In recent times many of Nigeria’s most prominent musical exports have missed out on bagging globally acclaimed and much coveted awards. One of the reasons for this despite the growing popularity of Nigeria’s Afrobeats sound is that award giving platforms like the Grammys and Oscars require the recordings or entries in the category most African artists get nominated for, to be recorded primarily in indigenous languages. That is clearly something many of them fail to do and it is likely the drought in that area may continue for a while. Not so for the great man who is the subject of this piece.
In the great African nation of Nigeria, the most populous black nation in the world, there is a unique genre of music, danceable with its peculiar rhythms and almost spiritual tug at the hearts of the Yoruba peoples. Distinct from Afrobeats, it is loved across Africa, North America, the Caribbean, Europe and even Asia. That genre is Fuji music and perhaps its most popular and most successful export, a man proclaimed as King with an impressive discography to match, may in addition to his long list of deserved awards, laurels and titles, add “Grammy Award winner” to the list.
That man named Wasiu Ayinde Adewale Omogbolahan Olasukanmi Anifowoshe by his parents, is more popularly known today as King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall, KWAM 1 or K1 De Ultimate. To say that he is an accomplished man and a musical icon would be stating the obvious. Ironically his parents had opposed his decision to pursue a career in music. Looking at his life today, it is clear that he was destined to do what he does, and not just do it but excel at it.
In January 2020, K1 De Ultimate was conferred with yet another traditional title. This one was particularly significant because of who bestowed it on him. The Alaafin of Oyo himself, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III on the occasion of the 49th anniversary of his coronation honoured him with the title of first Mayegun of Yorubaland. This is of great significance given the historicity of the Oyo Empire and its pride of place in Yorubaland. The revered monarch stated King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall deserved it having distinguished himself as a focused musician who had consistently improved since the beginning of his music career. He also mentioned that the honour was in the offing for well over a decade and that it had now been given with the approval of the ancestors, adding that he had observed him for 30 years before coming to the conclusion that he deserved to be so honoured. On the day the investiture was done, it was a spectacle that attracted people from all walks of life. Even President Muhammadu Buhari sent a representative in the person of Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture. Vice President Yemi Osibajo was represented by Senator Babafemi Ojodu and in attendance was Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola. The prime monarch in all of Yorubaland, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi was present and it added the imprimatur of Oduduwa’s endorsement to the honour that K1 De Ultimate had received.
The life of King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall is evidence that humility pays off and that The Almighty favours the humble. Fuji music was birthed by the late great Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister. Young Wasiu -K1 as we know him today- had the privilege of serving under him and being mentored by the pioneer of the genre that would eventually bring him fame and fortune. He began by being the one to pack up musical instruments and equipment after his mentor’s performances. He rose through the ranks to become a member of Ayinde Barrister’s “Supreme Fuji Commanders” band, and even became his manager for his road shows. Out of love for his mentor, he adopted and incorporated the name “Ayinde” into his names with the blessing of the man. Today he has become acclaimed as the King of Fuji music and an iconic custodian of Yoruba culture.
Today, with an astounding discography of nearly 50 studio albums to his credit spanning from the early 1980s and a pervasive influence that traverses music, politics and business, K1 De Ultimate is a legend no doubt. To many young people at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder and to whom the success of the likes of Jay Z and P Diddy seems far-fetched, he is the closest, most relatable of a rags-to-riches success story. Now in his 60s and with several awards and accolades under his belt including notably the City Peoples Lifetime Achievement Award and being inducted into the Hall of Fame at Hip TV’s Headies Awards, it is inspiring to see him influence business, politics and government.
Far from just being an act prancing stages at political campaign rallies which many musicians these days have sadly become, King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall is highly respected as a political leader and has access to the highest levels of government in Nigeria and some other African nations. His uncanny ability to back the right horse in election cycles as he did in backing the current Osun State governor and especially Governor Babajide Sanwoolu of Lagos (donating 15 vehicles to his campaign in the run-up to the last election) has amplified his strength and will see to it that beyond music and entertainment, he is respected as a leader. He may not seek to become king in politics by vying for elections and there is nothing stopping him from doing so but he is definitely a kingmaker. In the most populous black nation in the world, not one musician before him has attained the kind of multidimensional success and influence that K1 De Ultimate has. It is likely that his life and legacy will be someday be the subject of academic research and intellectual study in public and private institutions. He may have begun with a job similar to the Pied Piper but now instead of being paid to play the tunes, he may very well be playing his own tunes on his terms.
Congratulations and Happy One Year Anniversary to the Mayegun of Yorubaland, the one and only King Wasiu Ayinde Marshall.