At 83, Chris Ajilo is one of the oldest surviving legends of highlife music in Africa. But this is not the news. The story is that 50 years after he released his first album, the Ijebu-Ijesha, Osun State born famous producer is perhaps set to break into the Guinness book of world records by dropping a new album.
The album was produced by Canada based Nigerian artist Beautiful Nubia. He is not only dropping a new album, he is also ready to unveil his first book, The biography of Chris Ajilo. He shares his story with Ogbonna Amadi, our Entertainment Editor. Enjoy;
When and how was the album idea born?
When you do good, one way or the other, no matter how long it takes you, you would reap your harvest. I have Beautiful Nubia (Dr Segun Akinlolu) who is in Canada to thank for this new album. He has done many works both in Nigeria and outside the country; performing music. He came with his uncle once to see me at Ijebu Ijesha. His uncle is a recording engineer who had worked in Afrodisia Studios for many years.
Beautiful Nubia returned home for the first time and presented me with six albums of his music. He narrated the story of the first time he met me in 1996 when I was the managing producer of Premier music. He said I'd offered him my advise and opinion about the album he wanted to record and he went away. But when he came back in 1997, he found out that Prince Ajilo had left Premier music. He found someone else on my seat and lost interest.
He told me this story last year (2011) when he visited me at Ijesha. I told him about my book and the forward that was to be written by Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi. I also told him I have no recorded music to be launched with the book. He assured me we could do it even though he lives in Canada. I thought it was a joke but he was serious.
He made good his promise by inviting me to Ibadan where we started rehearsing with some musicians he works with. A few weeks after the rehearsals, we ended up in a recording studio where the recording engineer was the same uncle that I knew at Afrodisia studios. .
So 50 years after releasing your first album, would you say this is a dream come true?
Yes it is. Although I was convinced it is natural. If I had been bad to him, I wouldn't have got the help he rendered.
And what do you plan to do with royalty you'd earn from the songs?
(laughs) You are a true Nigerian. Well for me, if I have survived up till this age, I don't think adding a million or two to my account would make me more satisfied than with what God has given me. It is not all about the money but the legacy it would leave behind for the young and unborn generation. They would be able to read the book and key into the music in later years. Although the new work contains some of my old and new tracks, I still have many unrecorded songs.
How many of your new tracks are contained in this new album?
If I should mention them, I'd be letting the cat out of the bag.
I know he co-produced with you, but my fear is that he may have adulterated your music?
Just leave that to me. It is my music and as Chris Ajilo, I never impose my self on my artistes. When I was a producer, my job was to direct you to the best sound that can come out of you. He on the other hand did not impose himself on me and I always believe in co-operation. I cannot change who I am. I guess I'm too old to change.
Are you not overwhelmed that you could still perform on stage at 83?
When I go on stage, I am Chris Ajilo and not just an old man. This is the way God created me, I'm a musician by birth and there is a performer inside Ajilo. I love the stage, I love the studio. When I go in, I become a totally different person.
Are you going to perform some of the songs on the day of the album launch?
Why not? I am going to have a band performing with me- the musicians that recorded the music would be there with me. The boys were extremely excited and privileged to have recorded with me. Because of their contributions, the recording was a success. I am very proud of them. I've known some of them many years back and they were very happy.
Lets talk about the book. Would it be controversial?
Look, I am one person that do no believe in washing my dirty linens in public. You have to read the book. It is based on what I have been through in life. I came into the world 2000 and one day after Jesus Christ, he's my brother. Why should I be worried?
You have always talked about leaving a legacy. What about that dream you had about setting up a music school or library, is it dead?
I have been teaching music back to the time I was in England. I have always had a music school. I have taught at the music school in the University of Ibadan. So, it is not just a dream but something I have been into for a long time. When Baba Ani Tajudeed Adepetu was a student of Yabatech, I taught him music and he was with me for many years before joining Fela. Life is good when you do what you love best.