by Toluwalope Omoyeni
It was the juxtaposition of two unrelated elements – Fuji and opera – that caught not just my eye but all my senses. As a millennial who considers Fuji the most authentic local music genre, I knew I had to show up for this epoch-making event that promised not just music, but conversations and a showcase of what was described as “the rich Fuji sub-culture.”
The buildup to Fuji: A Opera was delivered with a fine blend of intention and artistry. Over the years, Fuji had been relegated as the music genre exclusive to “razz people.” It was for street boys, market women and members of the uneducated but elite class. And rightly so. If you grew up in parts of Lagos like Mushin and Isale Eko, you are more likely to favour Fuji and do so unapologetically. The educated class would not be caught in the frenzy of loud percussions, sometimes vulgar lyrics, manic dance moves and all the other unbecoming elements that characterize the genre.
So when the team put together by public relations expert, Adeoye ‘Bobo’ Omotayo and entrepreneur, Tosin Ashafa began with the social media publicity for the event, the aim was clear: it was to get a new generation of music lovers on the Fuji train without adulterating the sound. It would be Fuji in its purest form but funneled through novelty. The aesthetics screamed wild and the content was relatable – for both audience divides.
As the Fuji: A Opera week drew close, momentum built. For me, expectations were high. I was thrilled as I anticipated the live experience with King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall 1 (K1 De Ultimate). It was my first and it held a lot of promise.
Fuji: A Opera opened at Alliance Française de Lagos with the legend, General Ayinla Kollington discussing the genre’s roots and giving a well-deserved nod to who has come to be recognized as the founding father of Fuji music, the late Sikiru Ayinde Barrister. And this, for me, is one of the reasons Fuji: A Opera will forever be etched in memories. It left no one behind. From Wasiu Alabi Pasuma and King Saheed Osupa who have continued to dominate the genre for decades to Sunny T. Adeshokan and Taiye Currency who make Fuji for hardcore fans. Wizkid, Burna Boy, Teni and other new school artists whose sounds draw inspiration from Fuji also got nods.
The event documented every characteristic of the genre. Its history which dates back to a time in the early 1900s when Muslims made a sound called Wéré during Ramadan, the evolution of that sound to what is now known as Fuji, vinyl records of iconic artistes, and the fashion of Fuji. It even attempted to recreate scenes from Yoruba parties of the 80s and 90s.
With proper adherence to COVID-19 prevention guidelines, day five of the event drew a larger crowd as K1 De Ultimate, King Saheed Osupa and Sule Alao Malaika performed an unplugged set alongside new generation Fuji artistes. It was full of soul, of magic, of that adrenaline rush that Fuji parties are known to leave their attendees with. It was an excellent blend of razz and refined. The ladies who sat next to me had no clue of the lyrics but left their Snapchat followers thirsty for the experience.
The four-hour set ended with the audience baying for an encore. “K1 cannot leave us without performing Vivid Imagination,” an attendee on my right said in genuine frustration. I gave him a satisfied smile in hope that it would lift his spirit. I relished every moment of Fuji: A Opera and I have no complaints. All I ask of Bobo and Tosin is Fuji: A Opera 2.0.