K1 De Ultimate is living his dream at 60.
I have always admired him since I was lured to love Fuji music by my secondary school buddy, Biliaminu Babajide Azeez sometime in 1980.
I was a Disco boy, a fairly good dancer but I loved to sing with my musical group-The KAT Rollers- K-for Kupoluyi, A-Azeez and T-Taiwo.
So, I, Biodun Kupoluyi, Babajide Azeez, now a business man based in Ibadan and Femi Taiwo now a Pastor in Dallas, Texas, USA founded the musical group, doing covers of Kool &The Gang, The Commodores, The Whispers, El-Debarge, Cameron, Billy Ocean, Michael Jackson, Prince in our classrooms at Ibadan City Academy, Ibadan with dreams that one day, we will be signed on to a label. But dreams die first.
I must confess, K1’s mentor, late Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister caught my fancy first. He was deep, philosophical and his music was steep in Yoruba’s rich proverbs and idioms and the reason he was loved by the elderly was not far-fetched.
I had sneaked out of the house to one of the parties in town where I encountered the music and person of this budding star.
I was told his name- Wasiu Ayinde Barrister- my informant claimed he was Ayinde Barrister’s son. I was told his foray into music started at a very early age. I loved his guttural voice, chatty and rather than sing, his lyrics were conversational, yet musical.
Suddenly, he jumped to the stage and churned out the hit tune, Talazo and the crowd went wild, the atmosphere changed, boisterous and fun-filled.
The call and response from the teeming fans confirmed he was loved and his music was like an anthem on the lips of everyone. I loved the originality, rhythmic concept and the harmonic progression of his band.
I became a fan, an ardent fan. He rose to change his name and the game changed. He became King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall, also known as KWAM 1 and his music became phenomenal.
Back -to- back, he churned out a medley of popular chart numbers, catchy dance tunes that changed the ambience of social parties and swayed his audience at concerts like the Benson & Hedges Golden Tones, Lekki Sunsplash and his regular spots, Laparias and Lords Club, both in Maryland, Lagos.
His collaboration with campus sensation and Ragga star, Blackky wooed the undergraduate students. It worked for him as Fuji, a music genre popular among commercial bus operators and conductors crept into campuses, from the backwater to the frontrow.
His music, suddenly became well-blended with Afro jazz elements and with more instrumentaton, he delivered a new sound, a unique kind of unpretentious party music that appealed to the elites and changed the course of Fuji.
At a point in his career, which I must say was propelled by a list of savvy Artiste Managers-Kokumo Gaji, Dayo Olomu, Lanre Ijaola, aka Ijakoko, Ayo Sonaiya and the man KWAM 1, described as the General Overseer of the Ultimate Band, Percy Ademokun, became enviable. He found a good ally in his longtime buddy, Bolaji Basia, a man about town with ears for good music. His new handlers- Esther Akinwande based in New York and Olasoju Adebayo in Nigeria have a running template to be successful.
By the time his stage name changed to K1 De Ultimate, he was qualified as the leader of one of the most toured bands from Africa, criss-crossing Europe and America. His successive albums catalogued the upwardly mobile then known as the ‘What’s Up Guys’ in Europe, America and Lagos, Nigeria’s social circle.
Everybody wanted K1 to give him or her a mention and he did quite a lot, serenading all in the albums-American Tips and Global Tour between 1991 and 1996. Also to his credits were Digital and SunSun, then in 1998 was the monster hit alongside Fuji Fusion. In the album, he mentioned ladies and men he encountered on the social radar during his tour to America, Canada and Europe.
With loyal fans and committed promoters like the Late Monsuru Olumegbon and Bayo King Kosoko of Mobak Promotions, he became a constant star across the globe with huge Nigerian, African audience. His North America and Canada tours were packaged by indefatigable Demola Oyefeso of New Genesis.
He performed on big stages-WOMAD, WOMED and Biyi Adepegba of Joyful Noise took him to the famous Barbican Centre, London, United Kingdom, where his performance was applauded and generously reviewed in the critical British media.
Significant to his career was the US rebellion of his treacherous band boys who defected during one of his early tours. It was on record that the album, SunSun n 1998 after the Fuji Fusion ( Oko Faji Carnival ) Album was a live studio recording by four men.
As fate would have it, I had joined PUNCH Newspapers to realise my dream to be a journalist and when I started anchoring the ArtsAlive pages, his life and music became more interesting for me to report.
