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African Music Legend: Lagbaja

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Nigeria as a leading country in African development, be it in arts or sciences, has produced several musical legends who through their innovations and outstanding exhibition of creative immagination have made a name for themselves, their families, country and indelibly imprinted the African continent on the global musical map. Such is the journey of the Masked One (Lagbaja) who through his own determination is today considered as an African legend not only in Nigeria but in the world. Born Bisade Ologunde in Lagos, Lagbaja is a masked Nigerian Afrobeat musician. According to him, his mask which he wears during stage performances or in music videos, is a representation of man’s facelessness. Lágbájá is a Yoruba word meaning "nobody in particular". It depicts the anonymity of the 'common man'. The mask and the name symbolize the faceless and the voiceless in the society, particularly in Africa. He is also known as "Omo baba mu'ko mu'ko" lagbja2 Though the concept of his name and what he represents was developed long before, his first album titled 'Lagbaja' was released to national acclaim in 1993. Over the years and more albums later, the music continues to fascinate with its unique focus on a core of African drums. His music is a product of various influences ranging from traditional Yoruba music to Jazz. Often, the music is purely instrumental- an interplay between traditional Yoruba percussion, drums, chants, western instruments, and especially the saxophone. When there are lyrics, they are primarily sung in Yoruba, English or a blend of the two as is colloquially spoken in Yoruba cities. Many of his songs dwell on serious social issues, while others simply entertain. Some compositions are often done primarily for dancing, informing the audience of lengthy dance numbers, while other songs address complex social issues through biting wit made palatable by disarming parables, irony, and multilingual puns. Meanwhile, one thing that links all the songs together is his use of traditional African drums. Traditional Yoruba drums are the most prominent. Four families of these drums are employed in creating different grooves and moods. The dundun/gangan family is the most prominent and at times up to five drummers combine all the various components to create the polyrhythms. The bata ensemble is led by two musicians who alternate between soft high toned driving rhythms with their omele bata, and thunderous loud talk with their mum drum- iya ilu. The general percussionist leads the sakara drum ensemble. The fourth family, used as the backbone of the groove is the ogido, a derivative of the ancient gbedu. The ensemble of drummers constitute the larger part of the band. Vocalists and western instrumentalists make up the rest. Lagbaja Lagbaja’s groovy fusion has been referred to as afrojazz, afrobeat, higherlife and afropop until now that he himself has christened the music AFRICANO, alluding mostly to the central role of African drums and grooves in his music. In March 1997, Lagbaja established his club, 'Motherlan' in the heart of Ikeja in Lagos. Motherlan’s design is influenced by the traditional African town or market square, where people gather under the moonlight for ceremonies and artistic events like dance, music, story telling, wrestling etc. He has therefore received several awards for his unwavering loyalty to African traditional displays carrying along music lovers from different ages and clans inspite of his yoruba affiliation. Such awards also include the 2006 Channel O Music Video Awards for Best Male Video (“Never Far Away“) among others.   Written by: Azeez Sanusi

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