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Sound Sultan: A Tribute To A Gentle Maverick

 

By the time you read this, the man for whom I write would have been well and truly buried in accordance with Islamic dictates. It is almost surreal that the man was very much alive this time last week even though barely, as we are now piecing together. Sound Sultan’s obscurity came to be defined in his last years but it would be by no means all he would be remembered for, especially for my generation of Nigerians, in general, and Lagosians, in particular.


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The announcement of his death early in the week hit everyone who knew the man’s music like a lightning bolt out of the blues. Most of the industry and public got to know of his struggles with cancer since May and the outpouring of love then would tell a neutral that this was a man that most only had good memories of.

That said, Sound Sultan’s legacy is secure as far as music is concerned but it would be only fair to recount the man’s journey in Nigerian entertainment, at this point of all times. A journey that has touched the lives of millions in earnest.

For many in my generation, Sultan, whose real name was Olanrewaju Abdulganiyu Fasasi, would be remembered as an elite member of a group of entertainers who laid the foundation for what we now know, from the mid-nineties. Many of us still remember his first big hit “Jagbajantis (Mathematics)” released in 2000 but his career around the fringes of the Lagos showbiz scene had been blossoming since 1991 really.

Born in 1976, Fasasi himself credits his older brother, Dare Fasasi, better known as Baba Dee, who happened to run Sultan’s imprint, Naija Ninja, as the one who had carried him along to shows in those days. Until a short while after dropping Jagbajantis, he had only been making and performing music independently for a while.

He would go on to drop four albums (Kpseeeew, 2001; Textbook, 2004; Naija 007, 2007; SS4, 2008) in the nearly seven years he worked under Kenny Ogungbe and Dayo Adeneye’s Kennis Music. From then on, he went back to making music independently under the Naija Ninja imprint. He would make and release music under that tag from then till death.

Sound Sultan loved Nigeria and he used his songs to promote the love for the country as well as exposing the ills of society.

Fasasi made music in a period it was not necessary to drop music back to back in a calendar year and so one would not be wrong for saying his hits were not consistent as they could have been if he was of this generation.

In many ways, he never gave off the notion of an artiste who was in a mad rush for hits. He did give us hits that managed to stick in the subconscious and consciousness of listeners. From hits like “Bushmeat” and “2010” from Back to the Future (2010) to “Natural Something” and Love Language, from Me, My Mouth and Eye (2012) to the groovy tunes “African Lady” from Out of the Box (2016).


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The man in many ways showed he was about friends and family. From his frequent collaborations with his brother and business partner, Baba Dee, with whom he even made a film in 2004 titled Campus Queen and another in 2014 titled Head Gone. Baba Dee was instrumental early in his career as he directed many of his early music videos including the early hit Jagbajantis. He was great friends with entertainment stalwarts like Tuface, Basketmouth, Princess, Ebuka, and MI Abaga. Throughout his career, these would be recurring actors.

He was versatile too as he showed throughout as he was as dexterous with dropping bars as well as playing instruments. He could act just as he could sing and crack jokes on stage. His roast of Tuface at the singer’s 40th birthday celebration at the Eko Convention Centre in 2015 may just be one of the best improv sets from a non-comic I have ever seen.

Fasasi until his death played a starring role in Basketmouth’s Papa Benji (2021). Clearly, he was all about his work as an entertainer as much he was about family. He was a father of three and had been married for over a decade by the time he passed.

In concluding this, I think back to a good few singles he dropped in the last few years as microcosms of his finest qualities. He was a true musician and a real family man but even beyond that, he was given to evolving too as he aged. He became more of an elder statesman in the industry and he showed this when he dropped “Ghetto Love” in 2017. The single feature golden oldies in the industry: Baba Fryo, Mountain Black (Danfo Drivers), Marvelous Benji, and African China.

His most recent single featured Small Doctor as well as Doktor Sett and while they were never commercial they showed his love for the art form that is music and the drive to stay relevant came naturally to him.

Sound Sultan was easily the most personable of characters in his generation and most people had nothing bad to say of the man. More importantly, he managed to stay mostly scandal-free as opposed to many of his peers. To put this into perspective, in a period when we did not have social media, most artistes managed to rack up a decent rap sheet in scandals and while they were bigger stars, nothing said it could not have been Sultan because he was more or less in that circle.

In an industry known for extravagance and debauchery, he showed that it was possible to be different. It is a big possibility that he has struggled with cancer for the last few years and somehow he managed to get through a good amount of work. That speaks to doggedness on the man’s part. He may have lost this battle with cancer but in many ways, he showed how it was to be a big artiste and yet a decent individual. He also showed that he was a fighter to the end. His dignity among other things is not as common and characters such as him will be sorely missed.

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Some call me David. Others, Emerie. Others, (unfortunate fellows) Biggie. I like to think that I have sense and that is why I write too. Otherwise, I draw and paint and sing (in the bathroom) and love to make people laugh. I love to understand how things work and that’s why I love DIY videos and YouTube of course. Follow me on Twitter @EmerieOkwara

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