Along the line, I found confidence in my Ijesha brother, Ola Ibironke, a music promoter and label owner. Ibironke, popularly known as Dudu Heritage had just signed Abass Akande Obesere and he wanted me to be his publicist. I obliged.
Then, the rivalry between K1 De Ultimate and Obesere was rife. At every opportunity, his manager and my friend, Percy Ademokun would poke me but he trusted and respected my objectivity.
Gradually, I got closer to K1 and his persona cum exotic charm of his music won my heart.
To K1, the world is his oyster, his stage.
He reads widely, watches TV and keeps tab on international news and current affairs. He is also a journalist/interviewer’s delight. At first encounter, you will be convinced he was not a lacklustre student though he graduated from the Street University.
Did I mention he is a politician too? His influence in politics is overwhelming. From Lagos to Abuja, his name rings a bell in the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
During the last electioneering campaign, only his music moved the stoic General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) and during his inauguration, he did an encore. Remember his popular chorus: Sai Baba! Sai Buhari!
It is gratifying that the wife of the President, Aisha Buhari found in him a great ally during her educational campaign inside Aso Rock. His songs are ‘social lubricants’: enlighten, educate and entertain, sweet to the ear, heave dance floors and remains the soul of many parties.
He loves God. Born a Moslem but liberal enough to accomodate Christian friends and fans. Infact, his dexterity at songs of praise and Biblical verses made Christians to embrace Fuji music, a music genre that evolved from the Islamic ‘Were’ or Ajisari music tradition, performed to wake Muslims before dawn during the Ramadan fasting season.
As part of the activities to mark his 60th birthday, he refurbished and donated his first house at Isolo, a Lagos surburb to the Muthaheedat Islamic Foundation (MIFO).
He loves women too, married and divorced a few times. He sings the praises of women to high heavens, falls in and out of love with them, yet they remain his most loyal fans.
His wife, adorable Titi Masha from the Eshinlokun Royal Family of Lagos holds forth at home and keeps her eyes off his stardom and the shenanigans of his fame and the other women.
K1 De Ultimate enjoys the company of his friends that cut across Politics, Media and Business. He cares and dotes on his children who have found careers and service in Law, Medicine, Politics and interestingly, Music.
Known for his taste, he cooks better than some women. His palatial mansion at his country home, Ijebu Ode is a field of dreams, eye-popping and an architectural masterpiece.
Perhaps one of the most controversial moments in his career was two days to his 60th birthday and his shocking revelation that his mentor, Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister is not the creator of Fuji Music but a turning point who brought the genre to relevance.
In controversies, K1 De Ultimate thrives. While many queried his efforts to change the narrative of Fuji Music, he insisted it is just fair to tell the truth.
He is famed as a man who does not tolerate insults from peers or subordinates. K1 does not suffer fools gladly. He knows how to keep them at bay.
He loves and cherishes loyalty.
On his landmark birthday, he chose to take his music to entertain guests tomorrow (Saturday) at the first coronation anniversary of the Olubadan of Ibadan, His Royal Highness, Oba Saliu Adetunji, a former music label owner, who produced his first and several albums.
I recall my interview with HRH Oba Adetunji, then as the Chairman of Babalaje Records and Osi Balogun of Ibadan at his Opo’Yeosa, Ibadan home. He told me when Wasiu as a young lad came to his office with his mother, Alhaja Alimotu Sadia for a record deal, he tried to dissuade them by asking them to go and bring half of the money to produce the album. Wasiu and his mother, he recalled, walked away dejected but like a true mother-hen, Alimotu Sadia returned with her contribution and the rest is history.
There is no gainsaying that K1 loves his mother, she is his mirror that reflects his tortuos journey to fame, faith and prosperity.
At a time it seems Fuji, like many other indigenous music is going into extinction and threatened by the emergence of hip hop, K1 De Ultimate remains the number one choice among famous and wannabe hiphop artistes for collaboration.
On record, his K1 Live Unusual Concert, held three years ago, was and remains the biggest stage ever for the Fuji music in Nigeria.
Definetly not his last album, but his most anticipated work, ‘Let The Music Flow’ is coming too late.
Through the last four decades, not minding the music or star in style, K1 De Ultimate is always in style, relevant.
Like many of our heroes, continue to live through your creativity, keep living in pursuit of your goal.
Happy Birthday, K1, the world is your stage, sing and let us dance!