General Prince Adekunle, the crooner of the monster hit, You Tell Me That You Love Me Baby, shared the highlights of his music, life and eventful past with TAYO ADELAJA.
With his trademark dark goggles, the iconic musician of late 60s to early 80s, General Prince Adekunle, reclines in a deep seat in his tastefully furnished living room at his residence. Now in his 70s, he cut the picture of what he was and now is – a retired successful musician now working in the vineyard of the Lord.
Still striking with a regal bearing, the leader of the Supersonic Sounds, a juju band, which once ruled the music waves like a colossus is aging gracefully and seems to be enjoying it. Born Josiah Adeyinka Adekunle, he is from the Oke Ona royal family of Abeokuta, Ogun State. As he sits, crosses and recrosses his legs, the maestro gazes into the past and brings back reminiscences.
Once in a while, he smiles. At times, his face squeezes in a frown as he struggles to contain his emotions as he tells his own story. Somewhere in the background flows the latest work of the now ordained pastor of The Word Bible Church, Ajelogo Mile 12. It is titled Adekunle @ 70. It was in commemoration of his turning 70 in 2012.
He celebrated his becoming a septuagenarian with the launching of the twotrack album. The first track of the album is Adekunle @ 70 while the second track is Ogbaraojoti O Fewoileola. The two track album is full gospel juju but blended with the old flavour which he is reputed for.
Prince Adekunle mentored great juju musicians like Sir Shina Peters, Segun Adewale and Dayo Kujore among others. But his mien hardly betrays the man that was so famous in the juju circle. You can hardly mention four to five popular juju musicians in those days without his name coming up.
As this sharp but soft-spoken man communes with this reporter, one can but only marvel at his peaceful mien which shows a man without affluence but contented with life.
His musical career started as a drummer in the 50’s at Ogbe Methodist School, Abeokuta. He was a member of the School Choir as a drummer and vocalist. The skill was further honed at the Church of the Lord, Somolu headed by the popular Prophet S.L. Kogberegbe. He was a prominent member of the choir in the church as a drummer.
Then, he did not know that he was going to become a professional musician and that career would bring him fame. Prince Adekunle was born on October 22, 1942. He started struggling to wax records from 1965 and it was not until 1968 that fortune smiled on him. At that time, Ebenezer Obey (another popular juju musician) was making his first trip to London.
Prince Adekunle said: “He was like a mentor to me and he knew me, so I approached him for his musical instruments. I asked for his musical instruments because since he would be travelling in 1968, I was sure that he was going to buy new musical instruments from the UK. I implored him to give me the instruments he was using so as to boost my musical career.
He consented but for a few weeks before he was to leave for UK, there was a hiccup and he couldn’t travel as scheduled. At that time, I now waxed a record in his praise.
It was my first record and it was an instant hit, the title of the record is Give us this day our daily bread. People thought it was Obey that was singing, so they bought the record. When they found out it was Prince Adekunle, they didn’t mind because they enjoyed the rhythm and the strong lyrics of the music.”
When Obey came back from London, he fulfilled his pledge when he gave me musical instruments to boost my career. Prince Adekunle and Supersonic Sound started with his immediate sibling, now late- Kolapo Adekunle (who died on 12 March, 1985), Late Oluwole Yellow (died in early 2000), Late Adekoya Richard (died on 19 June, 1998), Shina Peters joined later. Speaking further, he said: “I had a Danfo which I used in packing musical instrument for my shows; I had a fatal accident with the bus at Bolade in Oshodi.
I was taken to London for treatment in 1971. It was after the accident that Shina Peters joined my band and that was late 1971. When I travelled for treatment, I met a promoter in UK-UNICO that arranged that I should come on playing tour of Europe in 1972.”
The accident of Prince Adekunle became a blessing in disguise as he met not only a promoter that assisted his band to make their first Europe tour, but the tour was largely a big success. During the tour, he waxed a record, London timowayi o ma dele, lola Oluwa mi ma dele layo o, that was released in 1972. Literarily translated as, “We are in London and by the special grace of God, we will arrive safely at our various homes in peace and joy”. We waxed the record while in the UK, but Ibukun OrisunIye, our record label and promoter in Nigeria released the record before our arrival in Nigeria.
That record as at that time sold hundreds of thousands. From that trip, I was able to buy a new car, new instrument and commenced the building of my house. Prince Adekunle spoke glowingly of that trip, “We toured Europe. We were well received and our fans base grew. I was able to buy new instrument, buy a new car and start the building of my house in Lagos.
