The name Chris Ajilore may not ring any bell in the music industry of today. But mention theÂ Chris Ajilo, a few ears may turn. Until his retirement in 2007, as General Manager of the Performing and Mechanical Right Society,(PMRS) of Nigeria, Pa Chris Ajilo was a force to be reckoned with in the music industry.
Love him, hate him as many are bound to, especially those musicians that he came across during his tenure as producer at Polygram Records now Premier Music, there is no doubt the Ijebu Ijesha, Osun State born musician, deserves respect and honour.
A man of many parts, Chris Ajilo was at various times a musician, producer, song writer and a teacher of music.
Famous with the release of his hit song, Eko O’gba Gbere in the 60’s, Chris transcended every inch of the music industry and finally taking a bow in 2007 when he retired on a “princely” gratuity of N196,000 from the PMRS.
The never say die musician who turns 80 today in a an emotional laden voice revealed that he has never been celebrated in his life time not has he been recognsed by his State since his retirement from music.
Today life has made a U-Turn for Pa Ajilo as his son Korede and friend Dapo Adelegan have rolled out the red carpet to celebrate his 80th birthday.
And this is how he began his story;
My junior cousin Chief Ilaka who lives in Lagos made it possible for me to get this piece of land when I told him I needed a place to build a house in 1988.
Was it given to you free or did you pay for it?
Yes, I bought it for N1000 in 1988 but .I didn’t pay for it at once. At first, I and my late wife thoughtÂ we should build a boys’ quarter and later the main house but something in me kept saying telling me that, if I mustÂ build, I should start all of them together (boys quarter and main building) no matter how long it will take me to finish.
So I called my cousin (Chief Ilaka) to design the building and we started the building. We kept doing it bit by bit, one block to another until we finished it.
Before you finished your house, where do stay when you returned home for holidays?
I have a cousin Mr Tunde Adewunmi in whose house I normally stayed when I come home.
And how have you been managing as a retired man?
When I got here on 27th April 2008, there was nothing in place. I retired from PMRS on January,2007 and decided that I should go home to finish my building
Were you not paid any form of gratuity?
What I got was nothing to write home about. I was paid about N196,000.00.
With that kind of money, how were able toÂ finish the uncompleted building?
Little by little I was able to complete this place.
At your age, some people still get married. Are you thinking towards that direction?
As at today, I don’t have a wife. But tomorrow I may decide to remarry. I think I’m at peace with myself the way I am.
How long have you lived without a woman?
I’ve been living like this for over one year.
So when did your wife die?
My wife died in 1998. But I took a new one after that. But she is in Lagos now.
Did you live with her in Lagos?.
We lived together with the children until she got her own house at Ibafo.
You mean she was living with you and building a house which you didn’t know about?
Yes. I didn’t know until one day she packed away with her children.
You had problems with her?
No. Her problem was that she didn’t want to retire with me to Ijebu Ijesha. May be she hated village life… (Laughing) This place is not a village. She still comes to spend a day or two with me here and I have no problems with that.
What about the children you had from your first wife?
I had two kids, a boy and a girl. The girl is married and lives in Atlanta Georgia in America but the husband, Mr. Folanni stays in Lagos because that’s where he comes from..His whole family lives in Atlanta Georgia..But my boy lives in Ikorodu with his family.
Without a wife, no child to stay with?
Whatever I do here is a good exercise for me. My alarm clock wakes me up at alarming half past 6 in the morning. I take a walk three kilometers up and down before any other thing.
I know that when you came back, people would be surprised because a lot of them don’t know you….?
They still marvel when they see me. Even my relatives in Lagos are beginning to think of coming back home too.
Was there any kind of reception given to you when you arrived here?
What for and why do I need any reception? When I came back I went to the church and blew my horn. That’s how people knew that Chris Ajilo is in town.
Did anybody invite you to the church?
No. Even before I came back finally, I used to come home, go to the church.
