By Ogbonna Amadi, Entertainment Editor
For more than thirty-three years, Sunday Are has worked tirelessly to change the fortune of some of the nation’s most successful musicians and not many people know this.
From a humble beginning as a boi boi as he would describe himself, Sunday who is also an accomplished, percussionist and conga player has risen to become one of the nation’s most influential and successful artist managers.
He shares his story with Saturday Vanguard. Read on.
The Asa Story
I love Jazz as you know, so on this I was at the BJs for their monthly Jazz event, when this young lady walked in with Muyiwa Majekodunmi of Jazz Ville.
Before now, I’d managed Jazz Ville for one year, helping them put together some of the most successful shows. She was very small in terms of stature but with a unique talent that I was soon to discover.
She was soon called on stage and after her heart warming performance, she was introduced to me. I gave her my card and the following day on a Monday when she called, I asked her to join me at Anthony in Bisi Olatilo’s office.
And when she came over, we drove out. She told me she wanted to do music but didn’t have any help, nobody to support her.
Then I asked her if she wanted to record in a studio or set up a band because I found out she was a live band potential.
She chose to play to a live audience. It was then I asked her to record songs of some artists she loves. This was necessary because she needed to prove she could do other persons’ song before I’d let her introduce her own songs. So she recorded songs by Lauryn Hill, Tracy Chapman, Bob Marley and others.
But before she could record the songs, I had to take her to Olosha area of Mushin to buy her a fairly used CD recording system because she didn’t have any in the house.
The system was also to serve as her rehearsal equipment.
I believed in her and that’s the same attitude she still has which sells her. I knew she’d make good as an artiste and that’s what everyone sees in her and that’s what is selling her.
I went beyond helping her find her feet, I also financed and set up her first ever band.
The Lagbaja Connection
Every artist I worked with, like Lagbaja- I set up their bands. I met Lagbaja when I was working at Sony Music with Mr. Laolu Akins. If you’d remember, I’d worked earlier with one of the finest bassists ever produced in the country called Majek Fashek.
Lagbaja approached me to help him set up a band. But it took him almost a year to convince me to work with him.
So I set up the band and he started working at Pintos, Jack N Top, Bread and Butter. And when it was time for him to enter into the studio, he came to me and said he wanted to record. I was very happy with that and together we entered Decca studios and recorded his first work. The self titled album was released under Mother Land Records.
And when it was time to record his second album titled Cool Temper, I told him I’d prefer we release the album under a notable label that’ll be able to promote it well.
And that was when Sony Music came to my mind. I chose Sony Music because I was close to them. He argued with me, pointing out that some of the artists on the label like Mike Okri and Adewale Ayuba had the company.
I told him that people who don’t like people eating from them don’t grow. The bottom line was that even if they had to eat from him, they had the network for him to grow. So Sony Music released that album and the rest is history.
I worked with him for six years before I left to do other things. I had to move onto other artists.
I also worked with Miatta Fahnbulleh (A Liberian artist) from my Root Foundation days. I joined Root Foundation in 1979 and paid my dues the hard way.
A few weeks ago, I met my former Oga at Root Foundation, Prince Bola Agba and we started gisting about how I used to carry the band’s drums.
Creating Lagbaja the Masked Man
We had a concept which was to have a faceless human being that can sing, play the instrument and dance. Initially, we were using one of our friends Kunle Ojomo. And at a time, we used different persons to wear the mask. But one day I told Lagbaja that he needed to start wearing the mask. When I told him that he had to start wearing the mask, he was angry at the beginning.
I told him the concept was most suitable for one who plays the instrument and who can also dance. He could sing, dance and play the instrument. But after three months of trying out the mask, he got used to it and now Lagbaja has come to stay. But it took my iron hand to achieve that and I thank God.
In the Beginning
I used to help pack the instrument, like a potter. I used to help them buy food, wash and iron their clothes. And when the African Music School was set up, I used to help them pack their instrument with my bare head and carry them all the way from Oladimeji to Adetola and set them up.
And that’s where I learnt everything I needed to know about musical instruments. And after my tutelage, I moved onto the October Band. But in 1984, the band left with Orlando Julius on a playing tour of America. But that was before his (Orlando Julius’) Adara album was released in 1984. The launching was done at Caban Bamboo owned by Bobby Benson. After the launching, they left with Orlando Julius on playing tour.
I survived. I went back to Richard Cole. We had to take all the things from the house because I was their wife, house boy and everything. I had to go back to Richard Cole because he was also like my boss. He was the band leader of Bongos Ikwue’s Grooves Band. He also produced Oliver De Coque at one point.
I told him my Oga left me behind. So we packed everything from our former house to his.
I started off working at the Face 2 night club and Mandi Brown was the prominent artist in the house then.
Most times, I never saw myself or call myself an artist’s manager. I worked with all of these people and it wasn’t until recently that people started calling me artists manager. As far as I’m concerned, I just like to work and I’m still like that.
Most people don’t really know what I’ve achieved in my life. How would anyone know that I was the one that set up Tunde and Wunmi Obe’s band. How many people know I set up D’Banj and the Mo’hit band.
Nobody remembers that I took Obesere to Sony Music and helped him record Asakasa, O.B.T.K, Mr. Teacher. Nobody knows I worked alongside Laolu Akins, Shina Peters, Wasiu Ayide Marshal and many others.
