His fan base is large and for Wasiu Ayinde Anifowose a.k.a KWAM 1, life would not have made a meaning if he was not a musician. At 17, he had his first taste of fame. With over 88 albums to his credit, he talks about his women, children and his regrets about not having a university degree.
So many of your kids have taken after you, is this a sign that you are planning to retire?
No, it is not a sign of retirement but it’s a sign of good things to come in the family. We have been able to register our family name in the entertainment industry just like we have the Anikulapos Obeys, Dairos, Osadebays, and Isholas. It gladdens my heart to see my children toe this line. I have about six of them doing music- Honey B, Sultan, Farouq, Mustapha, Femi and Zainab- but I told them that they must be educated first. Maybe if I had a degree before I came into the limelight, I would have been bigger than this.
In spite of the success you have recorded, you still regret having a degree …
I do not regret it but it pains me because it got to a point when I really wanted to go to school. I enrolled in a school but I could not follow it through because of my engagements.
There was another time I attempted to do a law degree at the University of Lagos and another time, I was in England for a very long time to get admission into the University of London, but three months to my resumption, I got this contract in America that fetched me a huge amount of money. So, that too was truncated. Now I have decided to do it online.
Still talking about retirement, you seem to have slowed down.
You slow down not because you do not have the energy but you slow down so that you can re-evaluate all you have done to make sure you are pursuing a good cause. I am a stickler for good and qualitative music and I see myself as an institution that a whole lot of people are coming to learn from; the same way I learnt from those who were there before me. It has nothing to do with age, afterall, the likes of Fatai Rolling Dollar and Ebenezer Obey are still doing well. I am just 56.
You started out as a ‘band service boy’ with Sikiru Ayinde Barrister …
I started out as an Ajisari Ajiwere. It was a talent hunt competition organised during the Ramadan period when I was young. This was before I became Barrister’s boy. I served as the one to pack instruments. It was intentional because I wanted to learn from him. I actually lived with him and I used to run many errands for him. That gave me the opportunity to be close to him. When he was in the military, I would iron his clothes and clean his shoes.
Were your parents comfortable with you being an artiste?
My parents saw music as one of those things youngsters dabbled into. Remember, I got into music via a talent hunt and we had older people coordinating it, so my own journey into music was not problematic. My parents accepted it.
What kind of childhood did you have?
I do not know what qualifies one as being born with a silver spoon, but my father was a prince from a royal family and he worked with a white man. Judging from that, definitely, I had a very solid background. My father was revered in the area and people flocked around him. So, if there is anything better than silver spoon, that was what I had. I was even sent to good schools.
Why was your education truncated?
When the idea of music got into my being, I would tell them at home that I was going to school but I was not. Unfortunately, I lost my father in my first year in secondary school and my mother was a trader. I was put in a boarding house so she believed I was in school. Even when I changed schools, my mother did not know.
I was in Government College, Isolo, Lagos State and we went for a sports competition in Saki, Oyo State. I met some of my friends from the area and that was how I decided to change my school to the one in Saki. So, while my mother thought I was in school at Isolo, I was in faraway Saki, Oyo State. From there, I found my way to another school, in Isiwo, Ogun State, so that I could attend various music competitions.
What would you consider your first major break?
I have had many breaks, even as an ‘packing boy,’ I won laurels. I became a professional musician when I was 15 and that was when I started making money. It was then I started charging performance fees. I used to charge N500. That was enough for me to rent musical equipment, and I would still have some change left.
How many albums have you released and which is your favourite?
From 1979 until date, I have released over 85 albums, both local and international releases. It will be hard to ask one who is gifted which is his best. As a matter of fact, I have some unreleased compositions that I believe will supersede whatever I have done in the past.
You revolutionised Fuji music, was it a conscious move?
That was what I set out to do. I grew up at a time youngsters were not allowed to have a say of their own and it was then I named my first band, Wasiu Ayinde and his Fuji Revolution.We, the youngsters, needed to have a voice.
Over the years you have undergone several name changes like King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall, KWAM1, K1, the Ultimate, to mention but a few. What’s the motive behind these?
It is associated with the trade of music. You will see all manners of names in music, sports and entertainment. I am constantly rebranding so I can appeal more to my fans. I became King of Fuji music when I was crowned at the premises of NTA Ibadan, so I added the appellation to my name.
