Dede Mabiaku - An Incredible Story of Life & Arts
A multi-talented Man with an incredible story life and arts, certainly, a man of intricate qualities.
Most of this interview is splendidly spoken in pidgin, a simplified speech used in some parts of Africa between people of different languages it actually could easily be described as our Lingua Franca in this part of the world. It is usually spoken with pleasure and delight.
It all started when I was in primary school, we had a band in the boys scout, I was a drummer, and then I became a cultural troop leader. I carried that interest to Federal government college Warri. Way back in the early seventies, at the secondary school, I was a member of nearly all cultural activities. I left there to study Theater Arts in The University of Jos (78-79). I was a drummer and member of the Palm wine Drinkers club, because of music; I loved the songs. In those days membership was more for camaraderie.
I left Jos and went to University of Benin, still theater Arts. I joined another musical team.
So how did music connect with FELA?
DEDE: When I was offering my Youth service, in Owerri. I worked with a company and put together a band, here is the twist, when I was in Secondary school, my group played one particular format of music, and we were called us the ‘Fela boys’. So now I got to Owerri, the band started, I found out that anytime, I did any of Fela’s numbers, people just went ‘gaga’. We went round the Owerri environs and villages; Olu, Umuahia and so on. I wanted to leave that kind of musical angle behind, because my field of study was Theater Arts and my area of specialization was Film and Television Production. I also loved acting.
Yes. When I came back to Lagos in 1985, we were actively doing Theater. That is Arts for Arts Sake. We were acting full time. As a matter of fact, prior to that time, a group of friends and I, gave our lives to The Theater. I did lead roles in many plays like, “The Lion and the Jewel”, Congi Harvest, Shattering in the Sun by Osofisan, and Oriki of the Grasshopper”. Which we took on tour, and it was sponsored in 1987 by The French Cultural Centre. At that time I was working with The Television Authority as a contract staff, not The Nigerian Television Authority, but I was acting full time and I was in productions too. And then in 1987, there was this competition in Nigeria and I was nominated. I was the first person to ever win an award, for acting in this country; the best Male Actor in Nigeria, then, but I wasn’t really fulfilled. I was soul searching and my old passion came back to meWe went to JAZZ 38 to watch FELA perform, on a Friday and my friend’s, went to tell Tunde Kuboye that they have one friend who could sing. They called me and I sang the track ‘Water’ from Fela’s album. FELA heard me singing and came out from the house, looked at me, with a serious stare. I no go lie, I fear. Then, he gave me a wink. That wink was the sign of approval. That day, we left together to the Shrine. Then, the father-son relationship began. And close to that period was his 50th birthday, so I asked him if I could sing with the band. And instantly, he said, “Baba Ani, any song wey this bobo fit sing, make the band play am with am, oya. Dede, you will sing with the band on my birthday”. And that’s how it started. He became my teacher, my mentor and my friend, my father, guide and my guardian.
From then, I opened all his shows.
His death was really painful.
He had prepared me for his physical exit even before any sign of it was to come, but there was too much pain. The way he was arrested, the way he was treated. All over the world they give regard and respect to those who bring value to their people. FELA continually brought value to Nigeria and Nigerians. FELA has not brought the name of Nigeria down but he has rather put Nigeria on a high pedestal in the world. Why was he treated that way?
I remember our experience was a sad one, when we got to the shrine, after the court had given an injunction that soldiers should quit the shrine and return Fela’s property to him. We got to the shrine and Fela was about to pray by the time we got in there. There were about 10 soldiers.
Yes he prays at the shrine. That is why it is called a shrine. We didn’t call it a shrine because it was a Jive place. We called it a shrine because he was praying there. You know, praying to ‘Olodumare’
We got there, Fela took off his shirt and shoes, and was about to pray, one thing led to another, and the captain ordered both of us to seat on the floor, when we refused, he pointed the gun at me, and threatened to shoot. We sat down on the floor. They de-humanized him in his own shrine.
That was the last time Fela spoke to anybody. He just sealed his lips, refused to talk, or drink water, refused to eat food, refused to do anything.
...subject too emotional...
To young people…
I want young people them to realize that giving up on anything is like giving up on Life itself.
If we give up on Nigeria, we have given up on our own self’s. That’s our identity. Undermining the fact that there has been so much abuse of the system and the running of this same place called Nigeria, there is hope.
You cannot divide yourself and sleep on two beds at the same time. No driver for this world fit drive two motor at the same time.
So, what is all this rush for ill-gotten wealth?
What is all this rush for self destruction which we are developing?
Look back to the villages. We no dey thief. Man go plant, go farm when he carry him yam finish, he go just cover am. Even if someone wants to come and take one yam tuber from there, he go drop the money there. Carry the yam tuber go, when the owner come, he go see the money. That’s how they live in the villages. Typical way the Africans live. Younger ones need to get themselves constructively creative. Those people wey say Education no be anything, make them try illiteracy. Make them no where the value dey. In truth, an educated mind is a developed mind for the future. We must concentrate on self development. Africans are wonderful minds.
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