sea of heads and shocked that Europeans could embrace my music with so much passion.
That was when I realised for the first time that music has no barriers. It is universal and it is healing.