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71 f I


t was the release of both Talazo System and Talazo 84, back to back in the same year, that set him apart from Barrister. The records sent shockwaves across Fujiland; the titles both referencing a faster-paced, more danceable sound that Wasiu had begun to champion. He became the biggest name in dance halls across the country, pulling in a younger crowd removed from the Islamic traditions the genre had come from. His band became known as the Talazo Organisation and was based a stone’s throw from where he grew up, on the outskirts of the immense Balogun market – one of the largest on the continent.


Talazo meant more than just a mod- ernised style of fuji. Back then, Wasiu was a much more slender man, known as Igi Zegege among his fans, meaning The Slim One. Rumours had begun circulating that he took a drug called Talazo, used in eight- ies Nigeria to cure upset stomachs, to maintain his slimline figure – though those whispers were more than likely a joke. Grasping the name with ownership, Wasiu effectively rebranded it to represent his high-energy fuji.


“Wasiu became what Michael Jackson was to America in the mid-eighties,” wrote Wale Ademowo, the bespectacled author of probably the only biography written on the man, The King Of Fuji Music, published in 1996. “He became the toast at every party, his music was unique, the voice was quite different and his star shone all over.” Ademowo also noted that after a string of successful releases during this period, the powerful singer publicly proclaimed him- self a ‘messiah’ of the genre.


Wasiu at home


Wasiu began, at this point, packing his bags to tour the world. The way he described this to the visitor was as if he were conquering corners of the globe: “I advanced forward to other African states – I was in Mozambique, Swaziland. Then, after I’d done about five appearances across Africa, I knew the next stage for me was to go international, and I went to Eng- land. From England, I did a Europe tour, and after Europe, I proceeded to Ameri- ca.” Asked if he was nervous at any point during this process, the singer didn’t hesi- tate. “No,” he said, shrugging the idea off like it had never even remotely occurred to him. “I’m a very strong-willed person.”


One of the stops on the tour was at Hammersmith Town Hall in the summer of 1986. He and his band had taken to life in the the Big Smoke and stayed for an extended period, recording Talazo In Lon- don and sending the tapes to Nigeria for release the following year. As if he were writing a letter home, Wasiu scribed the notes on the record sleeve, entitled Mes- sage From London: “Ladies & Gentlemen, as you know that I cannot do without giv- ing messages, this time around my group members and myself are in Great Britain where we are currently on musical tour. And I think it in my mind that it is of great pleasure to send home something new and fantastic.” He ended the note, “Happy listening,” and signed off.


Wasiu’s next few albums were often tightly bound to his travel experiences, most notably, Achievement, a celebration of a music doctorate he had completed in Cali- fornia, and 1991’s American Tips, dedicated to the Talazo Organisation’s three-month sweep of the States. A return sell-out tour to


London later that year prompted the singer to proclaim that “Wasiumania” had hit, while the release of Fuji Collections, after that, played on his life abroad among “yup- pies” (his own description) and added a key- board to his band’s line-up.


“I could drive my music towards the


jazzy, I could drive my music towards the disco,” Wasiu said to the visitor. “I’m a lover of Rick James, Don Willis, Kenny G – in my time I listened to cool music like that. Whenever I’m on stage, I get lost in play- ing, the feel, the feel that I get from the music I listen to. It could be the first fifteen to twenty minutes of my performance, that is what I’ll be giving. It keeps working the minds of people – that’s how I build on my followers. They knew that I wouldn’t just be sticking to the old style every time.”


Wasiu continued to modernise the genre, introducing melodies more associ- ated with Highlife and Juju at a much slower pace. He began thinking of himself as the greatest fuji singer of all time, crav- ing the recognition that the likes of Sunny Ade and Fela Kuti had gained before him. The best way to approach this, he thought, was to appeal to the country’s elites. While fuji had originally been working-class music played in open-air venues, Wasiu, with his new sound and the help of the press and promoters, was restyled as as a deluxe musician. He began playing at fully seated, high-security venues that were removed from the masses. This was exacer- bated by reported violence at shows, and a type of classism, under the surface of fuji, began to rear its head.


It was around this time, in 1993, that


Wasiu was crowned The King Of Fuji: an award acknowledging his success as the


Photo: Rachel Aderiye


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