I got invited for other playing tours in 1974 and 1976. When we arrived from that playing tour, a large crowd was at the then International Airport, now the Local Airport to welcome us back from our trip. The police had a tough time controlling the crowd of friends, family and fans that waited hours at the airport for our arrival.” Prince Adekunle became a General of Music in UK in 1974 when he was given
an award, General of Music, and Shina Peters was awarded, Sir. Prince Adekunle acknowledging voodoo in Juju and other local music of those days declared, “I am aware of the fact that a lot of musicians and other professionals visited herbalists, occultists and others they believed could help them to attain the height they longed for, but as for me, I’ve learnt in my younger days that such things do not work for me.
There were cases that I was goaded by my band boys into using fetish things, but it did not work for me. At times, they would tell me that I should have been greater than the way I was but because I refused to move like others.
At that time, I always remembered that contentment in the Lord is paramount. I am contented being a Christian. Godliness with contentment is a great gain.
Probably, I might have been dead if I had been deeply involved in fetish things and voodoo. My belief is that for those musicians that mounted the stage and died, it was the wish of the Lord.
Many at that time came with tales of how they spit blood and had other attacks and mishap, but I didn’t have any because I firmly believed and still believe in God and never visited any herbalist then and now.
I am not contending that such did not exist but I was brought up to believe in the power of prayer and that helped me a lot in my career.” On Shina Peters “I was taken to London for treatment in 1971. It was after the accident that Shina Peters joined my band and that was late 1971.
“Shina Peters is a talented musician, and he has been playing before he joined my band. He came to my band at the age of 12. Segun Adewale, Dayo Kujore, Arigidi and Sunday Benson joined the band in 1974,” Adekunle said. He noted that Shina is a gifted instrumentalist. Yet, a devastating blow was dealt to the band when Ibunkun OrisunIye, M. Ola Kazzim that was handling his sales, promotion and label lured 15 of his band members away.
Speaking further, he said, “My promoter, marketer and distributor, M. Ola Kazeem whose label my records were being waxed had a misunderstanding with me. I went to register my company so that I could have my label and do my recording at a later date. It was sort of a retirement plan, but he wasn’t pleased.
He thought that despite all he did for me when I had accident and his investment on me, I had the temerity and effrontery to want to break away from him, and so he lured 15 of my band members away with the promise to buy those that left instruments and cars.
Prominent among them are Shina Peters, Segun Adewale, Dayo Kujore, Arigidi and others. He bought Volkswagen Beetle for Shina, Segun and Arigidi and other cars for the rest of the band boys that left then.”
It was devastating and painful, but Prince Adekunle moved on to Sanu-Olu Records where he recorded six albums. Notable among them are Asatidode, adiye wonu ago lo, and a record for Pa S.B.J. Oshoffa. Yet, he was glad that the departure of Shina and others led to their fame in the industry.
“At a later date, Shina Peters and Se-gun Adewale left M. Ola Kazzim and they went to court, but the matter was resolved eventually. I wrote him about my royalty in 1997, and we mutually agreed on my benefits. He agreed to payment of my royalty on quarterly basis which he has been doing till date.
We have buried the hatchet and now work with each other harmoniously. Prince recalled that his son called his attention to his song, Awodi nfofere, olounfem’Oluwa, being remixed by Ruggedman.
“Though before he re-mixed the song he didn’t seek my permission, he came later with Gbenga Adeyinka and some other friends to plead and apologise,” Prince Adekunle said.
“Since I am not God, I told him that the matter is in court, I forgave him. He prostrated with those that came with him and profusely apologised. I prayed for him and the others. I was given N25,000.00 with clothes and food items.
Two weeks later, he bought a big generator for me.” How he became a man of God “In 1991, I attended a revival through the invitation of my sister in Ketu. At the revival, Pastor J.B. Kumoluyi was the minister. I sought for his audience after the revival message.
He prayed for me and I completely surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. Before I surrendered my life, things were extremely difficult, but changes happened immediately after. Shortly after, I travelled to USA to see my child.
Surprisingly, I was warmly welcomed by a lot of Nigerians and had to play at many occasions during my stay there. I came home with new musical instruments as well as about $15,000. My experience after giving my life to Christ has been a wonderful one.”
First published on January 24, 2014