by PT Peter Thomas

HOW FELA PUBLICLY ANNOINTED KOLA OGUNKOYA & NAMED HIM THE "GBEDU MASTER." 

+ The Untold Jealousy, Rivalry & Politics. 

Show me that young, gifted saxophonist and a 14-piece Afrobeat bandleader in his early 20s as at 1992 that got the great Fela standing up and clapping. Not only that, Fela named him the GBEDU MASTER because according to the Afrobeat god, "I was at the backstage waiting for my turn to come onstage (at the Lekki Sunsplash) when I heard the kind of musical arrangement that sounded like my brand of Afrobeat. If my boys were not backstage with me I would have concluded that they're the ones onstage warming up the overexcited crowd for me.But I was informed that it's this young man here that's generating all the catcalls, screamings and ovation from the crowd. "Since I started playing Afrobeat till this day , I'm yet to see anyone that plays the saxophone expertly and commands his band like this young man here. And he said he's never been to the (Afrika ) Shrine before, yet he plays like he was trained by me. I'm not surprised when he said he's formerly a saxophonist with Dr.Victor Olaiya. From today, he becomes one of my adopted sons in music. I hereby changed his name from Kola Ogunkoya and The Gbedu Ensemble to Kola Ogunkoya the Gbedu Master !" Turning to his aides, Fela on the spot gave them instructions to issue the new Gbedu Master the Special Pass into the Afrika Shrine, to give him a day every week to perform free of charge with his band in the Shrine and to allow the young Afrobeat wonder to have access to him whenever he (Kola ) wants to see Fela and when Fela's less busy. 
Note, the above scenario no be Tales By Moonlight. It happened at the Dapo Adelegan-helmed live music concert tagged, Lekki Sunsplash, Lagos,sponsored by one of the leading soft drink bottling company. Witnesses when Fela was annointing the young Kola Ogunkoya backstage were top music personalities like Steve Rhodes, Ben Tomoloju , plus other journalists including Jahman Anikulapo ( of Guardian Newspapers), the late Amadi Ogbonaiya ( of Vanguard Newspapers). It was Fela who instructed his bodyguard named Anigboro to usher Kola Ogunkoya for the first time ever,from the stage into Fela's presence backstage ,face-to-face. After Fela's blessings, on the spot, elder Steve Rhodes (God bless the dead) extended a Special Invitation to Kola Ogunkoya to further celebrate him the next day at Jazz 38 on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi. To the amazement of the "overnight celebrity" aka the Gbedu Master, the larger than life Fela was the last person he expected to grace the Celebration Jam Party yet Fela honored him with his presence alongside four of his queens.And it was whispered that while Kola Ogunkoya was performing live, Fela was telling those close to him including the owners of Jazz 38 , the jazzy couple known as Tunde & Fran Kuboye, "This boy is really good on the sax. We have to assist him. I would make him my personal assignment." And he instructed Showboy and Dede Mabiakwu to ensure the boy always enjoy the full compliments of the Afrika Shrine and easy access to him (Fela). 
After the Lekki Sunsplash show and the large turnout of top celebs at the Jazz 38, the love of Fela for the new Afrobeat sensation, Kola Ogunkoya became the front page news in the weekend papers and thereafter. 
However, this public show of affectation by Fela for the Gbedu Master soon attracted the envy, jealousy and animosity from certain individuals very close to the Kalakuta Republic and the shadowy figures ensured the dude never stepped into the Shrine to set up his band nor get a one-on-one with Fela. But the youngest saxophonist who left Dr Victor Olaiya's band in 1988 to pursue a solo career, had become a regular crowdpuller at the Iwaya, Yaba-based funspot Jazzville in Lagos after the Lekki Sunsplash and Jazz 38 exposure. Fela read the good news in the papers and was so impressed with the unbelievable Afrobeat music talent and solo exploits of the young Gbedu Master so much, on more than two different occasions Fela came to watch Kola Ogunkoya & The Gbedu