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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Famous drummer, KWAM 1, shares his thoughts on band dynamics

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Fuji music maestro Wasiu Ayinde Marshal, aka Kwam 1, has finally addressed the allegations levelled against him by his ex-drummer Kunle Ayanlowo of 32 years, who accused him of mistreating and enslaving him.

In an infamous interview published on Agbaletu TV on YouTube, Mr Ayanlowo, who played the talking drum for Kwam 1 between 1990-2022, accused Kwam 1 of maltreatment, likening their relationship to that of a master and a slave.

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The Ibadan-based drummer accused Kwam 1 of withholding his three international passports and impoverishing him for over three decades.

But speaking exclusively with PREMIUM TIMES and a few other journalists at his multi-million naira membership-only resort, The Mayegun Royal in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, on Saturday, KWAM 1 debunked the claims.

Kwam 1 said: “It’s absurd to suggest I treat people like slaves. Ayanlowo has left and comes back several times. He complains a lot; that’s the typical drummer lifestyle. He’s always had a problem with authority. I had to take a stand when he disrespected me publicly by not wearing the band uniform. 

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“He later begged for forgiveness, but I couldn’t reinstate him just like that. He has been a troubleshooter, and he has gone he has come back several times. I’d tell you, of all my bandmen, it is only Ayanlowo that, over seven times, people have come to beg for him to be restored.”

Regarding Ayanlowo’s ‘seized passport’, Kwam 1 was emphatic in his responses.

“Ayanlowo’s passport is with the British High Commission. This is a man for whom I got the passport; he cannot read or write. I did everything for them. He ran away with the passport, not me,” he clarified.

Ayanlowo, who left Kwam 1’s band in 2022, said working with the Fuji star involved more than just apprehension; he lamented his seized passports.

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“As soon as we return to Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, our passports are seized again. Anyone who left the band didn’t leave with their passport,” he alleged.

In his principal’s defence, Kwam 1’s spokesperson, Kunle Rasheed, told this newspaper that when you travel with a band, they often hold onto their passports due to the ‘Japa syndrome’ (a situation whereby band members flee when they travel abroad to perform alongside a renowned singer).

Kwam 1 corroborated Mr Rasheed’s remarks and said that some of his band members flee when they travel overseas to perform. The music star said he took some precautions to mitigate such occurrences.

“I have the majority of them that run away and come back. I know most of them who are not genuinely in love with music. They only showcase what they feel they have talent over, and they have their game plan. They run and come back. I have the majority who fled, and anytime I am abroad, they leave whatever they are doing and go to me. 

“When I go to London, I see the majority of them. For different reasons, people join the band. I have, in many ways, touched people’s lives. Many of them who ran would come back and bring me gifts. If I don’t allow them to go, will there be opportunities for them to return? If I am so bad, would they have been back here? No!” he asked.

When they travelled abroad, Kwam 1 said he consistently applied for a work permit for himself and his band members.

Detailing the genesis of his disputes with Ayanlowo, Kwam 1 said it began when he (the drummer) ran away from the band in England while they were on a tour in the 90s.

He said: “After he fled, he took his passport. Information reaching us later said that during his overstaying in London, he gave the passport to somebody to present the passport at the embassy.

“They changed the head to another person’s head, and the British high commission detected that their interview did not tally with the visa, so they withheld the passport and asked him to call the owner. Haven’t you heard that Shina Peters’ whole band ran away? He did not die, but whatever action they took, they always sent the band leader back.”

On his leadership style, Kwam 1 said he ran his band with integrity. He also drew parallels between one of his longest-serving band members, Fatai Oluperi, and the recalcitrant ones.

The “Adé Orí kin” crooner said, “I’ve built this band from scratch and made the final decisions. But let’s be transparent: fairness and respect are not up for negotiation. You need to have leadership qualities. You must be able to manage people. If your goals align with mine, even if you want to leave, I will try to convince you otherwise. I can change my stance for someone genuinely committed to me.

“Fatai Oluperi has been with me the longest. My band is like an organisation; you join, and if you feel it’s not for you, you opt-out. I run it like someone who loves God and starts a gathering that eventually becomes a church.”

As with most live performers, monetary compensation can be tricky, especially for large bands. However, Kwam 1 said his revenue-sharing formula ensured equity and that every band member was happy at the end of the day.

He said: “From the inception, the agreement between my group and me was 60/40—40 per cent to my band members and 60 per cent to me. But when we became larger, we were now a (15-man band). I thought there should be adjustments in monetary compensation, and I said 50/50, which is fair enough.

“I would do the singing and be the one that would solicit for shows. Sometimes, I perform at shows that I do not even collect anything. You have to use your right hand to wash the left.

Conclusively, Kwam 1 said he has a reward system for his ex-band members and the current ones.

“It is very arrant nonsense for anybody to think that I use people like a slave. Who is serving slaves here? Do you know how often I have sold my things to keep my band afloat? In my band, it’s a standing order that we still pay those who died a long time ago; I have records to show; I have their names and bank accounts, and their family still go to collect whatever money we give to the deceased.

“If we travel abroad, we still pay those who don’t travel; it’s a standing order. I don’t even pay them in naira when I make money abroad; I pay them in dollars based on how we earn it. So, who is enslaving who?” the singer asked.

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