BAALE of Omole, Alhaji Nonsiru Taiwo Bakare who has turned a musician has said he can never sing for commercial purpose but to correct the vices in the society. This has reflected in his debut album, Stubborn Driver (Awako Alagidi), which has been enjoying public attention.
The former journalist and teacher who also trained as a coach spoke elaborately on this and much more when ENCOMIUM Weekly was at his Omole, Lagos palace on Wednesday, February 5, 2014.
You just released an album, Stubborn Driver, how do you feel about this achievement as a traditional ruler?
It’s not a lie, I have released an album, Stubborn Driver. I feel very happy about the achievement and I thank God for everything. That’s my first album, more are still coming by the special grace of God.
It’s a surprise seeing a monarch involved in this kind of a thing, what actually informed the decision to veer into music?
It’s not deliberate but a kind of inspiration so to speak. When I was asleep, the inspiration just came that I should sing to correct the anomalies on our roads which no musician is ready to do. Most of our musicians are sycophants. They only want to be praise singing people and making money from them even if the person they are praise singing is a criminal. I have not even realized a kobo from what I have done and I have spent over N400,000 on it. But I thank God that it’s widely accepted. It’s now being played in almost all the radio stations. It has become institutionalized. My music is now the most accepted on radio programmes that have to do with transportation. People discuss it everywhere. The inspiration came in a day and I documented everything, rehearsed it and entered the studio, all in a day.
Were you into music earlier before you now decided to make it a career?
I am not a praise singer or an entertainer. I only sing to correct social ills which is exactly what I have done in the album. I have never practiced music. Even throughout my primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, I was never involved in anything like that. The only thing is that I like playing and singing Ayinla Omowura’s songs. I have almost all his albums and I play them regularly. Maybe that’s what inspired me to release the album. I don’t copy anybody, that’s why I call my band, Bigs Liberal. I also wrote a book on music, The Secret of Music. I produced about 250 copies of the book and I gave everything out free.
You said the main reason you ventured into music is to correct social ills, would you say you have been realized the goal?
It’s more than realization, it has also made me more popular. People now know me everywhere. Though, they may not have seen my face, I believe my music is impacting their lives. A lot of bodies including Vehicle Inspection Officers (VIO), the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) and even the police have paid homage to me in my palace here. They all appreciate what I did. Even, the Commissioner for Transportation, Kayode Opeifa gave kudos to me when he listened to the album. He even recommended it to all the commercial drivers when he was on a TV programme, Awaye. If you’re inside a commercial bus, you don’t need to warn the driver by mouth, just give him the tape and tell him to play it, he will caution himself instantly. I have received a lot of commendations, even beyond Lagos State. I am almost through with the video but I still need more money. For the whole thing to be completed, I will need nothing less than N600,000. I have other records that I am yet to release. I have about 15 that I have also documented. I don’t mind if I see anybody that’s ready to partner me to facilitate production of the albums. I have also written some books including Oni suru ode ninu igbo odaju, Amoye Ode, Appreciate the Prophet of Islam, The Principalities and Practice of Islam and others. All these are done to pass messages to people so that they can move far away from vices and behave the way it’s expected of them. If you look at what’s happening in our society critically, you will realize that people adore money as God. So, something must be done to address the situation.
What informed the title of the album and how many tracks does it contain?
Everything was from inspiration. A lot of people were surprised that Kabiyesi is singing. Not only that, people were also wondering how I composed the songs for just an hour and I gave it the title, Stubborn Driver (Awako Alagidi) which never occurred to any musician. It has eight tracks but it’s dovetailed into drivers’ activities on our roads. Apart from this album, I still have about three others about drivers and their behaviours. I know what they need and I understand the message I should pass across to them. But I believe if majority of them can get a copy of Awako Alagidi, I believe it will bring out the good character in them, and they will begin to behave very well while driving.
But people will think you’re seeking government attention for releasing this kind of album, what’s your reaction to this?