How did they announce your arrival?
I just stood up and joined the choir and that was before the Venerable announced my home coming in the church.
Were people expecting you to be a very rich man with all the name you made?
If they expected me to be rich, I don’t know, but I’m sure I’m not a rich or poor man. I don’t beg anybody for anything.
Are you saying that within the period you were in show business; there wasn’t enough money in the industry?
I decided to go into music not to make money but as a first love. In my Secondary School; music was a compulsory subject for classes one to three. I left this country for Europe to study Engineering but the love for music changed my mind.
So I enrolled into school of music and since then, I’ve been helping a lot of Nigerian and African musicians. My soul is more pleased when I help people through this profession. I help to teach people music.
But some younger musicians aren’t happy with you because they felt you tried to force them into playing high life music?
No, that is wrong because I will only tell you the truth..Polygram Records had its own policies. I was the only staff producing Polygram Music acts internationally and locally, but I wasn’t getting what I should get, but it was just my position.
The Victor Essiet of the Mandators who is not happy with me is somebody I told to go and work on his voice and he abused me. Two weeks later, he came back with another Demo with a new voice and confessed that he had cold when he did that first job.
I told him I didn’t know about that but I knew that voice wasn’t good enough for recording. And when he tried it again it was okay. Same thing happened with Ras Kimono when he brought his Demo Tape. I also told him to go into the studio again and amend certain things .
So, that was how the whole thing started.Â Â Â Â Now that you are here in Ijesha, has anybody in the Industry visited you?
You re here and Dapo Adelegan was here too. .
Have you ever been celebrated as a person?
I will tell you that I’m not that type of person. Celebration to me is not very important, I’m a humble person.
Does it bother you, that people are not giving back to you what you gave them?
Whatever I gave outÂ was given out by my creator and whatever I get is also given to me by my creator.
Is your State Governor aware that you are here?
Who am I for the Governor to know that I’m here?
Do you feel lonely sometimes?
Lonely! When I have my God with me. You will never know how happy I am now.
Do your children know you are here?
Of course they know. In_fact my daughter came in from Atlanta to stay with me when I moved in. She came with my gand son to see me.
Can you remember exactly how many artistes you ever worked with?
I’ve produced over 50 artistes which includes Osadebe and others. So many that I can’t remember.
Looking at the industry now, can you compare it with what you had then?
Well in those days; only few of us were in music and those who were making it had a way of making it which is not my own way of living. People were trading hemp under the cover of being musicians. I have two separate lives; on the stage and off the stage.
The urge for money wasn’t my aim. I’m sorry if I was foolish. What I mean by being foolish is, if I saw a million naira some where, I wouldn’t take it but I’ll look for the owner to return it because it’s not mine.
What was it like with your first wife?
The mother of my two kids is my first wife. The second wife is the one that stayed longer with me. When I came back from England, I had a white fiancee but I didn’t go into marriage with her because I wanted to come home and see what home was like before getting married.
And by the time I started my band; we were always on tour and there was an accident. The white woman heard that I died from the accident and she just vanished.
The first woman I met after that was from Accra in Ghana and we had a son who died at the age of 14. He died after an accident when he was participating in a high jump competition.
By this time, his mother had left. Even the mother of my two kids left the children behind and I didn’t mind that I had to take care of them. In all, I had three wives but not at the same time.
The second wife stayed with me for over twenty years and she was the greatest. She was a wife, sister and mother. In fact she was everything to me. If she were alive; you would have seen her here today and she would have given you a King’s reception.
And is your first wife alive?
She is still alive and stays in Akoka right now.
So what’s your relationship with her family now?
We were husband and wife before, but that time has passed. What happened was that during the war, there was a curfew then in Ibadan. Because we could no longer play at night; I had to take my band to Ghana to play. When I came back from
Ghana; I was also teaching instrumental music at the International School in the University of Ibadan.Â I came back from school one day to find out that all my properties had been parked.. Enquiries from my neighbors revealed that she came with a soldier to pack my things including my children.
