Home / Entertainment / Sikiru Adepoju: The life and journey of Nigeria's only Grammy winner yet [Pulse Interview]

Sikiru Adepoju: The life and journey of Nigeria's only Grammy winner yet [Pulse Interview]

Regardless, followers and well-wishers of artists rejoice in numbers and volumes when their faves get nominated. When information filtered in that Burna Boy got a nod on the 2020, it trended for 3 days.

It represented the zenith of ‘afrobeats to the world’ which locations Nigeria on the epicentre of consideration. Whereas ‘afrobeats to the world’ is barely simply cracking the American mainstream, sure excite Nigerians – one among such is the Grammy Awards.

The 2020 Grammy Awards are set to carry on January 25, 2020. For the umpteenth time, a Nigerian is nominated within the Greatest World Music Album class. Pleasure is within the air; Burna Boy – Nigeria’s new pop heartthrob is nominated for his well-received album, African Large.

ALSO READ: The rise of afrobeats and Burna Boy as its face

However Burna Boy is just not the primary and even the second Nigerian to be nominated in that class. Over time, Sikiru Adepoju, Femi Kuti, Seun Kuti, King Sunny Ade and Babatunde Olatunji have been nominated for Grammy Awards. Whereas it’s more likely to change later at the moment, just one has gained it – Sikiru Adepoju. He gained it for an album titled International Drum Venture on the 2009 Grammy Awards alongside Mickey Hart, Giovanni Hidalgo and Zakir Hussein.

I had simply completed having breakfast to cushion a groggy morning, however dialog with such a legend excited me and jolted me again to life. After one hour of again tales and ‘off the file conversations,’ we reluctantly mentioned goodbye. The plan was to have the foremost dialog the following morning – we did not have it.

After a number of postponements and the miraculous victory over horrible web high quality for Skype, we lastly obtained to it. I used to be stunned by Sikiru Adepoju‘s manner. In truth, for giant components of the chat that was drenched in again tales, three-minute laughter periods that mocked horrible American web and Skype’s limitations, we spoke in a mixture of Yoruba and English. With essentially the most vivid authenticity, he’d say in Yoruba that, “Generally, I simply overlook that I’ve gained a Grammy.”

Sikiru Adepoju: Nigeria's only Grammy Award-winner yet. [Pulse Nigeria)

Sikiru Adepoju: Nigeria’s solely Grammy Award-winner but. [Pulse Nigeria)

Apparently, it ought to have been his second win in that class, however he solely obtained a certificates for his first win in 1994 as a result of he was solely named as a collaborator and never a major creator. That modified in 2009 when he walked onto the most important stage in international music along with his longtime buddy and collaborator, Mickey Hart to get introduced with the well-known gramophone. The opposite two collaborators weren’t current.

In his phrases, “It is the Grammys – the whole lot modified. The charges modified, the notion modified, life modified and even the way in which I walked modified (laughs). I’ll always remember that evening.” This ended our dialog the primary time I spoke with him – it is humorous that was not even the principle dialog. On account of time variations, we all the time spoke very early within the mornings – which was near midnight for him.

In our first dialog which occurred by way of WhatsApp voice name, he warned that journalists want to start out documenting individuals behind bands. In fact, he was that enthusiastic about it – he is without doubt one of the few guys behind a band who has made a reputation for themselves. He advised me about working with Commander Ebenezer Obey and the Inter-Reformers band within the 80’s and never getting paid.

Sikiru Adepoju: The son of Ibarapa

Sikiru Adepoju: Nigeria's only Grammy Award-winner yet. [Pulse Nigeria)

Sikiru Adepoju: Nigeria’s solely Grammy Award-winner but. [Pulse Nigeria)

Nonetheless, he wasn’t all the time a Grammy Award winner. On November 10 1952, Sikiru Adepoju was born to Chief Ayanleke Adepoju and Mrs Adepoju also called Iya elewa in Eruwa, Ibarapa, Oyo State. He was born right into a lineage of drummers. He has a lot siblings that he cannot keep in mind his place or their quantity.

His great-great-grandfather right down to his father all carried the title, ‘Ayan’ which is a Yoruba identifier for drummers by commerce and heritage. He says, “I used to be born right into a household of drummers. I’m not an ‘Ayantojubo’ (a drummer accidentally), I’m Ayandoke (an unique drummer).”

However curiously, no person forces anyone within the household – everybody who turned a drummer down the years picked it up on his personal volition. Regardless of this, all his male siblings had been drummers and their father by no means actually taught them find out how to drum.

