Olawale Yusuf is the youngest child of the late sakara legend, Alhaji Yusuf Olatunji, popularly called Baba L’Egba, who died 42 years ago. Yusuf takes DAUD OLATUNJI into the life and times of his father
Your father’s date of birth is controversial. When was he born and how old would he have been this year?

There is nothing is controversial about his date of birth except for some lazy journalists who find it difficult to speak to the right people. Yusuf Ajao Olatunji was born in 1908, beginning of the year before the start of the rainy season. If he were to be alive he would have been 112 years today.

Where was he born?

He was born in a village called Begbinlawosoro Gbagura, Abeokuta. This village was established by his grandfather, an Oyo Alaafin hunter known as Tanminue, around 1835. Begbinlawo village is located in the Abeokuta North Local Government Area, Ogun State.

How did your father become a musician?

Yusuf Olatunji started his music career at a very tender age of about eight in his village, Begbinlawo. He started as a drummer; his cousin, Aminu Yusuf, used to be leader of this village group. But Aminu could not continue after he got married and the leadership of the group fell on little Olaegbe Ajao Olatunji (Yusuf Ajao Olatunji). His parents weren’t pleased with this development; so, he was sent to Ise-Olodumare villa at Wasimi Ake. He was enrolled at St. Peters Anglican School, Ake but on his way home from school one day he saw a sakara music group rehearsing and enquired if he could be a part of the group. He joined this group without the consent or knowledge of his guardians (his elder sister and her husband). He became the first lyrics recorder in Nigeria indigenous music industry under a sakara music group led by Shaki.

Did he have any role model?

His role models were his cousin, Aminu Yusuf, Shaki, Suura Dan Busari, and Habib Ayinde Oluwa.

Who did your father admire among his contemporaries in music?

My father admired Habib Ayinde Oluwa. But funnily enough, Yusuf Olatunji never had time to listen to music; he was always busy meditating, or in company with his lyrics composers or having rehearsals.

What was his music composition process like?

Yusuf Olatunji was a genius in lyrics writing; he also got a team of music composers led by a Lagos prince, Taslim Ayinde Sonibare, and Salawa Abeni.

How do his works come across to you?

I feel like any other man who understands music and the percussions whenever I’m listening to his music. Notwithstanding that he is my father, my honest opinion is that Yusuf Ajao was extremely gifted, in terms of the quality of his voice, lyrical renditions, his prowess in playing instruments like Goje and Mole. He has the best band members ever in sakara music. For instance, Pa Kasumu Isola Sanni, the lead drummer, was adjudged the best in sakara since then till now; Shitta Bankole, Rahman Akanbi, are still the best Olomele; Sanusi Popoola Olosunde, is still the best Onigba and his Elegbes (back-up singers) are second to none. They were 13 in number, but they were always voicing like one single person. This is why I refer to this group as the greatest of all time. Honestly, Yusuf Ajao Olatunji deserves a posthumous national award.

Which of his songs is your favourite and why?

Almost all his albums, but LP Volumes 7 and 31, because of the techniques involved.

Do you have reservations about any one of his songs?


How do you feel when you listen to musicians of your father’s generation abusing each other in their songs?

Not very happy but I thank God, Baba never followed that trend.

Did his music take him overseas?

Yusuf Ajao Olatunji never travelled overseas due to health challenges, though his fans in the Diaspora were yearning for him to come then. But he travelled through the length and breadth of Nigeria, entertaining his admirers. He also journeyed across West African countries – Benin, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone. According to one of his band members, the late Hadji Rahman Akanbi Olomele, my father at some point bowed to the group’s pressure to travel overseas but he died before preparations were concluded for the trip.

He was said to have some die-hard fans, including one Cash Madam. What was the nature of his relationship with Cash Madam?

Alhadja Khadija Abike Adebisi, aka Cash Madam, was a fanatical fan of Baba L’Egba. Yusuf Ajao Olatunji mentioned her in many of his albums but two were outstanding. These were lP Volumes 8 and 17 – the Sakara Music Anthem. Cash Madam footed all Baba L’Egba’s medical bills at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Lagos.

Your father was not born a Muslim. What can you say about his conversion to Islam mid-life?

