Nigeria: Remembering Sound Sultan's Resounding Music Heritage

16 July 2021

The shocking demise of Olanrewaju Abdul-Ganiyu Fasasi stage-named Sound Sultan signals a dimming light on an era in Nigerian music.

The loss of the gap-toothed musician, rapper and comedian, Sound Sultan on July 11 was a hard hit on fans, colleagues and families albeit not in that order. Everyone loved Sound Sultan- he was approachable, down-to-earth, family-oriented and super-talented. He took Nigerian music to a state of reawakening with the song 'Mathematics.'

The year was 2000- a period when popular music was undergoing some major experiment in Nigeria. Music fans' interest in juju and fuji genres had waned. Also, the proliferation of new private radio stations aided the airing of new sounds made from the elements of hip-hop, pop and indigenous music. Remedies, Paul I.K Dairo, Plantashun Boiz, JJC, Maintain, Wale Thompson, Styl-Plus, Ruggedman and later D'banj are among this generation of music stars who effectively achieved a sweeping cross-over appeal with their music. The playlists on radio, clubs and parties began to favour this kind of music above western songs.

Mathematics also known as 'Jagbajantis' was a game-changer because at that time, most Nigerian hit songs were feel-good music. Like Fela, Ras Kimono, Idris Abdulkareem and others, Sound Sultan perfected the art of making conscious music become street anthems. In the song 'Mathematics,' he gave his own interpretation to BODMAS-a popular Mathematic problem-solving formula stating that 'B stands for Brotherhood, O for Objectivity, D for Democracy, M for Modification, A for Accountability, and S for solidarity to articulate social values. Motherland (2016), an acoustic soul track preaches patriotism.

It was quite ironical and regrettable that the singer had to leave his motherland for the United States of America to seek proper diagnosis and treatment for his condition- Angioimmunoblastic T-Cell Lymphoma, a rare form of cancer. Sadly, he lost the battle to cancer at 44 and was buried according to Islamic rites. The social media was awash with some of his last posts including a video of him with his wife and three children singing together. Sound Sultan was scandal-free and his love for humanity also made his sudden death even more painful.

Sound Sultan's commitment to nurturing music talents was phenomenal. Perhaps, that was his way of passing the baton on the race to greatness. As an aspiring musician, he saved money from hosting shows to book studio sessions. That was the genesis of his hit-making career. After independently releasing other singles and featuring in hit songs of other artists, he was signed by Kennis Music where he released four albums. When his contract expired in 2007, he partnered with Baba Dee to start Naija Ninjas, a parent organization for a record label, production outfit and clothing line. After starting as a rapper, he explored other musical genres from R&B to Afrobeat, soul and Fuji. His protégées include Karma Da Rapper, Young GreyC, Shawn and Blacka.

Sound Sultan would also be remembered for his collaboration with Haitian rapper and producer, Wyclef Jean in the song, 'Proud to be African' featuring 2face Idibia and Faze from Wyclef's Welcome to Haiti: Creole 101 album. They also collaborated on two other projects: "King of My Country" (2009) and "People Bad" (2012). Other collaborations include 'Bushmeat' featuring TuBaba and '2010' (Light Up) featuring M.I. The songs draw government's attention to corruption, abuse of power and other harsh socio-political realities in Nigeria.

His colleagues in the entertainment industry have expressed their grief at the news of his death.

Afrobeat musician, Femi Kuti wrote, "I am shocked and very sad reading this news of the passing of Sound Sultan (He is family). I pray our Creator to give his family strength at this time."

The CEO, Virtual Media Network and former OAP at OGBC 2 and Star FM, Femi Aderibigbe popularly known as Kwame posted:

"To say this one weak me is an understatement! You lived an exceptional and exemplary life."

Another collaborator, the CEO, Black House Media, Adekunle Ayeni also mourned the loss of one of Nigeria's most cerebral music artists.

"We're sending prayers and condolences to the family of Sound Sultan, a long-time BHM friend and collaborator who has sadly shockingly passed on. Sound Sultan's contributions to the development of music, film and sports in Nigeria will forever be remembered and celebrated."

In a message by the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, Sound Sultan is noted for his "strong messages for the Nigerian society through various songs with thematic preoccupations that centre on politics, commitment and service to fatherland, among others."

The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, also declared: "The President notes that Sound Sultan's demise is not only a loss to the Nigerian music industry, but to the country as a whole."

Like the legendary Afrobeat pioneer, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Sound Sultan's music shoves at the conscience of a nation.

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