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The Magnate versus The Musician 1: By Onigegewura

Image result for Sunny Ade images


{Moral of the story before the story:  DON'T negotiate when you are hungry}

The Story of the Epic Battle Between King Sunny Ade and Chief Bolarinwa Abioro


It was in 1974 that the news broke. Chief Bolarinwa Abioro, the Balogun of Ipokia, the Chairman of African Songs Limited, had taken his star musician to court! Everyone who knew KSA knew Abioro. Everyone who knew Abioro knew Sunday Adeniyi. Sunny was the son. Abioro was the father. What could have gone wrong between father and son?

KSA was the second artiste to be signed on to the stable of African Songs Limited. Ayinde Bakare was the first. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister was the third. Like most creative people, young Sunny Ade was more concern about his passion and less concern about the business aspect of music. His passion was to play music and to excel as a musician.Image result for Sunny Ade images

It was enough that Abioro – one of the biggest men in the music industry at the time – was ready to promote him. They brought documents for Sunny and his band boys to sign. They called it a contract. It could have been called any other name for all that KSA cared. Won ni ko wa je saara, o ni ojo ti wonu ju. Se ata ni won ni ko mu wa ni, abi iyo. You are invited to a free feast, you are complaining about the short notice, are they asking you to bring salt or pepper? Sunny Ade and his boys didn't hesitate. It is doubtful if any of them read what the contract said. The most important thing was that they were going to become recording Image result for Sunny Ade imagesartistes. Sunny signed. His band boys signed. Everybody was happy.

The contract was for 5 years. However before its expiration, KSA had become a household name. His album, Challenge Cup, sold in excess of 500,000 copies. It was certain that King Sunny Ade was going to dominate the music scene for a very long time to come. African Songs Ltd knew a good product when it saw one. The management of the company didn’t wait for the first contract to expire before they brought a new contract.

The new agreement was carefully worded. KSA and his band boys agreed to perform and record exclusively for ASL for a period of five years. ASL had full copyrights to all compositions and recordings of Sunny Ade. ASL was entitled to the sole right of production, reproduction,  and use of King Sunny Ade’s performance throughout the world.Image result for Images of Bolarinwa Abioro

That was not all. During the period of the agreement, KSA was prohibited from rendering any performance whatsoever to himself, any company or group of persons. The contract also stipulated that ASL had the option to renew the agreement at its expiration for a further term of  two years or for any longer period. Sunny Ade had no such right.

Related image
Sunny Ade and Baba Sala, his mentor on the guitars
That was not all. On the sale of every album which price was then fixed at N6.00, KSA and his boys were entitled to a princely sum of 20 kobo. Yes, you read that right. African Songs would go home with the remaining N5. 80 kobo. Onigegewura's mathematics has never been good.  He is just an amateur historian. You can do the sum yourself.
Still basking in the euphoria of his growing fame, Sunny gratefully signed again. His band boys signed. 20 kobo was still something. Orogun iya re da sokoto fun o, o ni ko bale, melo ni iya to bi o da fun o? You are complaining that the trousers made for you by your step-mother was not long enough, where is the one your own mother made for you?Image result for Images of Bolarinwa Abioro

They were expecting their 20 kobo royalty on every album. Well, when the time came for actual payment, it was then discovered that mathematically and arithmetically, it was not supposed to be 20 kobo. They had not factored the cost of publicity and promotion! And since it was the artiste that was being promoted, he must be the one to bear the cost! After the addition and subtraction, Sunny was given 15 kobo per album.
KSA was not Chike Obi, the mathematician. But he knew that 20 kobo and 15 kobo were not the same thing. Compared with his contemporaries in the music industry, KSA realized that he was holding the short end of the stick. His colleague, Baba Commander, Chief Ebenezer Obey was earning as high as 70 kobo per album. Others were earning between 35 kobo and 60 kobo.

Image result for Images of Bolarinwa Abioro
Bolarinwa Abioro And Sunny Ade In London  in 1971
Before the centre can no Longer  hold when things fell apart
That was when Sunny decided to ask Chief Abioro for a raise of the royalty payment. The chairman listened patiently to KSA and his colleagues. He was nodding as they canvassed one reason after another why a raise was in order. When they finished, Chief Abioro flipped open a file he had on his table. He brought out a bundle of documents. Even from where he was seated across the table, Sunny saw that it was a copy of the contract he signed. “An agreement is an agreement. It is a binding contract!” The chief informed them. “This is what you signed. This is what you are entitled to! No more, No less.” He returned the documents to the file. Case dismissed.

How time flies. Gone are the days
Look like another picture of Fela?
Nope. That is Atiku Abubakar with two ladies in those days
But Sunny was not done. “Chief, this is not about contract. You are our father. Our request is for adequate compensation! Let’s leave the contract aside.” Chief Abioro looked at the young star the way a parent looks at a child asking for another candy. “Leave the contract aside? We should leave the contract aside?” The chairman asked incredulously. “You know, it would be nice to leave the contract aside. But you know what? That would be illegal!”

A prince then, now a regal king, before his passage
Even Sijuwade then, a prince intervened, but Abioro stuck to his guns
Haba! Illegality ke! . It was then that someone brought up the idea of requesting some of his friends to plead their case. Sunny agreed. After all, Eni ti o mo oju Ogun, ni pa obi ni 're. It is the person who is conversant with Ogun, the god of iron, that is usually given the duty to administer its rites. They went to meet Prince Okunade Sijuwade who would later become the Ooni of Ife. They also met with Chief Afolabi Joseph. Even Chief Ebenezer Obey was also requested to intervene as well as Chief Nurudeen Alowonle.

A handsome dude in his youthful days
Even Young Ebenezer Obey buried his rivalry to intervene
on behalf of his life long colleague. Yet will not Abioro shift his ground
The eminent persons appeared in the court of the Balogun of Ipokia as ‘amici curiae’ on behalf of the musicians. Amici curiae are lawyers invited by the judge(s) to assist in filling briefs that may be helpful to the court in deciding a case. Our eminent persons argued their case like experienced advocates. They cited relevant sections of the unwritten Yoruba constitution. They cited Yoruba proverbs. They made reference to the story of Oduduwa. The presiding chairman listened to their submissions and summarily dismissed the case. Contract is contract!
TO BE CONTINUED.
                                                                                                                    By Onigegewura



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