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The mystique and legacy of lagbaja

At the turn of the century, few Nigerian artistes captured the imagination like Lagbaja. The nation and the continent at large couldn’t seem to get enough of this masked man whose identity was draped in mystique.

Around and about the year 2000, his hit song ‘Konko Below’ ruled the airwaves and perched atop charts. But Lagbaja was no newcomer. In fact, his career was a journey of many small steps that became giant strides.

Bisade Ologunde, born in Lagos in 1960, is a Nigerian afrobeat musician, singer-songwriter and percussionist. He is widely known as Lágbájá for his signature use of masks which cover his identity. Through his music, he has sparked social consciousness and championed positive change.

Ologunde adopted the name Lágbájá (meaning ‘anonymous’ or ‘faceless one’ in Yoruba) as he embarked on his career in the early 90s. His name was reflected in his choice of stage attire – a slitted textile and rubber mask adopted so that the artist represented the ‘common man’ in keeping with the carnival tradition of his Yoruba tribe.

As is the case with many who embarked on the road less trodden, he had doubts about dedicating his time to music when he made his decision in the 80s.

According to him:

“I was skeptical at the beginning to make music a full time career because I had so many oppositions from family, friends. And on my part, I was nervous.

“As a matter of fact, a friend of mine got me a job with a bank in Kano. And my parents couldn’t understand why I had to go into music after school.

“But it was a gradual thing until I went into serious meditation about life—why am I here? What do I want to do? Would I just choose a life of comfort and income or would I choose my passion?”

This duality conflicted him until he came to the resolution that passion was the answer. The desire to make music was too big to ignore; it loomed over his consciousness.

 

“So, I decided to choose my passion and I decided to do it full time. Then, I went into Lagbaja. So, it was always there. As a matter of fact; the first Lagbaja costume which is what you’ll find on the cover of our first album, the one we called Lagbaja that contains Ikira, Side By Side, and so on. That costume was sewn like in 1985, 1986. The album itself was 1993.”

Fortunately, that passion has paid off in more ways than one. Apart from being responsible for numerous hits such as Konko Below, Nothing For You, Gra Gra, and Never Far Away, he’s also been hailed as one of the most exemplary voices of his generation.

The legend has stayed away from the limelight for the past few years (his last album being 200 Million Mumu from 2012), but don’t be surprised if the masked man makes a rousing return to the forefront of the artform he has dedicated so much to.

 

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