And you didn’t get to see your children again?
I had to go and make a statement concerning what happened at the Police station. The next morning, the Sergeant and the lorry that parked my things came back pleading that they were sorry, claiming they never knew the things they packed were mine.
My wife used them because one of her girlfriends was a friend to Captain Richard. She lied to the Captain claiming that another girlfriend of theirs was moving to another house. So I told them to go and bring back the lorry with everything they packed from my house. And after they’d returned my things, I told her that if she liked she could come and pack the things that belonged to her.
By this time the lorry and the properties were in Abeokuta.. But when it came back; it came with only my stuff.
Did she pack your things because you were failing in your responsibilities as bread winner?
It’s not because I wasn’t taking care of her but I think that was the way she wanted it. When I do good to people they pay me back in bad coins. It’s their headache because I know my conscience is always clear.
Was there another man in her life?
I don’t know, but I was always there for her.
How about the children?
They were so small then. I taught the children to stay with me. I put them in school and was taking care of them. She moved on and was doing well and my friends who didn’t know we were separated were giving her contracts. Next thing she did was to come and show me her new car and let me know she had arrived.
I looked at her and laughed. Later during the holiday, she asked me to allow the kids to come and stay with her in Lagos and she never brought them back and I didn’t bother.
Now that you are here alone, do you still write songs?
I do, but not as often as before.
So, where are the songs youâ€™ve written so far?
I have them here in my study. I have so many books in there but my problem is how to bring them together.
So what are you doing with them, are you going to die without releasing those songs?
There is always a way out. I have two things I want to do here in Ijesha. The first one is to have a School of Music and then network the marketing of GNLD Products which I joined last year.
Where are you going to raise money fromÂ to achieve this music school or studio?
I have been doing music for many years, so I’ll find a way out.
Don’t you think it will be better to publish a book on music instead?
Yes, I am writing a book but that ‘s on my autobiography. I’ve not finished it and I don’t know how many chapters it is yet.
I think it will be better you start packaging them because this computer may crash….
So far, I have made copies of the ones Iâ€™ve written.
Are you still in touch with any of the musicians who released some of your songs?
That is one area where I’ve been taken for a ride.
Lagbaja also recorded one of your old songs…
Yes, he came to me and I gave him the right to.
Which other songs of yours were also recorded without your consent?
Victor Olaiya did it also. Then there was a particular song I was playing with my band. Immediately I went on tour, Victor and Kenny Adex recorded the song before I came back..
What did you do when this happened?
What do you expect me to do?.
How many songs/albums did you release?
I think I released one or two songs and as per album, there were only few marketing companies in those days.
Apart from Eko O’ gba gbere, what other popular songs of yours can you remember?
I can still remember Ladies Beware, Ariwo, Hannah’s Tricks…
Have you ever thought of re-mixing some of these songs and releasing them?
No. I don’t have the money to go through that all over again.
What if somebody decides to do that, do you still have copies of the songs?
Believe me, I don’t have any of the tapes but I have them written somewhere. Anybody who decides to re-mix them will have to go into the studio to do it all over again and it may not come out like the original one.
What if the State Government decides that it wants to celebrate you, will that make you happy?
How about asking you to come out of retirement to play sometimes?
(Laughing) Why not.
Where will you like the concert to be staged, Lagos or Osun State?
I’ve heard so much about you but didn’t get to see you perform…?
I know, the only time I performed recently was a duet I had with Tony Brown. But
other times I had played the saxophone, was in the studio during recording and production.
When was the last time you performed in a show?
It was at the local Church and it happened just last Saturday. I was in the church from 8am to 4.pm performing.
When last did you have sex?
Not long ago, about a week now.
Who did you do it with?
My wife, of course
And do you still have the strength?
(Laughing) Try me out.