Monday 12 July 2021

Talent hunt encounter with Sound Sultan, 21 years ago

Pius Amolo, presenting 1st Prize to Sound Sultan at NISOFES 2000 Grand Finale, in Lagos. Pic: c/o NIsOFES.

IN the year that Olanrewaju Abdul-Ganiu Fasasi, known by his stage name Sound Sultan, released his debut single, he was one of the contestants at a 2000 edition talent hunt show Nigeria International Song Festival (NISOFES). Born on November 27, 1976, Sultan died July 11, 2021.

Watching young Sound Sultan performed during the Grand Finale of NISOFES at National Arts Theatre, Igannu, Lagos, from my seat as a member of the panel of judges, I had no doubt that a star would emerge in him so soon. Ayodele Lawal, a journalist with PM News and sculptor, Kayode Ogunshola were also among the judges of NISOFES 2000 Grand Finale.

 Yes, a group known as Harmonnies stole the show with their dance steps, which gave them the Grand Prize of NISOFES 2000, but Sultan who won the First Prize in the Afrobeat Category held his head high. 

Led by legendary music promoter, Tessy Sal Allan (1946-2015), NISOFES, held yearly then, was one of the leading national music talent shows in Nigeria. Described as Nigeria's "first musical talent show" NISOFES' 2000 event was the 6th edition.

To assert the fact that he was not exactly in the NISOFES event to compete with anyone, but to showcase his potentials, Sultan released his debut single Jagbajantis in the same year. It was an instant hit on which he built subsequent successful  works 

The sudden death of Sultan evokes reflection on the emergence of Afrobeats in the last 20 years, of which the late artiste belonged in the early generation. Also, NISOFES, regarded then as the  "numero uno" and longest running talent hunt musical event, played a significant role in what is now known as Afrobeats in music parlance. 

While Harmonnies won in the hip-hop category, Sultan in Afrobeat, other participants included Leke Adeniji Julius (hip-hop), Little Sybil (Winner in Highlife category), Ibrahim Taqwai (First Price winner, Reggae) and Surajudeen Canada (1st Prize winner Fuji), among others. Between then and currently, quite a number of young artistes with either Fuji, Highlife or Reggae backgrounds have collapsed their genres into what's now known as Afrobeats, a new form of music different from Afrobeat.

Debuted in 1995 and led by its president, Allan, who died in 2015, NISOFES, during the 2000 edition converged nearly who was who in the Nigerian music scene. At the same event where Sultan and other contestants won prizes, quite a number of established musicians were given various awards.

 Tony Tetuila, Zakki, Alariwo of Africa were physically present to receive their NISOFES Golden Awards while veteran's such as King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Christy Essien Igbokwe, Onyeka Owenu and Pasuma, among others were represented.

At different times, NISOFES had quite a number of top practitioners across disciplines as members of organising committees. Such professionals included top entertainment writer Ladi Ayodeji, artist, Ghariokwu Lemi, among others.

-Tajudeen Sowole is a Lagos-based Art Advisor.



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