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Alhaji Yekini Aderoju is unarguably the longest serving talking drummer for any musician in Nigeria. Late Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister provided an enabling space for Aderoju to express his talent for 23 years in his
band. In this encounter, amid intermittent sob, Aderoju speaks on how he prayed fervently for five years before he could join Barrister’s organisation. Excerpts
Did Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister snatch you from a band or you applied to join him?
Thank you very much for your love. It is a long story. That is why we are here. Let’s open the chapter.
Joining Alhaji was not easy, as people would think. I know what I went through before God answered my prayer to join him in 1987. I started with Fancy Aye Alamu and spent eight years with him. Fancy Aye Alamu is also a fuji musician; we are from the same town— Ayetoro in Ogun State. He brought me to Lagos because that was where he was based. We were doing well in our own way, until one day when we went to play in our town and he started behaving strangely to me.I noticed this and went to my dad who advised me to still return to Lagos to find out why they left me behind in Ayetoro. When I got there,I realised that it was a coup they had sealed. So, there was nothing I could do than to leave.
Was that how you found yourself in Barrister’s organisation?
Aah, no. I agonised over what happened for sometime after which I stripped myself inside my room and prayed to God to compensate me with a higher position, having Alhaji Barrister, and no one else, in mind. Then I went to Tunde Balinga,who said there was no vacancy yet. Meanwhile, in 1982, when the fight between Barrister and Alhaji Kollington Ayinla was settled at Bongo Spot at Iyana-Ipaja, I played before the show, praising Alhaji. That was my very first contact with him. Do you know what happened that day?
Alhaji sent somebody to give me N10 mint in 12 places. That is N120 at that time. I was dazed. He did not speak with me because I could not even reach where he was seated. I was so happy that day. So, when Fancy Aye Alamu sent me packing, Alhaji was the only person in my mind. Later, I met with Alhaji Tiamiyu Olaitan, then Sunny Ade’s talking drummer, and told him to take me to Alhaji. But he could not. Before then, I had gone to the current Alaye of Ayetoro who was very close to Alhaji. He could not also take me to him because of the fact that three of us are from the same town. He said he did not want Fancy Aye Alamu to accuse him of snatching his member for his friend. At that time, Bongo Spot was where drummers of popular musicians were always gathered to enjoy themselves. In fact, Alhaji Tiamiyu was ready to take me to Sunny Ade but I insisted that Alhaji was my choice.
So, what were you doing while searching?
Alhaji Rasheed Adio, also known as Second Barrister, had spoken with me and I had joined him. He gave me a good condition of service which made me to make about N600 per week. There was Suleman Akanfe who was a member of Alhaji’s band.
He is late now. He would come to our stage and tell me ‘you are more than this band.’ It was this Akanfe that God used for me in the end.
I got to know that when Alhaji declared the position vacant. It was Akanfe who first raised his hand among other members and recommended me. Here was a person who did not know where I lived. But he searched for me. When he came, he said I would need to dress well and prepare for a show at the City Hall the following day. I was shocked because I did not expect it.
Did you make it to the City Hall?
In fact, I got there earlier, not knowing that another set of 10 drummers had also been invited. I was asked to test the microphone. I did and noticed that members were speaking a language I could not decode while I was testing. Shortly after, Alhaji arrived. I was seated somewhere. The next thing I would hear was his voice. He said to me in English ‘Alhaji Aderoju, welcome to my organisation. Take note, you are the first person to play. All the best.’
Were you an Alhaji then?
Yes. I performed Hajj in 1983 after Fancy Aye Alamu had performed his own in 1982.
I was scared because the way Alhaji said it could make anybody to be scared. Then I said ‘yes sir.’
The show started and I was trying to play safe. But something saved the day for me that day.
What was that?
There was no record of Alhaji I did not have and study. The percussions of all his albums were in my head. So, I was supplying the beat as the music required. I started the show from 12 and was asked to stop at 2 am. They tested others too. I was the youngest among the 11. When it was 5 a.m, they called me back on stage and I played till the end. Seven were dropped in the morning. Later, they told me to join them at another show at Yaba in the evening. The Yaba show was where others were also dropped.
...And you became the number one.
Yes. I thank God for the opportunity to be with him because it was an everlasting experience being in Alhaji’s organisation.
That is the truth. That man was too much. He understood what a drum says; meaning that a drummer could not deceive him.
His ears were always on the alert alert picking every instrument. A lazy man has no place in his organisation because he would fish him out and hit him hard. Alhaji could not joke with his music.