Those who grew up in the 90s and entered town with Tupac and Biggie would think music rivalry started with Get Money and Hit em all but for old school folks like me, the rivalry between those two, even though it ended in their deaths, unfortunately, doesnt even come close to what we experienced between Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister & Alhaji Kollington Ayinla.Barrister and Kollington took rivalry to another level. Before them, people had speculated that there was some rivalry between Juju music megastars, Ebenezer Obey and King Sunny Ade, but that was just healthy competition and I really cant remember either of them coming out in the open to insult the other.
But Kebe n Kwara [Kollington] and Alhaji Agba [Barrister] didnt pull punches. They battled on for decades, their rivalry stoked in part by fans, rumors, banters and controversial recordings, especially by Kollington.
There was no other place this battle was more vicious than in my parents living room. You see, my Dad was a diehard Kollington fan, while My Mum loved Barrister to pieces. So as a child, I grew up listening to music from both of them and learnt the songs whether I wanted to or not. I had no choice in the matter. Whenever my Dad was home, we listened & and danced to Kollington. When he went to work or traveled, Barristers music ruled the household.
Somehow, I took a liking to Barristers blend of Fuji music. I felt he was more philosophical, poetic and matured in his rendition. Kollington on the other hand was more expressive, vulgar but also more entertaining. His brand of music was more danceable and more of alujo in delivery, I think. Their styles was also reflected in the manner they named their albums.
A few examples: For Barrister, there was Barry @40, Fuji Funky, Fuji Garbage Series, Barry Wonder, and New Dimension.
For Kollington: Fuji Ropopo, Ijo Yoyo, Fuji Megastar & American Yankee.
At the height of their war, Barrister, consistent with his style, was always diplomatic in his responses to Kollington. Kollington, on the other hand, couldnt care less. Tact was not one of his strong points. He let Barrister have it at every given opportunity. Although, neither of them ever used the others name in their fights, it was very obvious to keen observers and Fuji aficionados who Kollington was talking to.
They battled over everything; who went on tour first? Who made it to the US of A first?
Who slept with whom first? Everything! And one could tell what the latest bone of contention was. If it was not reflected in the latest album title, you didnt have to listen to more than 5minutes into the new album to figure it out.
Allow me paint some of their battles scenes for you.
Barrister beat Kollington to this one. He went on tour of the Europe and the US long before Kollington. But Kollington wasnt going to allow him any victory party because of that. He promptly released an album and said:
Ile yi la o ti la o [We will become wealthy in this land] X 2ce
Mosalasi won ti ni ko nibii re [The mosque doesnt have to go anywhere to get filled]
Ile yi la o ti la o [We will become wealthy in this land]
However, when Kollington eventually secured VISAS and a sponsor for his overseas tour, he forgot what he said about not having to travel overseas to become wealthy and quickly picked on a part of his rivals American Tour welcome album and used it to spite him.
Barrister had sung about one of his drummers getting lost in Atlanta:
Nigbati a wa Ballinger titi ni Atlanta, taori Ballinger, opelope body pass tomu dani, loje ka foju kan Ballinger.
Paraphrased [But for the body pass that Ballinger had with him in Atlanta, it would have been very difficult to locate him when he got lost]
What was Kollingtons response?
Ko ma seni to soonu ninu wa
Ko mama se ni to soonu ninu wa o
Eja ka wo ran niwon se o
Eja ka wo ran niwon tori ti aba rajo
Ko ma seni to sonu ninu wa
Paraphrased [None of my band members got lost on tour. Never allow yourself to be carried away by sights when you are on a trip] I think?
This particular battle is still on and its been going on forever.
When Barrister visited Disney World, Orlando Florida in the early 80s, he came back home and released an album, singing about all the wonderful things he saw over there, I heard. After the album, the management of Disney World saw an influx of Nigerian tourists at their resort and wondered why. Theyvlater learnt it was because of a song the people had heard back home about Disney world. This eventually led to a university in Orlando honoring Barrister with an honorary doctorate degree in Music. That was how Barrister became Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister.
Not one to be left out, Kollington quickly took on the alias Professor Master after he returned from his trip to the US. No one knew how he got that title.
Over the years, they both have taken on several aliases and titles.
Kollington was at a time General Kollington, a title bestowed on him by IBB after he sang about and created awareness for the Census.
Barrister has been Alhaji Agba, Mr Fuji, Barry Wonder, Legend and he is not through yet.
This is a battle that will outlive both of them. In fact, at moment, practitioners in the Fuji music industry are divided into two camps: those who believe Barrister founded Fuji music and the others.
Barrister claims he evolved and modernized Fuji music, from were music in the early 70s. He once said that he came up with the name Fuji when he saw a poster at an airport advertising Mount Fuji, the highest peak in Japan.
Kollington has another story of how Fuji started and it is completely different from Barristers account.
Would have loved to talk about the battle over the Yeye Oba of Fuji Music [Alhaja Salawa Abeni] but that could generate some roforofo [mud]. I mean what would I gain from talking about who ate whos yam first and what color it was? You wouldnt be interested in that, would you?