DIYA OJO’S EXCLUSIVE: “I Sold Firewood As A Boy”




– UK-Based Juju Gospel Music Star,

Diya Ojo

Call him Dr Diya Ojo, you can not be wrong, as an interaction with him for just 30 minutes will prove to you that this man, a genius in music, should be in an higher institution of learning, teaching people the art of music.

Famous for his Jelenke music, it is a fact that this Ijesa man to the core called Diya Ojo, is one of the most talented juju-gospel artistes residing in the UK, if not in the whole of Europe today. He has loads of talents running in his blood; he is a singer, composer, instrumentalist, director, producer, trainer and a music consultant.

This down-to-earth London Academy Of Music, University Of London graduate, who is also a member of the Musicians Union UK; the biggest musicians association in Europe, who rarely grants interviews, played host to Dotun Olanibi in London, where he told OSUN CITIZEN how his career started, the accusation that he sold juju music “secret” to fuji artistes, his humble beginning, why he left Nigeria for the UK years back and other issues. Enjoy reading…

Please tell us how your career in the music industry started?

Good day my dearest Ijesha Citizen, brother and publisher of this great magazine, Osun citizen.
First and foremost I’m happy to grant you this special interview and I am very delighted to know that someone out there recognised and somehow acknowledged what I have done so far within the Nigeria music industry.
My music career started around 1972 as a very little boy who was automatically promoted to the senior choir of Christ Apostolic Church Iperindo via Ilesha because of my troublesome
but huge talent.
I joined Christ Apostolic Church Oke Imole Agbeni in Ibadan (mother church of Christ Apostolic Church Agbala Itura world-wide) under the tutorship of the late Pa. E.O Christopher who again discovered my huge and prolific talent, and taught me how to play organ (church hymns) In 1979.
Not too long again, I was fortunate to meet Professor Wole Adetiran founder of Chamber Music College in Ibadan. I met him during the Cantata of CCC Mokola Ibadan in 1983. He brushed me up theoretically and I obtained some certificates from Royal Schools of Music, London through him.

Can you tell us the big artistes you have worked with home and abroad?
I joined Admiral Dele Abiodun ADAWA Super king’s band in 1991, January 4th to be precise, he was the one who brought me to the limelight by allowing me to perform studio sessions with various artistes who needed my services at that time before I actually became a producer, he is unlike many other big artistes who enslave their musicians and block them from participating in other artistes’ recordings forgetting the fact that they are not apprentices, they are the professionals by their own right.
Some artistes I did session with or produced include; Dr. Sister Bola Are, Queen Salawa Abeni, King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal (K1), Wasiu Alabi Pasuma (Oga nla1), late Chief IK Dairo (MBE),
Pastor JA Adelakun (Ayewa), Evangelist Dr. Ebenezer Obey, Chief Kollington Ayinla Kebe n Kwara, Alhaji Chief Sefiu Alao, (Omo oko), late Evangelist Bayo Adegboyega (Ataye ro bi agogo),
Are Shina Akanni (ar’owo r’ehin-ogo l’orin wa), Alhaji Chief Rasheed Ayinde (Fuji Merenge) , Alhaji Chief Musiliu Haruna Ishola, Sir Shina Peters, Alhaji Chief Abass Akande (Obesere), Asimiyu Ajebori (Omo gba feeder) Good women Choir Ibadan, Mayor Gbenga Adewusi (Hello Olodumare), Iate Ade Olusayo, Late Rev. E.A Akinade (Lion of Judah) just to mention a few . I even participated in Yinka Ayefele’s old era recordings in Ibadan (he was the one who reminded me of that when he came to London in 2005) He is my long time paddy.



What is the reason for your decision to relocate abroad; when did you relocate, where were you and what where you doing in Nigeria before you relocated?