I was made a Special Road Marshal by the Federal Road Safety Corps, so I added that to my name. I make sure every name of mine is duly documented at the Corporate Affairs Commission. That way, I have a right to it and nobody can take it away from me.
Are you threatened by competition?
No and that is because a long time ago, my assessment has been this: We have four Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in a month and we have many people in the society celebrating one thing or the other. Can the number of artistes even go round? I even play without charging some people and it does not depend on your standing in the society. I have performed without charging a fee for a guy who helps direct traffic at my shows because in his own little way, he has contributed to my success.
41 years of doing music, do you consider women one of your challenges?
Any musician that does not have the challenge of women is not doing well. For anything to be successful, it must first of all be accepted by women and you must carry them along.
Is that why you are a polygamist?
There is no way I will be in this business and I will not cross the borderline because I see women in large numbers every day. Some people pretend about it, but for those of us that are real about it, we are tagged womanisers. Those pretending, are the ones who father kids outside their homes and can’t own up to it.
I have never taken a woman to the hospital for abortion; instead, you will have the child. Sometimes ago, a lady claimed I was responsible for her pregnancy and I doubted her claims. When she insisted, I kept my cool. Years later, a DNA done on the child proved I am not the father.
There are different reports about the number of children you have…
I do not have 50, 30 or 25 children as it has been reported in the media. In Yoruba tradition, you do not count children and people should not be concerned about the number of children or wives I have. What they should be concerned about is whether I am taking care of my children. I am a good father to my children and a responsible husband to my women. Nobody has taken me to court for lacking in my fatherly roles.
My oldest child is over 35 years old, so I have been in the business of rearing children for a very long time. I have a solid relationship with my children and I am happy with the number of children I have. I have professionals among my children and they are all doing well.
People say you praise fraudsters and drug barons when you are singing …
A criminal would not write on his forehead neither would he write it at the back of his shirt that he is a criminal. So, I don’t know how they expect me to identify a criminal. I stand to be corrected on what I just said. If someone comes to you and says, ‘My name is Mr. Brown and I am a consultant, what he says to you is what you call him.
Then, when I am singing, I’d say Mr. Brown lo n jo yi o, consultant general (this is Mr. Brown dancing, consultant general). My own is to spice it up. I do not know how to identify a thief except I am at the robbery scene. Besides, the law says, someone one is innocent until proven guilty. I cannot be telling everybody that attends my show to take a Bible, Quran or an idol and swear to me that he is not a criminal.
People keep talking about you and politics. Are you interested in vying for an elective post?
I am a politician because we are all political animals especially when you have more than one wife. You have to apply wisdom and that itself is playing politics. I have been in active politics since 1976. Up till this moment, I have never sought an elective office even though I have my associates. I have those I identify with. People are getting that impression because of my deep involvement in political matters and I will not be the first entertainer to be involved in politics. Look at Arnold Schwarzenegger and Estrada, who are both movie stars; At home, Onyeka Onwenu and Richard Mofe-Damijo are in politics too.
How do you relax?
I love to have my leisure time. A lot of times, I like to lie on my back because I stand a lot. This weekend for instance, I would be performing on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so if I do not rest, one would be sick. I watch television, swim and relax with my children around me. I jog and I work on my treadmill three times a week, I also frequent the gym.
Apart from music, what other things do you do?
I am a businessman to the core. I am into property, construction and snail farming, I am constructing a bakery now, I am also into electronics and I supply music equipment.
What is your relationship with other Fuji artistes who are younger than you?
Thank you for listing them as my juniors. I have a very cordial relationship with them — Obesere, Pasuma and Saheed Osupa – but people always find a way to create enmity among artistes. I do not have issues with anybody.
Let me show you a text from Pasuma to buttress my point (shows text). You can see it was sent on Tuesday and today is Thursday. Tell anybody Pasuma sent me a text on Tuesday, they will say it is not possible. I do not lend my voices to all these talk, I just choose to remain silent but it does not mean things are the way people think.
How do you like to dress?
I am a very simple dresser. In the past, I used to dress in a very bogus way until I met Ebenezer Obey at an event. I went to greet him and I was dressed in a suit on a very hot day. He unbuttoned my jacket; I was wearing a shirt under the jacket. He said my dressing was too serious and since I would be going on stage to sing and dance, he felt I should wear something less cumbersome.
He was only wearing a kampala top and chinos trouser. Since that day, I changed the way I dress. I like to dress well and I patronise designer shops often.