Yusuf Ajao Olatunji’s parents were neither Muslims nor Christians. He was named Olaegbe Ajao Olatunji at birth, he got converted to Christianity when he was about to gain admission to St. Peters Anglican School, Ake, Abeokuta. He was baptised and given the name Joseph. Yusuf Ajao Olatunji converted to the Islamic faith in 1943 through the influence of one super sociallite, an Egba moneybag, Rahman Alao Akodu, popularly known as Alao Re, Owo Re.

It is believed that his conversion to Islam boosted his music career. Is it true?

Yes. Majority of his friends, fans and admirers are Muslims.

It was said that your father never went on holy pilgrimage to Mecca, yet he was being called Alhaji. How did that come about?

My father, Yusuf Ajao Olatunji, never went on holy pilgrimage to Mecca due to his serious health challenges.

How did your father earn the name Baba L’Egba?

Every Yoruba town or city has its music champion; when you become the best in your town your name changes; your town or city’s name would be added to your name. For instance, Enigma Habib Ayinde Oluwa was nicknamed Baba N’Federal, meaning that he was the Lagos champion then; it was the same way that my father, Yusuf Ajao Olatunji , was named Baba L’Egba, meaning the one who represents Egbaland musically.

Will you say your father’s contributions to music development in Nigerian have been recognised by government?

In 2001, the Ogun State Government in collaboration with Yusuf Olatunji’s family celebrated him. Also, an award of excellence was given about three years ago during the drum festival organised by the Ogun State Government. We appreciate our state government, but Baba L’Egba deserves a national award for his contribution to the development music in Nigeria.

He died 42 years ago; his music is still relevant, enjoying commercial patronage but it is pirates that are benefitting from the proceeds. May God help us.

How did your father die?

Yusuf Ajao Olatunji died on December 15, 1978. He was rushed to Abeokuta from a meeting of musicians in Ibadan. Baba L’Egba was the President of the group, presiding over a meeting at the Central Hotel Adamasimgba in Ibadan when he had an asthma attack; the attack was poorly managed and it led to his death.

What happened to his band after his death?

The band moved on for about four years after his demise; they chose the band’s scribe, Pa Isiaka Ayinde Dosumu, as the new leader; and they waxed about three albums on Olumo Records label.

Did any of his band members form another band after his death?

No; the band was christened Yusuf-Olatunji memorial band though there was a crisis after his demise.

What kind of father was he?

He was a loving and adorable father. He had only four children; only the first child gained a lot from him due to his age. The age gap between the first and the second child was 31 years but he invested heavily in his education before his death in 1978.

How many wives did he have?

He had three wives at time of his death and they were Mama Sabitiu Abake; Alhaja Fatima Yusuf and Alhaja Iyabode Amope.

What did your mother miss most about him?

Life became almost empty for both his household and band members in many ways especially my mum because she went with him on his travels and she was the one in charge of food.

How supportive was your father to his children’s careers?

Like I said, he passed away when I was only about four years old.

Was he a disciplinarian or a strict father?

I really can’t say. I was only four years old when he passed on.

How did he reward good behaviour or discipline his children?

The training of his children fell heavily on his wives because of the nature of his work.

Is any of his children following in his footsteps?

None of his direct offspring sings but one among his grandchildren has stepped into his shoes. I am proud to say that the Yusuf Ajao Olatunji Foundation trained this youngster and others.

In what way is the family supporting the grandchild who is following in his footsteps as a musician?

The family and the Yusuf Ajao Olatunji Foundation trained, invested and supported him in achieving his dream. They launched and promoted him in Ogun and Lagos states after his training.

Apart from music, what other economic venture did your father undertake?

He was also a yam and cotton farmer; he equally invested heavily in animal husbandry and had two cow ranches. We used to go to our village together to inspect his workers and farm.

What were his hobbies?

Going to his village and farms, sometimes, with his friends.

How often did he take his family to his hometown?

Begbinlawo village is about 30 minutes drive from Lafenwa, Abeokuta; it’s popularly known as Abule Baba L’Egba. The Olatunjis are not far from their village. At least, they visit the ancestral home almost every month.

What were some of your father’s favourite foods?

He loved fried egg, coffee and bread; he also loved pounded yam with Egusi soup, preferably with fish.


Previous articleHow Ejigbo Students Emerged Victorious At MSSNLagos Quiz Competition
Next articleAfter Allocating 100 Hectares, Zulum Lays Stone For Borno’s First Private University


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here