I believe it’s destiny, I came to the UK with K1 for his 1995 European tour on a contractual basis, during this time I remembered Hon. Gbenga Adewusi was in trouble with the single (Babangida Must go) he released. You remember? where he engaged in strong words and music against Nigeria corrupt politicians, which caused lot of problems then to the point that State Security Service personnel were looking for him and all of us that participated in the making of that song, so K1’s EU tour was like life saver for me.
When we returned to Nigeria from the tour after three and a half months, everything has changed. One thing I realised about Nigeria is what we called ‘OUT OF SIGHT IS OUT OF MIND’ People can easily forget you and whatever you have done if you are not around for a little while.
So, i just decided to go back to the UK in search for greener pastures though it was a dream come true.
Before i relocated, I was an electrical installation engineer cum studio session man and director of music in many churches when I was in Nigeria

How do you get your inspiration?
I simply get my inspiration from listening to Sunday morning melody on my granddad’s National Panasonic radio (Long Wave) in Iperindo when I was like 8years old and E.L.W.A Igbaja Kwara State Nigeria sometimes transmitted from Monrovia Liberia.
When I was brought to Ibadan, hearing our church choir singing hymnals with full harmony SATB, it was amazing.
Since then I developed passionate love for gospel hymnals, harmonious songs and I really love complex arrangements, counterpart or exotic movements which you can inject yourself into through classical songs called sacred
I remember I used to go to the Apostolic Faith evening services
in Imale falafia, Ibadan just to go and listen to their hymns played with full Orchestra.

Who are your role models in the music industry?
Mr John Aina of the Apostolic Faith, late Mr Ayo Adeusi CAC, Late PA EO Christopher, Late Chief I.K Dairo, Chris Okotie in his singing days, Tina Turner, Don Williams, Dolly Parton,Rev. Jimmy Swaggart, Rod Stewart, Paul McCartney, Pastor J A Adelakun Ayewa, Late Ambrose Campbell, Kenny Rogers, Adawa Super King Admiral Dele Abiodun, Uncle Laolu Akins and the late Uncle LAK Adeniran just to mention few.

When did you release your first album, what is its title and how many albums do you have to your credit so far?
I released my 1st album titled; Igba Otun (New Dawn) in 1994 under Sony Music Label.
Thanks to Uncle Laolu Akins who took my mixed audio to Chief Mrs Keji Okunowo who instantly fell in love with one of the tracks titled Ko mi l’ona Re (Country). Second and third are Millennium Buzz and Mind the Gap released simultaneously in199. The fourth is Sound Of Time in 2003. Fifth is a Special 40th birthday songs for Dr. Dayo Olomu 2005. Sixth is The Lord is on my Side in 2006. The seventh is coming soon.

There is an allegation by your colleagues in the juju sector that you are responsible for the juju style being copied by Fuji artistes today, how would you react to that?
Well they might be riht in their own perspective but as far as I know, I believe that I did a very good job for Nigeria Fuji music genre and Nigeria music industry in general by raising Fuji music standard which every Fuji musician follows till today. The rhythm I have laid remains the fundamental root/movement of which they (Fuji singer) rest upon when relaying their phrases or chanting people’s names like juju musicians do, its called 1/5.