To him, it’s heritage and windfall, “Whenever you’re born right into a household of drummers, you don’t really want to be taught it. It is assumed that it is part of you. Wherever the drum sounds, you may choose it up. I am unable to keep in mind my dad educating me find out how to drum.”

By the household’s historical past, their drum of alternative is the ‘Speaking drum.’ Youthful Yoruba individuals name it, ‘gangan.’ Nonetheless, Adepoju schooled me on why ‘gangan‘ is the fallacious phrase for speaking drum. He says, “Older individuals used to play gangan as a result of it is longer than the conventional speaking drum. All gangan are speaking drums, however not all speaking drums are gangan. The smaller drum known as, kanango.”

Selecting Music

When Sikiru Adepoju was rising up, he had the data of drumming. Nonetheless, he by no means needed to be a drummer as a result of he hated the struggles his father and grandfather went by due to drumming – particularly the horrible remedy they obtained.

He says, “I had a present, however for a very long time, I ran away from it. Nonetheless, I found that nothing I did succeeded and I all the time discovered myself again at drumming both for leisure or fast money. It made me notice that in life, we’re all simply messing with what we expect we all know. However future is a humorous factor, is not it?”

Regardless of his earnest wishes, Adepoju by no means actually had a proper schooling as a result of his mom died early. So in 1974 and as he was working away from drumming, he moved to Lagos and tried to be a shoemaker in Olateju, Mushin. Nonetheless, phrase someway obtained out that he may drum and folks would come to beg his boss for his companies.

Whereas in Lagos, he was additionally residing along with his brother, Rashidi who was additionally a drummer with Wale Olateju. I used to go to Itire and there I met Mr. Saka AKA Ori Kan Physique who performed with Kollington Ayinla. There, I went out with them and I met a band that needed me to play for them – this was earlier than I began coaching to be a shoemaker.”

However in 1975, his boss from whom he was studying shoemaking took on a gig as a driver on the airport shortly after Murtala Muhammed died. Slowly, the person took extra curiosity in that and it turned his life. Thus, younger Sikiru needed to discover his personal path – drumming beckoned. “Round Agege, I met Sunny Edan who doubted me at first, however finally gave me an opportunity to start out drumming in 1976.”

A toddler of pleasure: ‘Getting cash’ from music and studying either side of humanity

Sikiru Adepoju: Nigeria's only Grammy Award-winner yet. [Pulse Nigeria)

Sikiru Adepoju: Nigeria’s solely Grammy Award-winner but. [Pulse Nigeria)

In 1976 and Adepoju’s shoemaker boss began getting cash as a cab driver on the Lagos airport and he started disappearing extra. Younger Sikiru then took the pure path of music that beckoned. Nonetheless, he nonetheless wasn’t getting cash. By this time of the dialog, the Grammy-winner appeared comfortable to inform the story about this section of his life.

Round this time, he additionally began hanging out and pulling all-nighters along with his fellow musicianships and instrumentalists at Mayflower, Mushin. There, he met Yomi Israel and Ade Olusayo – each bands.

However round this time, he additionally turned a artistic nomad – Ade Olusayo was the third band he joined in 1976. He would change band affiliation as rapidly as an MTV Award present host would change garments. He was searching for a band that will be a house – a band that pays.

Many of the bands he was taking part in with had been doing it for the enjoyable of it – no cash was being made. “The concept was to earn money from no matter we had been ‘sprayed’ by attendees on the accommodations we’d play at, however Lagosians have all the time been loopy. They might take pleasure in our music all through the ‘bounce’ and gained’t even spray us a dime (laughs),” he says.

He was with Yomi Israel and Ade Olusayo until 1977. Then, he joined Professor Adelowo. There, he realized how huge human coronary heart could possibly be after what he’d seen at Mayflower, Mushin.

“Ashamu purchased a complete set of devices for Professor Adelowo as a result of he believed in his expertise – I would by no means seen something prefer it. There, I additionally spent one yr,” he mentioned. Right now, he had left his brother, Rashidi’s place for an additional individual’s place. He calls himself, ‘A toddler of pleasure,’ with whom lots of people needed to be related.

The early days of Sir Shina Peters period

Then, in 1978, he upped and joined Iya Caroline (A band) in Shomolu, Bariga. In 1979, he had his first youngster along with his associate on the time. It made him hungrier to earn more money.

Whereas he was working with Iya Caroline and he was making some cash, that they had a recording session at a studio in Ikeja, Lagos. There, he met with Biodun, the lead guitarist for Sir Shina Peters within the early days. Biodun was additionally a detailed buddy of Sir Shina Peters’.

