Suleiman Alao Adekunle Malaika may not be the first name that rings when contemporary fuji music is mentioned in the western part of Nigeria. Still he is not to be pushed aside. Having been in the game for almost three decades, Malaika is an early bird compared to the likes of Remi Aluko, Muri Thunder, Taju Alabi Istijabah, Wale Tekoma or even Saheed Osupa. Thus on his new album, he believes he is deserving of a dais in the household of fuji, a place to plant his travelled feet.
Suleiman Malaika whose fans also love to simply call Mala started his trade in 1985. He started playing and performing music from an early age in a Quranic school in Agege, a Lagos suburb. He paid his dues through 'Were' (the early morning Islamic wake-up music during the Ramadan season) in 1983 before forming his first fuji band in 1985.
With his band Tekoye Fuji Organisation, Mala performed in the United States of America from November 1997, playing around 15 states before returning to Nigeria in April 1998 with expensive musical equipment. Since then he has taken his trade to Germany, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Italy, France, England, China, Austria, Finland, Canada, Malaysia, Ireland, Wales, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, Libya, South Africa, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Benin Republic ensuring that fuji is known in other parts of the world.
So when he says “leave hatred and prejudice aside, I have paid my price and now fully grown in fuji music,” he refers to what the genre owes him: respect.
Special Day, the third in the 'Special' series and Malaika's 19th album overall, reels out bittersweet experiences of the years he has given to fuji. He appreciates his fans and reserves praise for himself for his steadfastness. “Omo eni koni sedi bebeere ka lo fi ileke si idi omo elemiran,” he sings, meaning, "It is high time we gave praises to whom it is due in this game.” Malaika tells of his foray into fuji music. It presents his challenges and explains why he should be seen as a great in this very rhythmical and rich genre of music. It easy to see why he thinks so. But then his contemporaries think they are deserving as well.
Regarding vocals and melody, Special Day recalls the high-note antics of the late Alhaji Ayinde Barrister, as well as the fast and catchy beats of Ayinla Kollington (his mentor). It returns to the lofty and distinguished sounds of the trumpet as introduced into the genre by Wasiu Ayinde Marshal. His tracks are laced with rich proverbs here and there and, as is typical of the genre, there are neologisms.
Fuji music never goes without singing praises of the influential in the society because the genre is greatly influenced by them. So Malaika picks Akanbi Olarenwaju Odetunde (CEO Moonshine and Larryshine Hotels), Alhaji Tao Balinga Gbenga Leo amongs many others. He sings their praise so much, the listener may be jealous.
Enjoyable melody apart, how true is the claim that Malaika has created a niche for himself in fuji? It's hard to tell. Especially as Saheed Osupa still leads the pack in terms of creative command of language. And Pasuma owns the funkiness of the genre. Mala is welcome to claim a niche but the jury is still out on his forte.