People are free to criticize. As a traditional ruler, I can’t start doing that now. I taught Islamic Religious Studies for 30 years. I didn’t seek any government attention. I organize Baale Omole Cup. The fourth edition will hold soon, I didn’t ask for any government support. I normally criticize the government. I am not a sycophant, I don’t genuflect, I don’t beg for anything. At my age, I can’t do that. I will be 55 next month and 15 years on the throne. So, there is no reason people should be thinking in that direction. Even some people had appealed to me since I released the album that I should inform the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) to help launch the album, I told them point blank that I don’t need them. Even when they read my interview in one of the dailies, where I talked about the activities of these touts associating with NURTW (Agbero), Tajudeen Agbede called and told me I shouldn’t have said such a thing in the paper or I want the government to send them packing. I now sent back to him that I am not criticizing them, I am only against the activities of the touts at every motor parks, which are now very rampant. All these don’t speak well of a civilized society. Even, if they have come to give me N500,000, I will rather reject it than keep quiet. They just have to play the music. All the money these people collect at the parks have no account. They can’t account for anything, rather they squander it on useless things. These touts are all over the place extorting the commercial drivers, all these should be corrected. That album is not even about touts but commercial drivers, what I said in the interview I granted a newspaper then about touts was just a digression.
But people will see it as an aberration for a monarch to be singing, what’s your reaction to this?
Don’t forget, I didn’t learn this music from anybody. According to what people are saying, I am the first traditional ruler to sing. And I keep telling people, I am not an Oba that passes through many sacrileges, rituals, spending seven days in solitary confinement (Ipebi). And when an Oba dies, there will be Oro cult performing a kind of ritual on him. There is nothing like that for a Baale, except those that are too much inquisitive. I studied tradition, I can tell you dos and don’ts of tradition. Obas make us Baale, and you can be made Baale in a day. It has nothing to do with any sacrifice or ritual, except those that want to popularize themselves. So, we’re just there to look into the problems of the people under us. One thing I still want people to understand is that a lot of things that were applicable in the olden days are no longer applicable nowadays. In those days if anything happens in your domain as a traditional ruler, it has to be reported to you but now people don’t need to do that again, instead they go to the police station. If some people are saying that what I am doing is not good, let the Ministry of Chieftaincy Affairs summon me because I have heard some people condemning me for singing. My question is that is it good for an Oba to be selling other people’s land or snatching their wives? Is it also good for an Oba to be beating his wife in public or fight another traditional ruler? Is it a befitting thing for an Oba to be attending parties here and there? As far as I am concerned, I am doing God’s will and I will never act otherwise.
Can you perform at social events?
I will never sing in any occasion because of money. Or I will be singing and people will be spraying me. God forbid! I won’t do that. God has warned me against anything like that. I only sing to correct societal ills. As a journalist I have been writing about vices but our people don’t read, they don’t understand things.
You were once a journalist, where did you practice?
First, I finished my Post Graduate in Journalism at Nigeria Institute of Journalism (NIJ), Ogba, Lagos in 1999, I was the governor of the class. I had to start writing for many newspapers, articles on tradition, education and so on. I later formed my personal newspaper called The Dove. I also became the Managing Editor of some magazines. But due to financial problems all these magazines crashed. I also wrote for Alaroye in those days. I am also a discussant on many television stations on tradition and any issue that has to do with it.
You said you’re 15 years on the throne and you have also clocked 55, do you intend to throw a big party in respect of these?
No, I am not that kind of person. Everything will be celebrated on a low key. I can’t be writing to anybody about that kind of a thing. For what? I won’t put my burden on anybody. I don’t as well want to get myself involved in unnecessary debt because I am celebrating birthday and 15 years on the throne. If you volunteer yourself to do it for now, fine. But the main thing I mostly cherish at the moment is how to get my books published. I have written about ten books and I have produced about 15 albums yet to be released. I need partners for all these. I also single handedly sponsor Baale of Omole Cup which holds annually, except those who have now started assisting. But anytime they don’t have money, you can’t force them to go beyond their limits. Those that have been assisting include Pa Akinola, the first Governor General of Lagos State, then Christ Living Apostolic Ministry (CLAM). The church even gave me a vehicle worth N1.5m. The church also sponsored the music with N250,000. They are the people I can easily rely on but I can’t be going to them all the time. What’s good is that if you want to lay your hands on anything, you just have to get your money first because a lot of people can frustrate you. And you can’t blame anybody for not achieving your goal. Everybody has his personal problem. What I am doing is just to assist people because there are lots of people suffering that our government don’t care about. I still believe, with God, all things I lay my hands upon shall prosper.
– TADE ASIFAT