Three decades after the release of his mainstream album, Dr. Adewale Ayuba continues to reinvent the wheels of Fuji Music.
The song ‘Koloba Koloba’ a mesh of Fuji and Amapiano is enjoying an impressive commercial run on Tik Tok with the sound accumulating tens of thousands in usage.
‘Koloba Koloba’ was released in 2021 is by Fuji maestro Dr. Adewale Ayuba who for over three decades has dazzled listeners across the globe with his Bonsue Fuji brand.
Some of Fuji music’s most memorable commercial heights were recorded by Adewale Ayuba whose music traveled beyond the shores of Nigeria in the 90s. It’s therefore heartwarming and even appropriate that Fuji music’s commercial resurgence is coming courtesy of the man whose music continues to connect with a new generation.
In this Pulse interview, Dr Adewale Ayuba gives insight into his commercial success, the meaning behind his Bonsue Fuji brand, his international feats while in exile, and his enduring vision to continue pushing the creative boundaries of Fuji Music.
‘Ijo Fuji’ is among the classic Fuji records that have swept across the country and captivated listeners far and beyond the genre’s primary consumers. Its melody has been sampled and interpolated by several artists while its defining drum pattern has continued to be recreated. The song like Adewale Ayuba‘s career has stood the test of time and the Fuji maestro takes no glory for himself as he credits it all to his creator.
“My talent comes from God and I give all the glory to my Father in heaven,” Ayuba says as he insists that while he puts in a lot of hard work, grace is what has brought him thus far.
Like most Fuji artists, Dr. Adewale Ayuba has his distinctive brand of Fuji music. From the late icon and genre innovator Sikiru Ayinde Barrister MFR to the mercurial Wasiu Ayinde who calls his music Talaso Fuji, Dr. Ayuba calls his style Bonsue Fuji. The story behind the name Bonsue Fuji is quite a comical one as it was inspired by a childhood memory.
Dr. Ayuba tells me that as a child sent on an errand by his parent, they always cautioned him not to go around singing “Bonsue” and forget the task at hand. It is this memory about his early love for music that informed his choice to call his brand of music “Bonsue”, a tag that would take on commercial acclaim.
Adewale Ayuba didn’t enjoy mainstream success until the release of his 6th album titled ‘Bubble’ released in 1991. A notable element of the album was the funky and urban feel achieved through an infusion of English and electronic elements. Dr. Ayuba reveals that the decision to make an album with an urban touch was inspired by his desire to enjoy commercial success.
“I had 5 albums before ‘Bubble’ and I realized that all the elites and young people don’t listen to it. It wasn’t played at universities and commercial areas and it made me consider quitting music,” he says on the reception of his earlier albums which according to him, his friends in school told him sounded like they were made for old people.
Adewale Ayuba tells me how he later met Sony Music who brought him a producer Mr. Laolu Erkins whom he told he wanted to make music that connected with young listeners and elites like the music of Fela Kuti. With his new team, Adewale Ayuba was told to cut back on the Yoruba and Arabic languages that congregated his music. The language adjustment was then complimented by a modification of the rhythm that was infused with jazz and funk elements. The result is the hugely successful ‘Bubble’ that rocketed him to mainstream success.
“We released ‘Bubble’, and brother, it was accepted everywhere and I started playing in universities and the elites started listening to my music,” he tells me about the album that rocketed him to mainstream success.
32 years after the release of his mainstream hit album ‘Bubble,’ Dr. Ayuba continues to reinvent the wheel through an infusion of modern elements that refresh his sound and distinguish him from his contemporaries. This is exemplified through his hit single ‘Koloba Koloba’ which is one of the most popular used songs on TikTok by Nigerian users in 2023 and also appeared on Spotify Nigeria’s Viral Chart. For Ayuba, his love for music and his desire to pass a message through music has continued to inspire him to keep making music that connects with young listeners.
“I enjoy doing what I love. Age has nothing to do with music. You can be 80 and still be making music that still has a good impact on the young generation,” Ayuba says about his desire to continue commercializing Fuji music in a bid to take it to different parts of the world.
Dr. Ayuba’s desire to take Fuji music to a global audience has seen him perform on several notable stages including at the UN’s 50th anniversary. Interestingly, it was during his time in the United States where he was on tour with his band that he received a call from Nigeria about his potential arrest by the Sani Abacha regime over his alleged support for the winner of the 2023 annulled election MKO Abiola. The call would force Ayuba into exile and he recalls his time away from Nigeria as a blessing in disguise.
“In 1995 we left for America with my band for a musical tour and during my time, I received a call from someone in Abuja who told me I was wanted by the Abacha government over a song I did calling for the release of all the political detainees.”
Had he not been fortunate enough to be on tour in America, Dr. Ayuba would have been arrested by the military government who had already marked him as their next target following the arrest of Yoruba Highlife maestro Orlando Owoh.
Adewale Ayuba looks back fondly at the days of his forced exile. He tells me that the forced exile turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“During those three years I was away, I earned a certificate from Queensborough Community College, that’s where I met my wife. I put out 3 albums. I won multiple awards. I performed at the Summerstage in New York twice and at the UN’s 50th anniversary.”
All while Dr. Ayuba was achieving these feats during his exile, there were rumours back in Nigeria about him struggling to make ends meet in the US.
“I used to get calls from home from people asking me if it was true I worked in a gas station and I just laughed,” he says as he tells me about his decision to ignore the rumours.
Dr. Ayuba would return to Nigeria on June 9, 1998, a day after Sani Abacha died and it didn’t take long for him to hit the ground running.
At the famous Hedges & Benson concert in Tafawa Balewa Square in 1998, he was one of the headline artists and his presence generated a media stir.
“All the media houses and fans were so excited that I will be there because there have been different speculations over where I have been and what I have been doing for the past 3 years.”
Adewale Ayuba announced his return to Nigeria with the release of ‘Acceleration’, ‘Mellow’, ‘Gunshot’, and the massively commercial ‘Ijo Fuji’ in 2001. Ayuba also continued pushing the creative boundaries of Fuji music with his collaboration with rapper Jazzman Olofin who delivered the hit record ‘Raise The Roof.
At the center of his focus is the singular goal to promote Fuji music and his plans are geared towards this.
“I plan to have international collaborations with artists on my level like Angelique Kidjo and also perform in festivals around the world to continue spotlighting Fuji.”
With Nigerian music breaking new ground and reaching a global audience, I asked Dr. Ayuba what he makes of Afrobeats international success and he tells me credit must be given to the generation of Afrobeats stars whose efforts have taken Nigerian music from a world category to Western mainstream success.
Adewale Ayuba released a new single ‘Uncommon’ in August 2023. The single is another hybrid between Afrobeats and Fuji as he continues to reinvent the wheel of Bonsue Fuji while making music that appeals to the sensitivity of listeners of all ages.