“Mr. Fuji: Barry Wonder: the first episode of the Fuji documentary
Produced and Directed
Professor Saheed Aderinto
Winner of the 2023 Dan David Prize (The world’s largest History prize)
Florida International University, United States
Professor Emerita Karin Barber
University of Birmingham, United Kingdom
This engaging and richly informative documentary explores fújì, one of Nigeria’s most popular musical genres, through the life and work of its founder Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister.
Combining archival photographs and film clips, contemporary performances and interviews with a wide range of the musician’s associates (band members, sound engineers, actors and actresses, family, friends, fújì artists, media scholars, organizers of fan clubs), his expert editing moves quickly and satisfyingly take us through a multitude of facets of “Barry Wonder” art.
These include the historical context of the Nigerian civil war followed by the oil boom; Barrister’s biography, from a disadvantaged childhood to extraordinary fame, wealth and social prominence achieved through the sheer genius of his musical creativity; the history of the fújì musical genre itself; the internal dynamics of the band and Barrister’s relationships with patrons, politicians and the press; Lawyer as husband and father; his last years, illness and death in 2010; and the impressive efforts made by his legions of fans to come together and create lasting memorials.
READ ALSO: The Ayinde Barrister/Ayinla Omowura Saga: Between a Rock and a Hard Place, by Gani Kayode Balogun
The film’s director and producer, Professor Saheed Aderintọ, is a leading cultural historian and authority on Nigerian popular music.
His immersive and participatory research method has yielded notable results in this project. Participants clearly feel comfortable in the interview situation and are given space to craft comments that are both thoughtful and sincere.
Each recorded interview is divided into sections and spread throughout the film, so that by the end you feel like you are getting to know the participants as distinctive and often articulate individuals.
There are also many beautiful performances by fújì artists in Barrister’s honor throughout the film.
Although his approach is detailed and sophisticated, the dominant note is one of respectful admiration for a unique cultural figure.
How he envisioned his own legacy, how people remember him, and how his influence endures are key themes throughout the documentary.
Aderintọ himself not only speaks movingly to the camera about the impact of Barrister’s art, but closes the documentary with a performance of his own poem in praise of fújì. The film is beautifully made and totally captivating – a milestone in the documentation of popular music.
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