For him, quitting Ebenezer Obey’s band where he played the Hawaiian guitar was the beginning of a journey into self-discovery. Today, Olayiwola Adisa Adejumo, better known as Lai Addis, ranks among the masters. He is not just one of the most respected vocalists around; he is a musician’s musician; that is, the brain behind the hit songs of some popular musicians. He is known as the King of Lyrics.
In this interview with Parrot Xtra’s quartet of WOLE ADEJUMO, KUNLE GAZALI, MAYOWA OWOGBADE and KELVIN UDUEHI, Lai Addis spoke on his journey into music, how he became the King of Lyrics as well as why he feels most Nigerian musicians have become lazy. Excerpts:
Not many children of today can claim to know so much about Lai Adddis; who really is Lai Addis?
Lai Addis is a gift of God, a gift of God from a humble and musical family. My dad, of blessed memory happened to be an Apala musician, while my mum was a Waka singer, both of them played music. What this means is that I have been playing music since I was in my mother‘s womb, you know when a child is in a woman’s womb anywhere she goes both of them go together. We thank God that we are still relevant till today.
Singing about breasts and backsides has become the in-thing for musicians, how do you manage to sing without using foul language or vulgar lyrics?
That is the wisdom of God, because when I use vulgar; lyrics that means I don’t want to be remembered. What is important to me is the future, look at Chief Ebenezer Obey, King Sunny Ade and Ayinde Barrister of blessed memory, they waxed evergreen records. When you do evergreen records even when you are no more people we still buy and listen to your records, so I took that from people like Obey, Sunny and Barrister. There are so many things to sing about instead of singing about irrelevant things.
What category of music can we say Lai Addis sings, is it Juju, Fuji or Gospel music?
The category of music I play is Goje music. Goje music is the fusion of Fuji and Juju music. When you listen to my music you will have the feelings of Juju and when you also listen to the lyrics you will discover that I don’t copy, I have a way I do my thing. My style is different; it is not as if I am singing the real Fuji that other people are singing now. That is the wisdom of God, so I play Goje music, which is the fusion of Fuji and Juju music.
Which instrument do you play?
To God be the glory, I am a multi-instrumentalist, I played Hawaiian guitar for Ebenezer Obey for so many years. I also play guitar. Chief Ebenezer Obey didn’t know I could sing but if God gives a gift there is no way you can hide it.
Which other band did you play with before standing on your own?
I first of all started with Dayo Kujore, and later I was invited by Ebenezer Obey before I started my own band.
When you left Dayo Kujore and pitched your tent with Ebenezer Obey, how did Kujore feel, did he raise any objection?
No, you know one thing is when you are growing up you have to be looking up to someone up there, truly he was not happy but for me I was very happy because it was a promotion. Whatever we want to do in life we should put God first because that is the only way one can succeed.
When did you actually start music and did your parents object when you decided to go into music?
My parents are wonderful parents because there was never a time they objected to my decision of going into music. What interested them was my success. They gave their support whether you wanted to go to school or otherwise. This is because my father had learnt his lesson when his father; that is my grandfather objected to his decision to go into music simply because he was a rich and popular man.
His belief was that as a rich man that used to give money and some other items to musicians, how would he allow his son to go into music? But when I started my music career, my father gave tremendous support because he thought that what he could not achieve in music, I would be the one to achieve it. I started playing music when I was in secondary school.
Can you lead us through to your background, where you were born, schools you attended before you eventually ventured into music?
I was born in Ifon Osun, in Osun State and I attended Baptist Day Primary School, from there to Ilobu Grammar School at Ede in Osun State and then to music.
At the time you started playing music, musicians were not in good terms with one another. Abusive songs were common, and of course many did things to protect themselves including juju, as a musician what did you use to protect yourself?
God! You know that God’s power is eternal and there is nothing that can suppress it. In the olden days like you said when I used to follow them as a little boy, truly it was as if we were going to war, with a lot of charms, incantation and so many other things, but today the game is different we are now in the computer age.
But as a member of different bands, there would have been times the leader of the team would have given you something to protect yourself?
No, there was nothing of such in my own case. What I can say that is similar to the question is that before I follow them anywhere, I will go to my church as a member of Celestial Church of Christ to seek for direction, if I should go or not.
Positive Stars Band, what really prompted the name?
Anything you want to do in life don’t think negative, be optimistic, be positive that is the only way one can succeed in life and be relevant, that was what prompted the name Positive Stars Band.
How would you describe life as a musician?
Life as a musician is very sweet and wonderful, but musicians generally need to be very careful particularly about all these worldly things. The reason is that when you are enjoying that sweetness they should always remember that there is God so as not to get carried away, many wives, many concubines and so many children are the only things that can make a musician fall at any time. If any musician is so much engaged in all these worldly things, it is like you are telling people that you are up there, remove the ladder. Everything must be minimized in order to enjoy the goodness of life.
What does Lai Addis use to enhance his performance?