Round this time, Sir Shina had simply break up from Adewale – they was Shina Adewale as a band. Aboderin had additionally simply purchased Sir Shina devices to work with. Biodun then advised me that Shina was searching for a speaking drum participant. Thus, I turned a part of the maiden members of Shina Peters’ band. Nonetheless, it wasn’t actually a band for a few yr – we had been simply practising.

“However on the similar time, I used to be additionally taking part in with Yemi Kuti – not a Fela affiliate. Yemi Kuti was a protégé to Commander (Ebenezer Obey) who performed juju like Commander. If Commander had clashing exhibits, Yemi Kuti or YK Ajao can be tasked with taking part in on the different present. When Shina Peters was prepared, I went again to Shina Peters. This went on between 1980 and 1982 – once I joined Commander Ebenezer Obey and Inter-Reformers,” he says.

He left Sir Shina Peters and his band as a result of arguments had began creeping in over money-related points.The ultimate stroke in that drama was on the way in which again from a efficiency in Badagry. Band members needed Biodun to vacate his place as Band captain.

“I used to be nonetheless younger on the time, the problem of Biodun had been brewing earlier than the efficiency in Badagry. When an argument ensued, Shina pushed my fellow speaking drum participant within the chest. I used to be behind Shina who was sporting an Agbada. I adopted him and turned the agbada on his face earlier than pushing him to the bottom (laughs). That band ended after that,” he mentioned.

Turning into a tout on the streets of Lagos

Sikiru Adepoju: Nigeria's only Grammy Award-winner yet. [Pulse Nigeria)

Sikiru Adepoju: Nigeria’s solely Grammy Award-winner but. [Pulse Nigeria)

After the Shina Peters debacle and contemplating that he by no means needed to be a drummer, he determined to ‘hold his stick.’ With the hiatus, the frustration reached boiling level. In 1982, he turned a tout as an unbiased contractor with the physique that’s now often known as the Nationwide Union of Street Transport Staff. He was in control of ticketing, identification and different permits.

There, he was making some huge cash – N150-a-day in 1982 Nigerian forex which was some huge cash. For context, his lease was simply N20 per 30 days on the time. That invigorated his urge for food to by no means play drums once more, however future had totally different plans for him.

Round this time, Sir Shina Peters was additionally attempting to get his band again collectively – he referred to as a gathering which Adepoju attended. It occurred at a spot referred to as Ariya. However on getting again dwelling, he obtained a letter from Simon – band captain for Commander Ebenezer Obey and the Inter-Reformers.Simon had taken his brother to audition for the Inter-Reformers, however his brother failed.

“I used to be nonetheless a tout once I joined Inter-Reformers by pure fortuity. Simon was the band captain for Inter-Reformers and a sure Baba Akilapa was taking part in back-up drums for Simon. When Baba Akilapa was about to journey to Mecca, I lived on the identical avenue with Simon in Ilasa. After Akilapa travelled, Simon despatched me a letter and I joined Inter-Reformers,” he mentioned.

Regardless of the excellent news, he was in a dilemma. Earlier than he obtained dwelling that day to Simon’s letter, he had agreed to affix Shina Peters as soon as once more and a present was set for Ariya.

In the long run, the provide from Commander Obey proved too huge to show down. On the identical day that Shina Peters had a present slated for Ariya, Commander Obey and the Inter-Reformers had been billed to headline a present in Abeokuta – their host was the Alake of Egbaland. Thus, Sikiru Adepoju selected the larger gig.

Shina Peters came upon that Sikiru had joined Inter-Reformers when each acts had been billed to carry out at a present. A stunned Shina Peters noticed Adepoju taking part in with Commander Obey.

Becoming a member of Inter-Reformers

The Inter-Reformers band and their chief, Commander Ebenezer Obey had been an enormous deal in Nigeria on the time. In truth, phrase has it that despite the fact that Fela Kuti and King Sunny Ade had been cream of the crop to western observers within the 80s, Commander Obey and Inter-Reformers had been a less expensive choice. Thus, they obtained numerous gigs.

With Commander Obey, each Monday morning, members of the band used to receives a commission at a spot referred to as Miliki. Regardless of these plans, fee was by no means sure. At any time when fee was disbursed, you would need to make do with no matter you present in your envelope. Nonetheless, the love for drumming stored Sikiru going – that love even made him stop the road life.

With Commander Obey, he traveled to the USA and totally different components of Europe in 1983 and 1984. Regardless of points with fee and lack of recognition, his gratitude to Commander Obey is recognizable in his tone. He appreciates Commander Obey for giving him an opportunity in his band from the primary day.