I bought one book by an author from the eastern part of Nigeria I think he was Sam Akpabot’s I’m not sure, I cannot really remember now. In this book, he narrated and breaks into pieces all African modes, scales and their movements, this really helped me to fine-tune Fuji music tones, though many Fuji singers cannot follow the trend but kudos to K1 and few other Fuji artistes who still maintained the standard that I laid that took Fuji music to where it is today.
For us Juju music artistes, if we looked back, we could see that juju music brand borrowed and added various western instruments into our local ones, emulating, imitating, copying and adapting some western melodies into our products, copied from Big Band, Old blues, Rock and Roll, highlife and so on but that does not crippled those genres simply because they are on top of their games.
Juju music still get higher pay than Fuji music apart from those in politics because Juju music Intellectually still have weight and corporate recognition than Fuji music.
King Sunny Ade is what he is today because of his unrelented effort, research and commitment sleeplessly to develop modern juju music.
The King of world beat himself, KSA brought steel guitar (Hawaii guitar) into Juju music.
Chief Commander Obey once called his music Burlington music; he was the one who first experimented with double bass guitar in Juju music why? They have to; because they were trying to maintain and reinforce Juju music. Trust me their finger prints were all over the place in music world.
Our older juju contemporaries already influenced their sounds with Rhodes piano, xylophone, brass instruments, guitars, double bass etc. Modern contemporary juju music revolution started with Baba aladura late Chief IK Dairo, then Sunny Ade and Baba Obey took it to the next level by adding synthesizer and kits drums to their sound.
How many Juju artistes of today can play tuned instrument to a notable standard? How many of us doing visibility studies on what next to do and where next to go with Juju music?
You can see that juju artistes are now copying Fuji music and Naija hip hop and we forgot the fact that we have totally deviate from our usual creativity and research. Is that my fault?
If you listen to ‘Baba mi ati’ya mi ti so fun mi tele tele . . . eko o gba gbere. . .etc it was a tune taken from one of the Afro western melody. If you listen to the music of the late Pa. Ambrose Campbell who died in Portsmouth 2008, Late Fela Kuti, Pa. Orlando Julius, Eppi Fanio, Lagbaja (Bisade Ologunde), Pa. Tunji Oyelana, late Evangelist Sunny Okosun etc, you can see the flavour of Jazz, blues, soul, Calypso, Brazilian Samba, Soukous, Chacha, Makossa, Congo music, reggae, metal. . .etc, in their music. That’s what I call POWERFUL RESEARCH, TALENT, EDUCATION plus EXPOSURE.
Fuji music only borrowed part of the juju music trend from us and we are off track and gave up.
What we need is more research, education and we should avoid egoism. Sir Shina Peters came out with Afro-juju and was top of the pop for a very long time that was the result of his hard-core research and creativity. If he is from this western part of the world, he would have had great deal and teaching reward for that. (Ethnomusicology).
Naija hip hop of today is more of Juju than so-call hip hop, that’s why they are making waves.
Many of us only listen to what is happening around us and follow the route, sooner or later we will fall out. Let us (Juju musicians) go back to the drawing board, come out with another idea and creativity then I’m sure we will come back even stronger.
For example, in parties of today, people can only enjoy Naija hip hop for one hour or little more after that, they are all back to their seat, but juju music can go on and on if the musician is up to the task.
I have many things to say but I believe this is not the right time or medium to say it all.
Juju music is still leading if you know what I mean, most of Juju musician have at least little knowledge of music, may be basic rudiment of music or playing one or two tuned musical instrument which requires knowledge but as for Fuji, I’m sorry to say that Fuji musicians depend on the ability of their hired professional musicians which I believe retained their squash of juju taste.
Juju artistes should only start panicking when the Fuji music artistes start learning basic rudiments of music, gaining admissions into universities and studying ethnomusicology or relevant courses, knowing and understanding the different between scale and keys, tune and out of tune then juju music will be in deep trouble.

What are the challenges you faced as an artiste and how did you overcome them?
My first challenge was coming back to the UK not knowing where to start from or what to start with. No one can do anything tangible without the right settlement documents but to the glory of God, I have some friends here who gave me courage and financial back up to start my own band. That was the starting point.

