– With comical touches, JAIYEOLA AJASA, the Landlord of Jaiyeola Street, tells the story of how he met and linked Abass Obesere, a popular Yoruba singer, to Sony Music
God used me in the life of Abass Obesere. As a reporter in Nigeria I reported everything. I became a journalist because I loved the news. Covering the news was a passion of mine. So, after my years at LASU I knew what exactly I wanted to do. Go back to school for journalism. On the beat I was on every beat – Politics, Entertainment, Social News. I was a jack of all trade (pardon my cliché. I heard of Abbas Obesere from a friend of mine, Jelili Shorungbe, of blessed memory. May his soul continue to rest in peace. Oberese sang his praise in one of his albums. He had told me about this Fuji artiste, who was the rave of the moment in the Mushin jump scene.
“He is good you need to come and see him if you have time,” said Jelili. Time? Of course, I have time. I was born restless and wanted to be in ten places at one time. I made the time and went. Besides, a colleague of mine, Waziri Adio had written a beautiful piece about him in the TEMPO Magazine. What I saw, I loved. The music, the closet raunchy style of Obesere was down my alley. I followed the next day trying to get an interview. To do something better than what Waziri Adio did. I found out that he was signed to Marvin Giwa records and comes there once in a while. I visited Marvin Giwa, waited for days for Obesere to show up.
One of those days, I had to go to Sony Music for a Press event. Sir Shina Peters was about to release an album. And that meant free album, free food and the usual brown envelope from A&R Director, Chris Nwandu. You do not want to miss out on that. I hurried there on time for the food and envelope. Thank you, Chris. After the event I was loitering, wasting time. Then, came the CEO of Sony then, the beautiful eye-candy, Keji Okunowo. She saw me and knew of me as one of the “hungry journalists” that come around. After the exchange of pleasantries, she asked me into her office. Something that was strange.
We got talking, and Keji asked if I knew of an artiste that Sony Music could produce. I told her of Obesere. I had the live cassette in my bag. Gave it to her and she played it for some minutes. The look on her face I would never forget. It was the most disgusting look you can imagine. “You mean you listen to this rubbish?” she asked me. About to throw me out of her office. I came to my own defense quickly. I explained to her that Obesere had a large following in Mushin and all over Lagos. I showed her the article in Tempo. I told her about Marvin Giwa and how many albums he was selling. Three times the number of Mike Okri. In just Lagos alone.
Keji listened and called in Laolu Akins, a renowned music producer of that era. He, too, listened to Obesere’s music. Laolu promised to go to Mushin and see with his own eyes. He did and was enthralled by what he saw. Sony fell in love with the King of Asakasa Omorapala. But my job was far from being over. Obesere, was loyal to Marvin Giwa records. He was making a lot of money from live shows and engagements. He saw no reason for Sony Music. In his eyes he was the African Micheal Jackson. He was not trying to get any bigger. I had to sell Sony to him. Besides, Sony had Iyanda Sawaba on board and he did not want to be in competition with the pata olokun exponent. I visited Obesere numerous times at his Jakande Estate in Isolo. We became very good friends, and he finally agreed to leave Marvin Giwa for Sony Music.
That was how the blockbuster, “Asakasa,” was born. Obesere’s life was never the same again. He became a superstar, travelled to America and Canada under Don Pedro Promotion. All I got was the “Thank You” he gave me one day when we met at the Fame Music Awards. He sat next to me. Mid-way into the show he leaned and whispered into my ears, “Egbon,” that’s what he used to call me. “God sent you into my life.” That’s all I really needed to hear. No “thank you” could have been better than that. Soon I was back on the streets, looking for the news. Doing a job that to me, was the greatest pleasure. When you do what you love, it ceases to be an occupation. It becomes an obligation.
IMAGE: Abass Akande Obesere.
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