Discovering Stability: Orlando Julius (Ekemode) and transferring to America

In 1985, Adepoju left the Inter-Reformers. The issue had began after they returned from their European Tour in late 1984. Commander Obey set one other tour for 1985, however Adepoju had made up his thoughts that he was not going. A month after leaving Inter-Reformers in 1985, he joined America-based Orlando Julius Ekemode.

Narrating the way it occurred, Adepoju says, “It was very humorous. Rasaki who performs for King Sunny Ade performed drums on Orlando Julius’ album in 1985. However as they had been about to go shoot a video in Osogbo, Osun State, Rasaki who was moonlighting refused to go for the video shoot as a result of he did not need King Sunny Ade to see him.

“Thus, I used to be referred to as for the video shoot. After the shoot, Orlando Julius requested if I’d observe him to the US. I advised him that if he would pay me, I’d don’t have any issues. I obtained a contract some weeks later. My charge was $250-a-week for 3 months. Nonetheless, I by no means deliberate to remain in America.”

For the primary time in his profession, Sikiru Adepoju had a long-term dedication to a band – however that was for an essential cause. He took the job majorly as a result of he needed to purchase a machine that might minimize aluminum – on the time, there have been only a few of these in Nigeria; three in Lagos.

Regardless of his well-planned itinerary, issues did not go as deliberate. As a substitute of working for 3 months, Orlando Julius and his band solely performed three exhibits earlier than points arose over personnel and group.

Orlando Julius needed to assist Legion De Sisters by bringing them to the US. Channel P Information was distributing for Legion De Sisters on the time in America, however Legion De Sisters had by no means traveled. Julius knew that Legion De Sisters had been gaining some fame within the states and he needed to assist them capitalize on it.

“He additionally deliberate to make use of them as opening acts on his tour dates whereas they achieve notoriety on their very own. However then, Legion De Sisters thought Julius was going to make use of them they usually requested for down fee earlier than they depart Nigeria. Julius, who could not pay them was left pissed off and Legion De Sisters was already on present promotion supplies. One way or the other, they fought and cursed one another,” Adepoju says.

When Adepoju, Orlando Julius Ekemode obtained to New York on October 2, 1985, they had been stranded. They had been billed to take a highway journey to Toronto, Canada for his or her first present on the tour. Nonetheless, present promoters weren’t choosing calls and the bus driver needed to be paid. “Issues went bitter until somebody rescued and borrowed cash for us to carry out two different exhibits in California,” Adepoju says.

After then, they had been idle for a few month till somebody rallied spherical and obtained them an condominium in California. Their good samaritan whom Adepoju can not keep in mind then assumed a job as their supervisor. After then, this supervisor sought to increase their preliminary three month visa to at least one yr. Then, the exhibits started dashing in.

For the remainder of the 80’s, he performed with Orlando Julius earlier than predominantly white crowds. The style of music was afrobeat and in line with Adepoju, “The style of music aided love from white crowds. It was afrobeat that didn’t contain the homage and problems of juju.”

Apparently, there was additionally delicate rivalry between Orlando Julius and Fela. Nonetheless, as a result of they had been taking part in on totally different continents – Julius in America and Fela in Africa and Europe – the rivalry was by no means actually pronounced.

He labored with Orlando Julius from 1985 until 1992. He solely departed from Orlando Julius Ekemode as a result of Orlando Julius moved from California to Tennessee. “Since then, I by no means left the US and I by no means lived in Nigeria once more,” Adepoju says.

Assembly Babatunde Olatunji

On the time, Pa Babatunde Michael Olatunji was a Morehouse-educated Nigerian drummer who left the shores of Nigeria on the age of 23 in 1950. He’s identified for Broadway exhibits and composing for Hollywood productions, Raisin The Solar and Spike Lee‘s She’s Gotta Have It. As a detailed buddy to John Coltrane, a tune on Coltrane’s eponymous 1962 album, ‘Tunji‘ is devoted to Babatunde Olatunji. He additionally notably labored with Stevie Marvel and Quincy Jones.

By the 80s, Pa Olatunji was a mainstay of American area of interest music of the African model. Intermittently, Adepoju labored with him throughout his lengthy stint with Ekemode. Adepoju has credit on Pa Olatunji’s 1986 album, Dance To The Beat of My Drum.

By Pa Olatunji, Sikiru Adepoju met Mickey Hart in 1985 – collectively, all of them labored collectively on a number of Planet Drum initiatives. On the time, Hart was on a hiatus kind his band, Grateful Lifeless.

In 2005, Pa Olatunji, Sikiru Adepoju and Muruga Booker launched Cosmic Rhythm Vibrations. By journey throughout borders, the foremost distinction for Sikiru Adepoju was elevated transparency with which artists within the US labored.