Majek Fashek, an unfilled dream
I worked with Majek Fashek and we traveled to America together. I was like a manager to Majek but never called myself one. But the band boys respected me for whom I was. I was also playing percussion and managing the band at the same time.
But I found a man named Baba Chico who also played the percussion. I saw him one day at the National Art Theatre after one of our many shows and I got him to join the band and save me from doing the job. I also brought Kofo Man on the talking drum, Tayo Alonge the bassist, Oscar Elimbi.
I can still play my instruments, percussion, conga, drums and handle my engineering work. But I’m yet to see a musician that I can play with.
The only person I’d love to play percussion with is Majek. I love him so much because he’s the only artist that I put all I had in me into his career.
I wanted to achieve something big with him. I wanted to win the Grammy with Majek.
My job isn’t just about making money. I want my name to grow with an artist and the only way to grow with an artist is to win what I wanted him to win. And for him to get to that level and be known all over the world, I was hoping that with Majek, I could achieve the dream. But only God knows what happened. That same love that I had for Majek then is the same love I still have to share with the artists I work with today.
Meeting with Don Jazzy and D’Banj
The same way Majek said he liked the way I work and would want to work with me, so it was with Don Jazzy and D’Banj. D’Banj and Don Jazzy came to me at TBS. When they came, D’Banj prostrated on the ground while Jazzy simply bowed his head.
And that same love I have for them at our first meeting because they showed me respect and humility has remained. They said they wanted me to work with them because people recommended me. And I agreed.
They never told me who it was that recommended me, but our relationship started in 2004. My love for D’Banj dates back to a show we did with the Beenie man at the Lagoon restaurant and they were also there. Again Ruggedman brought him to play on one of my shows for Nigerian Breweries Love Garden carnival. When he performed, I just loved him because he was all energy. So I asked him to send me some materials and we started working without any formal agreement.
But in 2005, they then told me that they’d tried and that I should start working with them on a more permanent basis and that was how it all started.
What joined the Mo Hits crew and I together is more than a contract. What I told them when we had a meeting was for them to give me three years. And two years into the agreement, D’Banj called me to thank me for all I did for them because they’d become successful after only two years. So it’s not about a contract. This is 2011 and we are still together. In fact, D’Banj rehearses in my studio every Wednesday.
No Sunny, No deal with D’Banj
Before anyone reaches D’Banj for any event , he’ll have to come to me first. It’s not about money and it’s not that I’m very rich. Yes I’m rich because I have my God and I’m okay. I just want to see my artistes grow big so that I can be happy
D’Banj’s first break -through was the Power Fist energy drink endorsement. It was worth about N20 million.
Before the deal came, I’m not sure the Mo’ Hit crew was worth up to N3.million. We used to make between 700 and 800 Thousand Naira per show.
Even King Sunny Ade once told that we’ve tried for the industry because I know how I operated with Lagbaja. I try to push musicians up so that people will respect them. I know when all the top artists including King Sunny Ade, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Wasiu Marshal were still collecting like 500 Thousand Naira per show.
I pushed Lagbaja into the N3 million Naira class and that’s what I do for all my artists.
And I thank God that artists can now ask to be paid like N1million today. I remember when I called King Sunny Ade to play at Mother Land and he asked for N1.miilion. When I started to complain, he started abusing me and asking me if that was how much Lagbaja and D’Banj collect.
Discovering Wande Coal and others?
Wande Coal was discovered at the University of Lagos. He’s very talented. I met them at the car park on my way to asking organizers of a show held there when the we’d be performing.
Wande and some guys were in the car park singing and beating their chests to the rhythm of their songs. I took them to Don Jazzy and D’Banj and went about my business.
Before I knew it, Don Jazzy gave Wande Coal his contact and he came to the house. And that’s how we’ve been working together but I made sure they all paid their dues.
If you ask them, they’ll tell you that I do emphasize they learn how to play some musical instrument. D’Banj plays the mouth organ and sometimes he is lazy but I still push him because the mouth organ is very unique.
At the beginning ,I told them the reason I agreed to work with them was because I love their style. So I set up a band for them which was financed by me because I knew that was the only way they could become real musicians.
That’s the reason why they work with me till today because I don’t think they can work with anyone with less experience. They wanted someone they can respect and one who could act tough with them.
The Kanye West Deal.
It was a flexible thing. From the first day, I’d always told them we needed to break into America, to have a deal with an American record label. I remember that the American Star Times published our first show when we toured with Majek Fashek. It was on the front page.
I told them that they had to play live if they really wanted to break into the American community. So we did the collabo with Snoop. We also went for Friend’s Birthday party in Dubai and they met with Kanye. I love D’Banj. He rushed to Kanye and greeted him and introduced himself. Kanye gave him his number and asked him to give him a call.
The real story about that money is that we didn’t have to pay the record label before getting signed on. It has to do with so many things. We’re doing videos, albums with many other artists under the label. We are not paying Kanye West a dime. But we are paying for all our collaborations with other artists and the videos.
It’s a joint business for Mo Hit merging with Good Music for projects. If we hadn’t done it this way, we’ll be signed on and remain like that in the next five years before you could be considered. The deal covers everyone Mo Hit feels they want to work with.