Water, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I only take water. I don’t think I need to take anything again to enhance my performance because there is enough talent from God. If I decide to take anything again may be my head will scatter and also if I am taking any form of enhancement it is as if I am challenging God that the talent he gave me is not enough, even I don’t drink coke and I have never smoked cigarette in my life.
Let me ask this question sir, as a musician you have to cope with fans from all over the world and most male musicians have women as their fans, how do you manage?
I am coping with them; in fact if you look at all my Facebook accounts, each of them has very close to about 5000 friends and majority of them are female. One thing I want to make clear is that as a musician when you see people following you as fans, it is not you they admire but your songs, so there is need to be very careful and know how to manage them.
There was this your song in the 90s that many alleged that it was Sir Shina Peters you are referring to, was there any fight between you and Shina Peters then or what prompted that song?
There was nothing of such between me and Shina Peters, you know in this industry there are many rumor mongers. There may be some issues then but not up to the level of singing abusive song, we are friends. There is need to be careful of those rumour mongers because they are the major problem in the entertainment industry. If they tell you something, we should endeavor to verify so as not create problem where there is none.
How will you describe your style of music compared to hip hop which is fast gaining ground?
The hip pop singers of today are not singing hip pop. It amazes me when some people say Davido is singing hip pop. Most of them are singing highlife and people accept it maybe because of the sequence they are using and because they have Nigerianized the music and that is perfect.
The only thing I can say is that Fuji and Juju musicians have a long way to go, they have a lot of work to do by putting in more effort simply because the interest of many of our younger generation is not in the traditional music; rather they have taken so much interest in Hip Hop music.
Some of the people you started with are not releasing albums regularly and some are not releasing anymore, how do you feel?
I always feel very sad because they refused to fill the gap and have opened it for the hip pop artistes. They don’t want to work anymore; they prefer to attend weekend shows and they have refused to be creative. If care is not taken, we will not hear Fuji and Juju music again and the hip pop will be dominating everywhere.
Are you saying hip pop has taken over and Juju music is no more relevant?
No, juju is still selling. Yinka Ayefele and others are still selling but the situation is that after so many years of hard work, none of the younger ones is eager to be creative like them, they only copy and sing rubbish.
How do we make sure Juju and Fuji music don’t die?
The only remedy is for the younger ones who are eager to sing to go and lock themselves up in a room and think.
You said musicians should be creative, what advice would you offer?
Most of the Fuji singers are nowhere to be found today because they refused to create, all the younger ones that are supposed to hold the pillar for Fuji music to stand are copying Wasiu Ayinde and others but the hip hop artists are not like that, they are different from one another.
How many records have you produced so far?
My records are up to 10 and people are still looking for them and still enjoying them.
When you hear people singing your songs especially on live shows, how do you feel?
They can only copy and can’t be like the owner of the talent, I am always happy whenever I see people singing my song because it is like they are promoting me.
What is your relationship with Yinka Ayefele like?
We are brothers.
Sometime ago, there was a rumor that you were fighting with Yinka Ayefele, how did you resolve it?
We are brothers, we only had a disagreement sometime ago and we resolved it. Issues don’t come through the musicians but through our fans out there. Artistes do quarrel and we eventually settle it.
Who is your source of inspiration?
My source of inspiration is God, nothing except God. I have not used five percent out of the talent God gave me, it is God given talent.
What are you planning for your fans that are outside the country, When are they going to see your live performance?
Thank you, presently there are many promoters that are contacting us and we are putting all efforts together to ensure that everything work out well. There is one entertainment company based in the United States of America we are discussing with, what remains now is to put pen on paper to finalize the deal if everything works out according to plans.
When would you describe as your saddest moment as a musician?
The day I can say was my saddest was a particular day when I used to do jumps, people were waiting for me to come on stage to do my thing, but when I looked back, there were no band boys to support me. It was a very sad moment. I had to play the keyboard and sequence beats on it to ensure that everything fell in place. But now to God be the glory.
Your happiest moment?
That was the day I played for Oba Obateru Akinruntan at a particular anniversary where he gave me $ 20,000. Oba Akinruntan is my father. Since then I have been playing at the anniversary every year. It was one of my happiest moments. Another day was when he (Oba Akinruntan) in his palace asked me to lead a song, while he and his wife, Olori did back up vocals to my song, it was a happy and wonderful moment for me.
Another moment was during a particular album launch, at the programme they called Yinka Ayefele to come to the podium to deliver a speech, what Ayefele did on that day was wonderful, he ordered everyone in the hall to stand up for me to give proper recognition. I felt like I was the President. It was a happy day for me as well.
Your advice for the upcoming musicians?
The only and candid advice I have for them it to go and lock themselves up and rack their brains to give out their best and stop looking for weekend shows. This will enable them to develop their creativity and give themselves quality identification. People want to listen to music but just music, quality music.
How did the King of Lyrics title come up?
People see me as a very talented singer and that was what prompted Prophet Funso Akande of Ori-Oke Baba Abiye in Osun State, who I refer to as my father, to anoint me. He ordered me to kneel down and anointed me as King of Lyrics. I don’t know or I can’t say what he saw that made him anoint me as King of Lyrics. And since then people have been calling me that.