As one of the pioneers juju artiste in the UK, how were you able to make juju music acceptable abroad as it is today?
God’s grace and mercy through hard-core effort, I started from my friend Chief Damian Okonkwo and his wife Ronke Okonkwo’s Restaurant (Nigeria Palace) in Upton Park, from there I started taking my music to people’s sitting rooms, with only keyboard, drum, machine, one microphone
and a single 150 watts active speaker sometimes with one talking drummer Mr Owoyemi Odunsi (Topman Music).
One day Hon. Femi Onamusi came to Nigeria Palace and saw me performing there, he came with Segun Alawaye, Tunde Shiyanbola, Peter Black Chief Femi Popoola and few others.
They were so thrilled and impressed when they saw what I was doing with the keyboard, drum machine with talking drummer and a backing vocalist performing like a big band.
From there he asked me to come to his own Restaurant Buka Restaurant in Kilburn high road, there I performed for late Chief Deinde Fernandez, Chief Mrs Ita Giwa, Lady Carol Akinloye and a host of other high dignitaries and then I started going round churches, performing without taking money, from there I started taking territories to the glory of God.
Let me also talk about Perseverance; many a times we have encountered council workers threatening to take our PA system because of noise but endured and continue to impress our fans. Few years after, Juju music was stabilised and steady and I became household name in London.
I am a kind of man who always create and pave ways for others to grow which is the reason why we see many Juju artistes spring up and making waves in London today.

Do you have any regret being a musician?
Not at all, if not because of music talent that God bestowed on me, who am I? Where would I be? Maybe I will be somewhere by now still struggling, though in music there are ups and downs but overall I’m blessed and highly favoured.

How do you spend your leisure time?
I love watching football, I love being with my family, I love listening to music (different genre)
I love taking pictures, I love travelling, in summary I love adventure.

Can you mention some artistes that you trained and are doing well today thereby making you proud of them?
I’m sorry I wouldn’t mention names but there are loads of them, from drummers to keyboardists, to choirs and many young gospels, Juju and Fuji artistes benefited from me as well.

When is your happiest day in life?
The moment I saw my first fruit, i mean when my first child was born.

Apart from your career as a musician, tell us about your
Educational background and your growing up?
I don’t have a solid educational background but I am a self-motivated musicologist who seized the opportunity of knowing Professor Wole Adetiran (theory) and Late Pa. E.O Christopher (Practical) to become what I am today.

In 1978 I was professionally trained on the kits drums by a soldier man who took no nonsense; I acquired a lot of books in Nigeria, reading and reading like professor Wole Soyinka.

My contemporaries are Kayode and Soji Aboyade, Taiwo Olorunfemi, Biodun Adebiyi (Batik), Adeolu Ogunsanya (Prof.), Yinka Akinwande just to mention a few. I was trained as a studio engineer by the late Engr. LAK Adeniran.
May be I would have become DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in music now if I’ve had the support and care of my parent but overall I still have reasons to say thank you Lord.
I thank God for my mother side most especially my mum’s dad who took my burden upon his shoulder and saw me through my primary education.

As a prolific young boy, I was once a wood seller and after my primary school education, I was brought to Ibadan where I was sent to Goodwill electrical engineering Company as an apprentice. I attended Chamber Music College Ibadan 1983-1988, I obtained Grade 4 theory certificate from Royal schools of Music, London in 1984 thanks to Professor Wole Adetiran who pushed me to that level.
I am a member of the Musicians Union UK, the biggest musicians’ association in Europe. I attended Adult College Dagenham, London in 1998. I attended series of music trainings and symposiums here in the UK.

I am a motherless child that has no parental care or guidance from the age of 2yrs. After the dead of my Mum, things never remain the same, no adequate care for omo oku orun, this made my life journey slow and hard but it was a steady and glorious one in the end. I am a music promoter and active/prominent Juju/gospel artiste here in the UK. I’m also a security/CCTV operator in a reputable hospital here in UK.

What is your message to Jelenke music lovers all over the world?
I will like to say a BIG thank you to all my fans around the world, without them no Jelenke. I appreciate their enormous support right from the scratch till date.
I will continue to play the music and the rhythms you all love which is Jelenke Rhythms.
Though its been a while that I have released albums, its due to ups and downs that most of you already know but I’m assuring you that there are loads of songs in the making and very soon I will start rolling them out.

As you all know that my primary call is into gospel music, this genre with not be left out. I will soon if not this December release my gospel single while the rest songs are still cooking. Thank you very much for believing in my talent and God bless you all.


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