Lanrewaju Adepoju, The Exit of A Yoruba “Lexical Beautician

Yoruba language is a sweet, beautiful language of communication with many tastes depending on coinage, usage, purpose, expression, medium, condition and situation where it’s deployed. No single Yoruba word is meaningless in spoken form, lyrics or rhythm, in content or context.

Lanre Adepoju made Yoruba language sweeter, more beautiful and more tasteful in his simple and complex usage of words as a lyrical poet, author, composer, story teller and a gifted wordsmith.

When I entered Ibadan in 1970 to join my parents, I first “met” Lanrewaju Adepoju in the 70s through his early morning “Ewi”, a unique rendition of Yoruba poetry on radio.

The rectangular redifussion box hung at a corner of my mum’s shop and a radio set in our house at Ode Aje area was our regular “meeting place”. It was however a no feedback encounter. Of course the radio, unlike now, was called “Ero Asoro magbesi”. (no response or feedback from the listeners). Time has indeed changed with science and technology not with fasting and prayer. The radio has gone through many technological revolution where feedback is now very easy and a must through telephone, text message, facebook, whatsapp, instagram and other fast social media means. With on-line audio-visual radio broadcast, it’s becoming difficult to differentiate a radio from television broadcast.

The redifussion box in homes was like a magic box with a lot of myths wooven around it by the elders to taunt children that all those people whose voices we hear live inside the box. The “elders lie” was exposed to me one day when “Boda” Olumide our radio&electric technician came to repair our redifussion box and I saw the bowel of the “magical box” without seeing Lanrewaju Adepoju and others inside the redifussion box. After this revelation, my next curiosity was how did the voices get to the radio box from where they are. Many years after, my curiosity “died” when I worked with NTA Abeokuta, and when I started appearing, presenting and producing programmes on television and radio stations in Lagos, Abeokuta and Ibadan.

However my memory of the magical redifussion box remains, especially its popular time telling drum beats variously translated to: “Tolubadan ba ku, ta ni yio joye” or “ko so losi nibi lo sile keji”. (If the Olubadan dies, who’s next?. “No poor people here go to the next house). Anyway, only the Gangan drummer can correctly interpret his beats. Till the redifussion box” died and buried” in the womb of new technology, there was no consensus on the interpretation of what the drummer said or meant.

There were few indigenous Yoruba Akewi then in Ibadan and its environs who used to dazzle us on radio with concentrated Yoruba language Ewi, courtesy of Western Nigeria Broadcasting Services (Corporation), Radio Nigeria and later Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State, BCOS. aka “Ile Akede” Orita Bashorun joined.

Among these Akewi were Lanrewaju Adepoju, Yemi Elebuibon, Oyewole Olowomojuore and Tunbosun Oladapo. They had a lot of influence on children and adults. My special interest in Yoruba language was enhanced having had a good elementary knowledge of the language with the J. F. Odunjo Alawiye series. I remember scripting some Ewi and read them before the class in my secondary school days to fill up the time before the next lesson.

I still remember the sign off of Baba Elebuibon after his Ewi rendition on the radio then. “E ma ma je ko jo bi ara leti eyin, Yemi lo wi be, Yemi Omo Elebuibon, Emi Ayinde lo so be lewi”. (Don’t let it surprise you, this is the voice of Yemi the son of Elebuibon, saying this message in poetry..)

The core objectives of these brilliant Akewi with their daily rendition were Yoruba cultural revival, moral rectitude, character and integrity moulding, Yoruba virtues of “Omoluabi”, good parentage, respect for elders, good governance, unity in diversity, education and moral teaching among others. They adopted words, ironies, metaphors, moral story telling among others to drive their messages on radio and in recorded albums to the minds of all.

Baba Lanre Adepoju in his heyday, appeared to be the most prolific, daring, courageous and , punchy in his style. He did not suffer fools gladly. And for this he was very prominent and loved for deploying words as tools for social change and combat with his very authoritative, assertive melodious voice. For this, he ran into trouble water on some occasions with the authority, local influential people, those politicians who he didn’t support, and Isese Yoruba traditionalists when he unnecessarily delved into Islamic fundamentalism which I consider as an anti-climax to his former balanced worldview as a poet for all.

The Alasa of Ibadan land, Baba Lanrewaju Adepoju, would forever be remembered as an outstanding Yoruba poet, writer, author of “Ladepo Omo Adanwo” his popular story book, for his dexterity in the usage and beautification of Yoruba language, its values and as a Yoruba culture promoter of his generation. RIP the departed VOICE.
Adeola Soetan

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