ARTICLE: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ADMIRAL DELE ABIODUN, THE FIRST MUSICIAN, WHO CAPTURED MY IMAGINATION.
By Sunday Ajibola Edobor
Let me start this piece by congratulating Admiral Dele Abiodun, the juju musician on his 75th birthday anniversary. Happy celebrations.
Life offers man many choices in some areas and no choice in certain aspects at all. Sounds contradictory? Hear me out. We are at liberty to do as we please. But we have no power over the resultant effect of our actions. We have seen people who peg out in their toddlers or teenage years. Some attain mid-age and then bow out. Others die at old age. In this country, whoever live to old age has enjoyed the abundant grace of the Almighty God. It's even more difficult for those in the music industry, I mean musicians. Their riotous lifestyles and the infighting often lead them to their early graves. For Ebenezer Obey, King Sunny Ade and Dele Abiodun as well a few others, to attain 70, 80 and even beyond, it is a very rare privilege. I can recount ten, twenty of their contemporaries, who have passed on since the 70s.
I 'came across' Admiral Dele Abiodun in my formative years. I am talking of a time when I was at an age they call 'an impression age.' The mother of a friend, Gboyega Tifase, had a beer shop close to our house. She used to play one of Dele Abiodun's records, titled 'ewu jamba motor' everyday. I would hear it every evening. This went on for months. After about two months, I knew and can still sing it off-hand from beginning to ending till today. Automatically, I fell 'in love' with him. On releasing other albums under the Adawa Super series, I made sure to listen to them. In those days, when people were hardworking and productive, musicians generally were churning out not less than four (4) qualitative albums a year. Hit albums such as ile ola mi, Esin o wewu, Agba wa bura, Toju wa, Elemu nget on, were songs I listened to and could sing well.
Who is Dele Abiodun by the way?
Prince Cyril Bamidele Abiodun Alele was born in Ijebu Ode Ogun State on 23rd March 1948 to a school head teacher who later became the head of Sobe a boundary town of Ondo and Edo State of Nigeria. Dele Abiodun had his elementary education in Ijebu Ode. He later attended Adeola Odutola College also in Ijebu Ode.. While in the fourth form Abiodun left the College. As a youth he was excited by the school of music established by Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and with his school tuition fees, he left to work and study music in Ghana where he played bass guitar with several Highlife bands before returning to Lagos.
Dele Abiodun was and is still mistaken for King Sunny Ade due to his dexterity on the guitar. Many of his records are erroneously ascribed to KSA. I loved the man, who added a lot of spice to his music by the way he handled Hawaii musical instrument. It's said that he introduced the instrument into Nigerian music industry. The man went by the name, Abiodun Isaac. That instrument had and still has special appeal and effect on me. I cherish the way it rises and fall and the variation in it's notes. The instrument was very prominent in his albums before it gained currency among other musicians. Also, Dele had an alluring captivating voice, that suited music. The voice always made me glued to the Radio or loudspeaker that oozed out his albums. His style of music was a juxtaposition of Sunny Ade and Ebenezee Obey with some element of Afrobeat. He was good, very good on the guitar but was not a minstrel in the mould of KSA. His sweet voice was akin to that of the Miliki master. As at that time, Dele's youthful looks, musical prowess and bubbling style as well as sartorial elegance made him the third in rank to the duo of Sunny and Obey. People saw him as the Prince of Juju music. Young people could be funny. I must also confess that I found his physical attribute appealing. His round chubby cheek and his sartorial elegance further fuelled my love for him. Sincerely, he was the only musician that made sense to me back then.
When the needless rivalry characterised by abusive songs and chanting of incantations brewed between Sunny Ade and Pick Peters, Dele Abiodun was more than a spectator. He pitched his tent with the Ondo-born master guitarist. Admiral Dele Abiodun even waxed a song, where he sang, 'won a gbo dende oro lenu wa.' It got to a point that the battle became a one-way confrontation between Dele and Peters. This musical battle raged for about two years before Emperor Pick Peter went into oblivion. The Ogun-born musician labelled Dele 'omo atohunrinwa' (stranger) and enjoyed throwing verbal missiles at him.
However, my enthusiasm and love for his brand of music dampened in 1978. He had gone on a musical tour of the United States. On arrival, he released a record, which was a live play he did in the US. Soon after, Dele Abiodun's zeal for releasing albums nosedived. Even his style of music was affected as he tried to up the tempo by making the rhythm faster. I was getting attracted to other things too, as I grew older.
In all, Admiral Dele Abiodun left his footprints in the sand of time in his chosen career, music. In those years that I immersed myself in his brand of music, I enjoyed it to the fullest.
Happy birthday, the Adawa Super King.