Nigerians attempt, however they’re flawed. However within the US, I labored on albums on which I nonetheless get royalties until date. In fact, that is additionally right down to methods and never precisely individuals,” he mentioned.

Mickey Hart: Remodeling to different music and the primary Grammy

After Sikiru Adepoju met Mickey Hart in 1985 by Pa Olatunji, they started working collectively they usually nonetheless work collectively until date. Adepoju has been on each Mickey Hart mission since Music To Be Born By in 1989. However he needed to rework to make music with Hart.

“I used to be decided to make it after I noticed the immense alternative earlier than me. For some cause, God had plans for me and I needed to make it work. I additionally knew was versatility may for me in a market that was regularly opening as much as African percussion and melodies. That was my mission then and now. I simply need to be a part of historical past and I’ve not accomplished badly (laughs),” he mentioned.

Whereas with Hart, Adepoju has realized to play konga, djembe and shakers. In 1993, Adepoju additionally financed The Honeymakers who had been a results of Commander Obey‘s depleted Inter-reformers band.

However in 1992, Sikiru Adepoju may have had his first Grammy award with Mickey Hart for Planet Drum (1991). Nonetheless, they did not notice that all of them needed to be named the first makers of the album to get Grammy gongs.

Mickey Hart was the one one named as proprietor of Planet Drum in 1994. As a substitute of getting 9 gongs, they obtained one gong and eight certificates. On it, Adepoju says, “It was what it was and we sought to right that when had been had been recording International Drum Venture in 2006 and we did.

Enjoyable truth:, Pa Olatunji was one of many seven makers of Planet Drum. The others had been, Zakir Hussain, T.H. Vinayakram, Airto Moreira and his spouse, Flora Purim, Giovanni Hidalgo and Frank Colón.

Making his personal music

In 2003, Adepoju fashioned his personal band, Afrika Heartbeat along with his father and brothers . Collectively, they launched the album, Ijinle Ilu – Yoruba for ‘real drumbeats.’ Then in 2009, he fashioned Sikiru Adepoju and Coronary heart beat with Douglas Serrant, Peter Fujii, Deen Badarou, Deszon Claiborne and DJ Deegan Mack Adams.

On making his personal music at totally different time, he says, “It was simply enjoyable and benefiting from the second. It was by no means actually about getting cash, however to mark the second and I did it. However there was a conundrum, I flew my dad and brothers to the US to file our album, however I nonetheless could not abandon my major work for different individuals as a result of I needed to earn money.

Profitable a Grammy and a case for giving credit score

After the 1992 occasion, Mickey Hart and Adepoju needed to make it possible for one thing higher occurred. So, after they got down to make the International Drum Venture with Zakir Hussein and Giovanni Hidalgo, they made certain that every one the first creators of the mission had been credited as makers and never collaborators.

He says, “We did not got down to win a Grammy. As with something, we got down to make high quality music – no person is aware of the longer term now (laughs). Extra so, Mickey, Giovanni, Zakir and I all had our bands and different commitments. In truth, resulting from band commitments, Giovanni and Zakir couldn’t be on the Grammy ceremony that day – solely Mickey and I had been there.

Sikiru Adepoju: Nigeria's only Grammy Award-winner yet. [Pulse Nigeria)

Sikiru Adepoju: Nigeria’s solely Grammy Award-winner but. [Pulse Nigeria)

“The collaboration and the willingness to share credit score is one welcome a part of working with foreigners over Nigerians. If Mickey Hart was a Nigerian, he may not have needed to present us the credit score and I may not have gained a Grammy. That is one dialog I hope to deliver to my nation quickly – credit score.

“After we had been referred to as, ah! It is past description (laughs). It was wonderful.


In 1987, he married an African-American and had one youngster who’s now married.

New Venture

Sikiru Adepoju: Nigeria's only Grammy Award-winner yet. [Pulse Nigeria)

Sikiru Adepoju: Nigeria’s solely Grammy Award-winner but. [Pulse Nigeria)

The Grammy is a platform for me and now, I need to use it for a mission. The mission will likely be titled Ajaja by Riddim Physician – which consists of me, Saminu Adepoju, Giovanni Hidalgo, Peter Fujii, Ian Herman, Femi Ojetunde, Val Serrant and Richard Nagan,” he says.

The album will drop in March 2020 and its first single drops in January 2020. In finality, Sikiru Adepoju simply hopes the blokes behind bands get some type of recognition the world over. He feels members of a band don’t get celebrated sufficient.

On the finish of our chat, we mentioned my depart which started that day and his plans for 2020. He appeared upbeat about the whole lot. In fact he’s, he got here from nothing to win a Grammy.

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