Ensemble's live performances at Jazzville and believe it or not, on the different occasions, Fela went with his ubiquitous sax, climbed the stage and performed alongside Kola Ogunkoya ! backed by the Gbedu Ensemble with Dede doing backup vocal ! It must also be noted that he was yet to release a single or an album when his name and fame enveloped the Nigeria live music circuits and his outstanding performance at the Benson & Hedges show dubbed LOUD IN LAGOS in 1996 cemented his nationwide popularity which further brought out the beast in his haters. And 'Ręręrùn' after the transition of Fela, the very ugly jealousy and unnecessary rivalry grew fangs and drew the blood of Kola's brother who was found dead in front of the Gbedu Music Village on Allen Avenue .( Sir K aka Kayode Ogunkoya was the manager of the Gbedu Music Village,he was allegedly murdered by some unknown sonafaguns).When the faceless death threats were becoming persistent and unbearable, the Gbedu Master shutdown his fast-growing live music hotspot, the Gbedu Music Village and was again forced to relocate to the US after the millions of naira invested had suddenly gone down the drain,no thanks to his nameless detractors ( especially two certain figures,he identifed as a female and a male .Nameless because Kola Ogunkoya begged this reporter to veil their names in order to let sleeping dogs lie). " If I say half of how I was victimized after Fela's journey in 1997, THEY will come for me again.These people are diabolic and enemies of progress ! THEY are self-centered and worse than the politicians they keep condemning on records.You might think with the height they have attained or with all what God has blessed them with they would have outgrown their old inferiority complex but no, they're always uncomfortable around anyone that Baba Eleniyan ( Fela) singled out as exceptional Afrobeat musician. THEY have no love for me since the day Baba Fela took special interest in me.They have been my biggest antagonists till date. They turned me into an Afrobeat musician operating from America instead of being home-based in my fatherland. THEY're the reason I switched from full-time Afrobeat records and started mixing my Afrobeat with Highlife since 1999 so that they would stop seeing me as a competition. 
I lost my brother because of these freaking jealous and wicked individuals who believe I was outshining them. 
" Pure Afrobeat bandleaders began to thin out and started distancing from full Afrobeat due to THEIR unwelcoming attitude and the stinking politics THEY brought into Afrobeat after Baba Eleniyan's (Fela's) sudden departure..Now, THEY are cool and accommodating these young ones on the Nigerian music scene that cannot play any single instruments and therefore, not in THIER class or category of musicians to compete or hustle shows with THEM. But, as baba God would have it,these ones that they underestimated and embraced because they felt they're not Afrobeat musicians but Afro Hip Hop,Afro Dancehall and Afro-Pop artistes are the ones now popularizing the name of Afrobeat around the world and taking the shine and limelight. 
" Outside Nigeria today, you would see more non-Nigerian Afrobeat bands unlike in Nigeria where you have just one or two popular Afrobeat bands.The rest in Nigeria are not recording and performing pure Afrobeat.It's a shame,THEIR self-centeredness, lack of vision especially the hatred THEY gave and extended to individuals and core Afrobeat musicians like me and the others is causing the authentic Afrobeat to be going into extinction every passing year. The radio and TV stations are all playing back to back these new set of non-original Afrobeat artistes and the so-called Afrobeat songs that have been bastardized or watered down to club and party lyrics.Even at the annual celebration for Fela, you can imagine the line up of performing artistes and their lyrical content and messages. No other worthwhile Afrobeat musicians are there onstage but themselves. What does that tell the discerning minds ? Unnecessary jealousy, unhealthy rivalry and gadem politics have ruined authentic Afrobeat in Nigeria ! " 

