By Olubunmi Familoni
One of the major distinctive qualities that sets apart the music of Wasiu Ayinde (K1 De Ultimate) from Pasuma’s is the use of language. Where Wasiu employs deeper idiolect in using the Yoruba language, closer to the roots — complete with idiomatic expressions that are evident of an ‘omo agba’, a person who grew up among the elderly, the original custodians of the lexicology of the Yoruba language; Wasiu Alabi Pasuma, a protégé of K1 and also his contemporary, chooses to deliver his lines in a simpler form of the Yoruba language devoid of all the lexical ‘complications’ of K1’s variant, as is spoken widely in the urban areas, rather than the dialects of the ‘ilu oke’, the hinterland. This simplicity of Pasuma’s use of the Yoruba language is in a paradoxical way also a complexity, considering the generous presence of street slang in his own musical lexicon, with most of these words having their origin in the Yoruba language of course (probably as a result of some sort of diachronic evolution of the language itself due to the migration of people from the rural areas to the metropolis as big cities developed); but the lexical complexity lies in the fact that most of these words cannot be understood, not only outside the context of the song, but also even when ‘non-initiates’ listen to the songs, thereby restricting the audience to people for whom these words are part of their daily lingo. In fact, if Pasuma’s songs were to be transcribed, whoever embarked on such a task would be hard put as to how to spell most of these words since they’re only ever heard spoken or sung, and never seen written down; in fact some of these words are made up on the spot, not completely out of place considering how much live fuji shows rely heavily on improvisation.
In considering factors responsible for these disparate forms in the same genre of music, as it concerns two of its leading figures, especially in their use of language, one imagines that apart from the generational gap between the two of them this difference can be traced to the audience of their music. Their audiences differ so greatly it would almost seem they were doing different types of music, instead of the same fuji, but only with a difference in instrumentation; where Wasiu pays more auditory attention to the distinct sound of each instrument in his band and is very meticulous about the general sound being produced, Pasuma’s music is mostly made up of cacophonous percussion (bata and snares) and some sprinkling of piano notes now and then (an instrument which Pasuma himself has quite a mastery of, as seen in a few gigs and on a ‘keyboard-only’ record he made in 1990 in honour of Aweda Yekini, a mastery which is very rare of fuji artistes — we are more accustomed to seeing juju singers strum guitars or sakara singers pluck the strings of the goje violin; the fuji musician is usually just a microphone man, in a sole role as lead singer). Still on the distinction of instrumentation in the music of Wasiu against Pasuma’s, in Wasiu’s songs you can hear such instruments as flutes, saxophones, trumpets, and other such pieces as you would expect to hear in classical music or jazz rather than in fuji; Wasiu himself being a fan of jazz music, and with a little knowledge of classical music, as a display of this knowledge and appreciation of classical music and jazz, he made an album, Classical Fuji, which became a sort of turning point in the presentation of his sound, a slight turning away from the traditional form of fuji as handed down by his musical mentor and ‘founder’/creator of the genre, Sikiru Ayinde Barrister, calling this form “modern fuji”, as seen in the domination of horns in the sound as opposed to the use of just the sekere and drums. Meanwhile, Pasuma hasn’t experimented that far, sticking to the original sounds of clash of drums and a few strings. It is this distinction in their instrumentation that can be said to be responsible for the the difference in the quality of their audience. Because of the seeming maturity and cosmopolitan appeal that Wasiu’s sound has because of the infusion of elements of jazz and classical music, his audience is a more sophisticated lot made up of the posh socialites and members of the political and intellectual elite who have become part of a loyal fan base built on years of following, patronage and close associations, men and women of all ages, professionals from all walks of life, in all parts of the world, of various tribes; whereas Pasuma’s relevance seems to still be on the level of road transport union politics, with his audience made up mainly of members of these unions and their street associates, just like an underground musician. What might be responsible for this could be a combination of social background and musical apprenticeship — Wasiu was groomed under the wing of the man who named the genre himself and championed its evolution from the basic form of were which was more of a religious tool than it was musical, Ayinde Barrister, it also helped Wasiu’s career that Barrister was the leading fuji artiste of his era, with access to the elites of the period; as for Wasiu’s social background, growing up in the Agarawu area of Lagos Island obviously put him in close proximity with the gentry of the Island and he must have been able to observe and take note of such details as musical tastes and patterns of behaviour, which has helped him in tailoring his music to suit this particular audience; on the other hand, Pasuma who grew up on the other side of town, in Temiogbe in the depths of Mushin, hardly had any form of early mentoring to guide him along as he began his music career in 1984; he literally had to grovel and beg for shows such as a Lekki Beach concert in 1992 where he had to prostrate before the organisers just for a chance to open the show; because of this lack of quality mentoring he seemed trapped in the underground circuit of backstreet shows in Mushin and small-club performances from Oshodi to Ojuelegba, from the late eighties through early nineties (until his debut album, Recognition, in 1993; but his ‘breakthrough’ album wasn’t until 1995, ‘Orobokibo’, which won him the award for the Best Fuji Artiste at the Fame Music Awards (FMA) of that year).
To further make this disparity in the audience, language and music of Wasiu and Pasuma even clearer: a fuji patron of certain noble pedigree or of great affluence would rather have a Wasiu performing at their celebration, just as big international fuji promoters such as Genesis Promotions would rather have Wasiu headlining a tour than Pasuma, who’d have more invitations to perform at neighbourhood parties and ‘street carnivals’ and other local events; even though, in recent times he seems to have aligned himself with the yuppie pop community, doing a lot of collaborations with the biggest Afro-pop artistes in the industry and making more pop-influenced fuji music, even attempting a sort of pop album, My World, which didn’t do too badly as far as acceptance goes; that’s one of the qualities that sets him apart from his colleagues on the fuji scene, the ability to step out of the genre and appeal to an audience who ordinarily would be averse to the sound of fuji music; another of his major and memorable achievements, which hasn’t been attempted by any fuji artiste, is his release of three albums in 2003 (Americana in March, Extravaganza in June, and Desperado in December), following this feat the next year with the release of a double album, High Level and Joker.
The success of contemporary fuji artistes is not judged by record sales, so we can’t talk of the numerous records these two musicians have released, in comparing their music.