Fuji music albums get released every now and then but there is one artist almost everyone waits on, a virtuoso of the genre: Saheed Okunola aka Saheed Osupa. King of Music, as he is also called, is out with a six- track double album titled “Transformation” and “Transparency”.
Over the decades, Saheed has carved out a niche in the household of Fuji. This is no surprise as fans can always depend on him for quality music. He has a very rich sense of the Yoruba culture and a dogged attitude towards not having it compromised for the ravaging western culture taking over every aspect of the African art and life. Thus his creativity is most visible in the effort of blending Yoruba language and culture content with modern production, and delivering an undiluted fuji for maximum acceptance to the 21st century audience.
Saheed Osupa was literally born into a family of musicians and came into the fuji scene as a teenager. His father was one of the pioneers of the genre when it was still known as wéré. He came onboard professionally in 1983, revolutionizing the scene with the album African Delight. On ‘Vanakula’, a major hit, he emphasized the need to revive a dying culture thereby waking Yoruba people’s consciousness to their fading life.
Songs from his early days employed rich Yoruba folklore and lyrics rooted in moralism. On ‘Transparency and Transformation, one finds a man whose philosophy remains African and yet modern. Saheed has not called that we go back living in the past; rather he has successfully crafted a contemporary style out of traditional notions of fuji. This album finds Osupa insisting on truthfulness by siting its importance between friends, spouses and also in the society. On the track ‘Betrayal’ he is again employing Yoruba proverbs to bemoan the loss of virtue in modern life and laments the effect of this lack on the modern world.
With the album launched just after the general elections in Nigeria, at a time the slogan ‘transformation’ was in the air, it is not out of place to assume that Saheed’s message was directed at the teeming politicians who had contracted his trade to win over the minds of the Southwestern people of Nigeria.
The album is most resonant when Osupa conveys his message through a very comprehendible story of two proud owners of cow and horse.
It happens that one morning, the horse owner wakes to find the colt of his horse dead. He then lays claim on the calf of the other man‘s cow. This turns into a heated argument and both men head to court. Having been bribed, a judge admits it is quite possible for a horse to bear a calf. A subsequent appeal takes the matter to a higher court. Again, having had his palm greased, the second judge also reasoned the impossible:
“It is quite possible to have a horse bore a calf!”
As he is certain of what the truth is, the owner of the cow goes further and seeks justice with the highest court, and there, the judge, male, asks for a break to complete his menstrual cycle. Angrily, the horse owner demands how this is possible. A violent argument results, with the judge having discovered a platform to say the truth.
Nigeria is a country widely known for its rife corruption and Saheed (who has said he would have been a human right activist if he had not turned out a musician), finds himself speaking against corruption while he eats with the culprits.
Saheed may not realise but he is not beyond a kind of transformation. After all, he sings a good message but lives a contradictory life.