NB :Unexpectedly, this QUICKIE Q & A morphed into an extensive and unbelievable lamentation. It's messy.,have to "off the mic" to clean out my ears. The tape is still rolling.. . Need to sincerely wrap some names in soiled tissue paper.... Microphone check one, check two..... Wait up. . 

Pix (2):The young saxophonist the next day onstage at Jazz 38.(Pix 3): Gbedu Master in white T-shirt , with Fela and Dede onstage at Jazzville .

By SOLA BALOGUN

WHY AFROBEAT WON’T DIE – KOLA OGUNKOYA

 

He left the shores of Nigeria in the late 1990s, but made a brief return to the country in 2000. His dramatic comeback then culminated in the release of a hit song, Fa mi ni rungbon. 

Kola Ogunkoya, one of the fast rising Afrobeat singers was a disciple of the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti even when the latter was alive. 

As young as he was then, Kola had the privilege of sharing the stage with the Afrobeat legend and other popular musicians such as Sir Victor Olaiya, King Sunny Ade, Dayo Kujore, Orlando Julius and Dele Abiodun. 

Aside this, Ogunkoya who goes by the popular stage name, Gbedu Master cut his teeth in highlife afrobeat musical genres while performing at the quarterly Arts Stampede organised by the Committtee for Relevant Art (CORA). It was this rich profile of a rising star that Ogunkoya took to America about 12 years ago. 
Having stayed in the US for sometime, the Gbedu crooner recently unveiled his sojourn abroad explaining how he copes with the American music industry, how acceptable his music is in America and how Afrobeat is still thriving despite Fela's death. 

How I started 
I started playing music as a young chorister. I felt then that music was my destiny. I started praising God in the church up till the time I took to highlife music. I'm particularly happy that I started that way because most great musicians today also started from the church. I am grateful to God for the level He has taken me. 

Playing with top musicians 
I learnt from the masters how to sing well and how to manage my life as an artiste. Although I never had the privilege of playing in Fela's Egypt 80 Band, he (Fela) always welcomed me during the jamming sessions at the Afrika shrine. 
At that time, I already had a band and had started performing at Jazzville on Majaro Street, Yaba, as well as Jazz 38 on Awolowo Road, Ikoyi. There was a time when Abami Eda (Fela) and my band had a joint show during the Lekki Sunsplash in the late 1980s. That was the first time Baba (Fela) saw me perform, and he was happy. since then, he kept inviting me to his Afrika Shrine to perform. 
From Fela and other top musicians, I learn't how to be original as a musician and when I travelled to America, nobody told me that I couldn't have succeeded as a musician if I didn't play my original African music-Afrobeat and highlife. 

Why I moved to the United States 
In fact, I did not realize I'd spent 12 years in America until recently when I realized I needed to play more of Afrobeat. I went to the United States to perform and it has been a fulfilling experience for me. I have been going places to perform and I'm proud to say I have received the I.R.A.W.M Awards for the Best African Entertainer of the year. 
As an African musician in America, life has been challenging but it has not really been to rough for me. I keep on having shows and I've always received commendations from across the country. 

Afrogbedu in America 
My music is doing fine in America. It's popular in the clubs and public shows. But the truth is that Americans love their own music: pop, R&B and Hip-hop-than any other genre from Africa. So it's pretty difficult for African musicians to get noticed here. This is because Americans are more concerned about their youths and the kind of music they listen to on radio and TV. So it's hard to put Africans first in their TV or radio shows, rather they prefer their own music and place other forms of entertainment below it. 
But for me, I usually organize shows during the Black History Month in February or perform during special concerts that are dedicated to Africa. 

Memorable concerts 
I cannot forget Lekki Sunsplash organised by Dele Adelegan and the Golden Tones organised by Benson and Hedges. 

Afrobeat after Fela 
Some of us who are disciples of Fela have been trying our best to promote Afrobeat music. It is true the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti was able to cut across all races through the music. But that was not just because of the sweetness of his rhythms or because he was the only one playing Afrobeat then. It was because Fela used his brand of Afrobeat to fight the political class in Nigeria and Africa. 
His music usually causes alarm/commotion in government circles and many people from outside Africa wanted to know whether he was attacked or imprisoned for his music. In short, the world was always at alert whenever Fela had brushes with the authorities. He was a committed and fearless fighter for the masses. There have been other brilliant singers of Afrobeat such as Orlando Julius who comment on social issues and happenings in the nation.

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