Sunday, May 5, 2019 1:02 pm
…(Ìdààmú Shínà, Omo Pétérù!)
By Odolaye Aremu
Innocent and cute as a kid. He appeared shy but could be really playful. He had those darting, curious, intelligent eyes too. Boisterous, and quick to respond to any positive attention with a generous smile. Quite impossible to think of him at first as a runaway for he carried himself like a precocious boy with the understanding of the infinite range of his special talent. The boy knew where he was heading! And he loved to show off that unusual gift often on TV in those days as much as his benevolent bandleader, Prince General Adekunle allowed him. In truth, it was in those fantastic moments that the boy suddenly appear older, more prestigious right before our very eyes- to entirely dwarf the aura of his own boss! We all somehow agreed that: though, the Prince General was the boss. But it was not a mistake of fact, that: the boy, in truth and indeed was the star of the band!
Anyone with a good ear for music, any music at all and with intense love for crazy, spontaneous guitar riffs ought to sincerely appreciate Sir Shina Peters, not only as just a juju star but as a bonafide musician, period! The guy, Wale Thompson on guitar pretty much reminds me of Shina in his youthful, experimental days.
Hard not to love him in the “Sir Shina Adewale” days for so many reasons but most importantly for the musical latitude he gave himself to perfect his guitar skill. In ‘Awa Ni Superstars’ for example, he lavished some good minutes on some genuinely fanciful, but complex chords. In that sweet scenario, I usually imagine Segun Adewale, who must step aside, to allow himself totally enraptured by his partner’s dexterity as they lay down tracks in the Studio. Infact all the now shelved albums he made while in that novelty band, and in the aftermath during his solo runs are critically acclaimed masterpieces, even if they weren’t commercial nuggets! The man indeed grew from being a guitar prodigy- a Billy Preston type into a sound genius. And believe it or not there’s a gulf as wide as a mile between being a prodigy and a damn genius!
His genius fully manifested in his most despondent days. Those horrible days after he’d failed many times to assert his individuality on the scene. At the time, most thought he was already ‘dead and buried’ musically. For he kept releasing what seemed like ‘shitty’ records one after another. It seemed some unrecognizable force in the industry opted to just shut him out, or could he have done that to himself? Deficient of vocal ability, it’s like some mischievous lot wanted to let the Sucker know his place! As if that force wanted his ass locked down in some shady backroom bar at Agege, or allow him play forever to his nutjob fans in one seedy, Ojuelegba club or the rowdy Surulere Stadium Hotel! Allow him do all he want in so far he perpetually remained musically irrelevant on the major scene where his star truly belongs!
Then in the predictable curve of that peculiar restlessness common in geniuses, just like it happened to Paul Simon in his own locust years prior to when he stumbled hard on the wonderful sound of worldbeat and recorded the hugely commercially successful and critically acclaimed Graceland album in 1986. SSP somehow lucked out and teamed up with the gung-ho, brilliant Producer, Laolu Akins in 1989 and came out with the most monstrous Album of the year and the following decade too; ACE! Shina did the unthinkable. He brilliantly ‘married’ Juju with Makossa or was it Soukouss? Then he figuratively tagged a ‘side chick’ along. He cleverly fused the Omele, by then a noted Fuji percussion into his newly discovered sound in a genre ‘threesome’ as if to retain some foreign spice within that weird relationship. He then added the other percussive elements like the electric pedal drums to give the rhythm a deep bass-feel that routinely travel all the way into the brain. He added tunable synthesizers, to mimic any electric instrument. And he finally added his loosely composed; nonsensical atimes, some hymnals and other catchy lyrics to go along with his high fidelity melodious arrangements. Juju, already suffering serious fatigue in the last 10 years before then, or precisely right after KSA introduced the Hawaiian, or the Steel Pedal guitar into the genre, which effectively slowed things down, suddenly became more peripatetic and interesting once again! I wonder if KSA himself wanted to ‘Countrified’ Juju in those days.
KSA’s uneasiness of course was palpable in the album he released in 1990 following Shina’s ACE. The King had been lounging absolutely on his throne for so long before then with no serious musical competition. Introspectively, I personally consider ‘AUTHORITY’ as one of his most unimpressive works then if not till date! And the ‘pricey’ accompanying video too was an overkill. I think the effort was a knee-jerk reaction to SSP’s monster hit! It caught the nation by surprise. I am sure it caught The Juju King by surprise too! He never saw it coming. And he mindlessly responded to it- quite a bit unlike himself, and 28 years after- fairly clumsily! Save for the B-side, where he serenaded the then relatively unknown Raymond Dokpesi, that album could, would have been a total flop!
Did Ace; the album, or Shina: the Star readily threatened the Juju status quo?! Damn yes ACE did! And yes Shina sure did! Remember the Muhammad Ali bout against his old sparring partner, Larry Holmes in 1980? That pretty much summed it up! Ace became the unifying album of that decade. Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba and all the other tribes within the huge state, freely and generously imbibed in SHINAMANIA! Everywhere you go it was Shina! It was huge, it was sickening. It was everywhere, it was total madness! Never has an album expended such mass appeal like ACE, except…maybe Nico Mbarga’s ‘Sweet Mother,’ of 1978.
Shina essentially created a sound that’s now become commonplace. He unknowingly opened the Pandora’s box! Like Paul Simon’s syncretic escape three years before him, SSP cleverly ‘dis-originalize’ Juju in 1989. What we see now are literally whorish, yet ambitious musicians flirting with sounds, and marrying them together all willy-nilly. Shina Jujufied Fuji. Fuji too is now Jujufied. I really don’t know what Apala is waiting for! Wouldn’t it be nice if it is Awurebefied, Sakarafied or Ikengafied for a change?