In this latest interview with Gbenga Adeniji, Modinat, a daughter to late Fuji legend Sikiru Ayinde Barrister talked her dad’s legacy and the cause of his untimely death.
How was your childhood with your father?
I did not live with my father when I was young. I stayed with my paternal grandmother. But I recall that my father was a very loving man who cared so much for his children. He was very busy though, always travelling within and outside the country for one musical show or the other. But each time I wanted to see him or needed something, I would visit him in his house.
He, however, created time for his children despite his busy schedule. We were very close and he loved me so much. I always stayed with him each time I was on holiday from school and he pampered me so much. Whenever I visited him, he would take time out to advise me about life and how best to live it.
Did he ever visit you while you were in school?
Yes, he used to visit me in school once in a month. I was in a boarding school then and he ensured that he came to meet with my class teacher to know how I was faring academically.
How did your teachers and mates treat you knowing who your father was?
The treatment I received from my teachers and school mates was not really different from the way they related with other pupils. But because my father was a celebrity, one would expect that some special attention would be given to me. He always gave the teachers money and jokingly told them to take care of me. He was particular about my performing well in school.
He loved education and would go to any length to encourage any of his children desiring quality education. The only preferential treatment came from one of my teachers who gave me extra lessons and was always insisting I did all my assignments before deadlines.
People believe he had many wives. How many are they?
(Laughs) I cannot say how many they are but I know of my mother. I know that my mother was one of his wives.
How many are his children?
My mother has three children. My father’s children are many but we know one another. We relate very well too. Whenever we want to discuss some important matters, we come together in my father’s house. Some live in the UK, US and some other parts of the world.
How did he maintain unity among his wives?
My father’s children went to his house whenever they needed anything from him. There was no room for misunderstanding or disagreement among his wives because he took care of everybody.
How has his name helped you?
My father’s name has helped me in a lot of ways. Some of his fans attend my shows because I am his daughter. There was a time I was billed to perform in Ijebu, Ogun State. Before the performance, a man walked up to me and asked if I was related to Barrister. I told him I was Barrister’s daughter. I suspected he had asked somebody who told him I was Barrister’s daughter and he came to confirm.
After confirming, he happily asked me to embrace him and later gave me his complimentary card. He told me that he enjoys my father’s songs and urged me to call him anytime I need anything. But because of my nature, I do not like going to people to seek favours.
How did your father enforce discipline on any child who misbehaved?
My father was not the kind of person who hid his anger. He let any of his children who misbehaved know immediately that he was angry. He did not use the cane or whip. He liked singing to any child who made him angry to show he was not happy with what he or she did.
How close were you to him?
We were very close. There was no time he wanted to speak with my granny (his mother) that he would not first say, ‘Asabi mi nko, mofegbohunomo mi (Where is my Asabi, I want to hear her voice). There was nothing I asked him that he did not give me. Even as a married woman, I was always going to him to advise me.
What was his favourite dressing style?
He liked English and native dresses.
What values did you learn from him?
My father was a peacemaker. He loved people to live in peace and unity and he did not hesitate to continually show this while he was alive. I have learnt from him to encourage people to live in peace. He was also a giver. He gave so much to people. Many people came to his house for one form of assistance or the other and he did what he could for them all without sending anybody away. He hated swear words. He was always uncomfortable whenever people abused one another in his presence.
Which of his songs do you like most?
I like all his songs because he was a great singer. His songs are evergreen, well-composed and very deep.
You are also a singer. Did your father encourage you to take to music?
I would not say he encouraged me to be a musician. I think it was something that came to me naturally even though one could consider that my father’s music career influenced me. My grandmother told me that when I was young, I used to sing whenever I wanted to report anybody who offended me. She said rather than explaining what the offending person did in words, I would say it through songs. I sing Islamic songs. When I told my father in 2000 that I wanted to sing, he told me to wait for my time.
What duet did you do with him?
I featured in his album, Controversy. It was not really a duet, I only did a backup.
How many of your father’s children are singers?
We are two; Barry Showkey and myself, Barry Ti De. I was formerly called Barry Ma De. My father was the one who gave me the stage names.
Where were you when he died?
I was to perform at an event organised by the then Performing Musician Association of Nigeria when my phone rang. A member of his band called me to say he had passed on. I could not believe it and I said, “It cannot be true. My father cannot die.” I was so heartbroken when I confirmed it from family members. I remember that I fainted immediately reality dawned on me that he was truly dead. It was a very sad experience for me.
For how long was he ill?
He was first admitted at a hospital in Surulere, Lagos when his illness started and it was not that he took ill for long. But after some time, he was moved abroad for more medical treatment. While he was in Lagos, I was with him in the hospital before his transfer abroad. He was even calling us from his sick bed abroad, telling us to pray for him.
What did he tell you in the hospital?
My father was optimistic that he would live. He told me with a hope that he would not die so soon. He was a firm believer in prayers and encouraged us to continue praying for him.
What was the nature of his illness?
What I can say about it is that he was diabetic and that was what caused the sickness.
It’s over three years since he died. How has his family been coping?
God has been assisting us in many ways. He has continued to help the family since the death of my father.
Have you ever watched him perform?
Yes, I watched him perform many times. But one of the shows that really impressed me was the one he did in Surulere tagged, Barry Back on Stage. It was a very great show. There was another show he did in Isolo, Lagos. That day, I was thrilled by his enormous talent and composition skill.
What comes to your mind each time you listen to his songs?
His songs make me see him as a prophet. We are also planning to repackage his songs. My brothers are working on that. He never composed before going to the studio. The inspiration to sing often came to him after entering the studio.
How did he relax?
My father enjoyed reading newspapers. He was a very current musician who loved knowing about current affairs both locally and internationally. He also liked locking himself in his room to meditate and on such occasions, no one would be allowed to bother him. He also liked going abroad for relaxation. He did that often especially when he had lengthy musical engagements in the country. Once he ended them, he would travel overseas to rest.
Did he have any special meal?
He loved gbegiri (bean soup), amala (yam flour) and ewedu.
What was his favourite drink?
My father did not like drinking but could take a drink any time he wished.
Which is your favourite among your father’s many nicknames?
I like all of them from Alhaji Agba, Barrister, Barry Wonder to Balogun.
What was his best game?
He liked playing snooker. He was taught by my brothers.
How was his schedule like?
He was a busy person because people were always inviting him to one show or the other. Sometimes, he could travel abroad for musical tour for a month.
How sociable was he?
As a musician he was supposed to honour invitations to parties and he did that. But beyond his musical engagements, it was hard to see my father attending social functions. He was not a party person. I know that he used to stay at home on days that he had no invitations to perform.
Who were his friends?
He had so many people who came to his house when he was alive. Being a very popular singer, many people became his friends but none of them visited his house after his death. We trust nobody except ourselves. My father’s death affected us and it is only God that is assisting us. None of those parading themselves as his friends when he was alive identifies with his family again. But we are not surprised because a Yoruba adage says, ‘Ma se bi iya kole da biya, mase bi baba kole da bi baba (No matter how hard a surrogate mother tries, her love cannot replace the genuine love of a biological mother.)