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Sound Sultan (1976 – 2021)

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Editorial

A striking tribute to singer Sound Sultan by Nigeria’s men’s basketball team before their pre-Olympics game against Australia highlighted the musician’s multidimensionality.  D’Tigers’ players wore white shirts that had pictures of Sound Sultan on the front and his name at the back. A moment of silence in honour of the artiste spoke volumes about his significance. His real name was Olanrewaju Abdul-Ganiu Fasasi. He died of cancer in America on July 11, aged 44.

His passion for basketball was remarkable. He had played the game as a schoolboy and became co-owner of Lagos City Stars, a Lagos-based basketball club and 2017 champions. He was an impactful promoter of the sport, which earned him the notable pre-Olympics posthumous tribute.

He made a name for himself as a singer, songwriter and recording artist. Regarded as one of the pioneers of hip-hop music in Nigeria, he started as a rapper but worked in various music genres including R&B, Afrobeat, soul and Fuji music. He notably observed that artistes should be assessed based on the power of their musical message and not genre.

His music communicated not only melody but also meaning, and he was known for using music as a weapon to fight for social good. He demonstrated social consciousness, employing music to fight against poverty, corruption, bad governance and social ills in Nigeria.

On the 20th anniversary of his hit single Mathematics in 2020, he said in an interview: “I feel sad. I don’t want to be making money from the ills of society. I am not like that. The song was meant to raise awareness and correct some things; that those things are still happening 20 years after makes me sad. That song should have gone extinct by now, but some people have made sure that the song will be evergreen.”

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After his secondary education, he learnt to play the guitar and was in a band by 1999. He studied Geography and Regional Planning, and graduated from Lagos State University in 1999. His first single, Jagbajantis, released in 2000, catapulted him to stardom. He released four albums under Kennis Music.

His dynamism led to a partnership with his elder brother who had influenced him artistically. They founded Naija Ninjas, an organisation that included a record label, production outfit and clothing line. He released Back From The Future (2010) under the new label.  Importantly, he attracted new musical talents and signed artistes such as Karma Da Rapper, Young GreyC, Shawn and Blacka. He inspired and encouraged up-and-coming performers, and helped them to grow.

Sound Sultan collaborated with local and international stars. He was involved in Haitian rapper Wyclef Jean’s Welcome to HaitiCreole 101, with fellow Nigerian artistes 2face Idibia and Faze. He worked with Jean on two other projects: King of My Country (2009) and People Bad (2012).

He was made a UN Ambassador for Peace, in 2012, for his exemplary lifestyle and career. He was not a showy star, and was known for his modesty.  He lived above scandals in an entertainment sphere corrupted by scandals. In 2014, he produced and acted in the comedy movie Head Gone, which featured well-known Nigerian comedians, including Akpororo, Basketmouth and Pappy Luwe. He exhibited yet another dimension of his artistic gifts.

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After a break, he released the rap single Remember in 2015. His eighth and last album was launched on YouTube in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.  ”When the lockdown was on, I had to think fast, I had to do something virtual and at least get the fans informed to let them know that the album is out. It was really a great challenge,” he said, adding, “This is the best time for great thinkers to do the best things differently.” Those were the words of a creative soul. He left a legacy of creativity that transcends the musical stage.

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