Like a soaring eagle, his fame hit the airwaves of the Nigerian juju music arena like a wild bush fire in the harmattan. This was from the early 70s to the 80s. The fame of septuagenarian juju maestro, Akanni Peters, aka, Emperor Pick Peters, however took an abrupt descent onto the dusty carpet of obscurity at the early part of the 80s.
Ranking among the top five with the likes of King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Ahuja Bello and Dele Abiodun, Emperor Peter’s fame was boosted by his orchestrated squabble between him and King Sunny Ade which later involved Dele Abiodun and led to series of abuse laden album that sold like hot cakes in those days.
In a chanced interview recently, Emperor Peters, who now lives from hand to mouth, told OrijoReporter, that the sad story of his journey from stardom to obscurity began in 1979.
According to him, “that was the day my promoter, Chief Bolariinwa Abioro, seized my entire musical instrument in 1979. Abioro was the CEO of my recording studio. Not only that, he seized the car and the bus they bought for me.”
On what led to Abioro’s decision that turned over the sad episode of his life, he has these to say: “He claimed that I breached the contract we had; which was not true. The car and the bus were given to me on installment and I had waxed four records in his studio without royalty. I built a house then and he wanted me to use it as collateral and I refused because the facilities we took from him is on the name of the organisation and not on my name.
“I told him that was not part of our agreement. He was not satisfied with my stance and he decided to reach for the big axe. He seized the instrument and gave them to my parker, Wale Abiodun, to lead my other boys. I can never forget that experience. It is unforgettable,” he said.
Peters who now lives in Ipaja, a Lagos suburb, said he was unable just as he was not keen to having other business saves music. As such, he lives on occasional invitation to play at ceremonies as well as ‘jumps.’
“I am a born artist. Music saturates in my veins. I did not learn music under anybody. I learnt guitar by picking the rhythm and that is where the name ‘Pick’ derived from. I don’t have any other business aside music. I am also a producer. I produce other musicians too. I do outside shows and play in ceremonies to earn my living,” he said.
Excerpts of interview:
My musical carrier kicked off when I was laid off at Pfizer Products where I was working then. Though I had had flair for music while in Pfizer, I did not pick it as a carrier until we were laid off in 1969.
When we were laid off, we were paid some money as severance benefit. It was this money I used to buy my first set of musical instruments which included guitar, local drums and all. It was with these set of instrument I started the musical career. I first moved to Boundary Hotel to perform musical shows. From Boundary Hotel, I moved to Temi Ogbe Hotel before I finally settled at Lido Bar, opposite Fela’s shrine, all in Idi Oro, Lagos
How the name Emperor Pick Peter came about?
It was Lido Bar that actually sold me to the world. In those days, it was only the Afro music king, Fela Ransome Kuti and I that ruled Idi Oro. He was playing at his shrine while I play directly opposite him at Lido Bar. I can vividly remember the day he met me, He was so happy and he said he wanted to bless me. He bought three bottles of local gin, palm oil and other things to perform the blessing. That day, Fela dipped his hands in his pocket, brought out money and sprayed me as I was singing. He said that was the first and the last time he would do such thing. He saw the Volvo station Wagon that I wa using then and was so impressed. The second day, he went to Briscoe Motors to buy the type of Volvo; he bought Mercedes Benz and other expensive cars. He used the Mercedes Benz to carry refuse.
The quarrel with King Sunny Ade?
There was never a time I have any misunderstanding with King Sunny Ade. He has always been my big brother and friend and our relationship has ever been cordial You see, all those things were cooked up by our fans. I can remember that it all started with a rumour that I cornered Sunny Ade’s contract with TYC African Songs, his recording studio then
Is that true?
There was no iota of truth in that. What happened was that King Sunny Ade breached the contract he signed with the recording company and they had to stop the contract.
Connecting TYC African Songs as his recording studio?
TYC African Songs discovered me at Lido Bar where I was doing my show. They gave me appointment and we discussed. I gave then conditions that they should buy a new set of musical instrument for me and a Kombi bus. They agreed and we took off from there
What led to “E kilo fomo Ode” (Warn this son of a hunter. Emperor Peter’s nick name is ‘son of a hunter.’)?
That music was not directed at me. Infact, Sunny Ade was not the originator of that music was sang by Ambrose Campbell in a three minutes track. When Sunny waxed the record in 1974, a lot of journalists besieged my house to ask question on the track and I told them it was not directed at me. I am a close ally of Sunny Ade. As at that time, I was a frequent sight at his rented apartment on Igbobi Sabe Street, off Ikorodu Road. So there is no way he would direct such music at me. It was Ambrose Campbell’s song and Sunny paid royalty to him in Great Britain after waxing the music. He confirmed all these by himself (Sunny Ade).
Genesis of the rumour?
It all started in 1975 when I was to play with Dele Abiodun at a burial ceremony at Ita faaji in Lagos Island. Dele Abiodun was there before me because I had an earlier show in Ogun State. So, on getting there, I met Dele and we exchanged greetings. We drank and eat together and arranged to play one hour each so that the place would not be too polluted. But my friend mounted the stage and started abusing me. It was at that event he came with his popular track, “o jebi o jebi omo ode” (The son of the hunter is guilty). When my fans heard this, they came to me and insisted I must fire back or they back out as my fan and join Dele Abiodun’s fan. I was confused because I was not prepared for all that.
I was confused totally. I took a bottle of Rum and entered my band boys’ civilian bus and emptied it. I then prayed to God to give me inspiration to counter Dele Abiodun. I don’t attend church but God has always been answering my prayers. Suddenly I was in a trance and the inspiration came. I heard: ‘Ejuba fomo Ode – Pters –Imanamana ile ogun….’. I quickly gathered my boys together and we did 10 minutes rehearsal before mounting the stage. The uproar was much. I did not stop from 10pm when I mounted the stage till 9am the following morning as all that were present, including the celebrants were all carried away.
Sunny Ade’s response to squabble?
Oh yes, he went into the studio to wax another record so that Dele abiodun would not let people believe he was attacking me. That was when he came out with “Ode ma ti pogidan soko, oju ti babalawo won, to ni ode yi o pa eku” (The hunter has made great exploit, shame on the soothsayer who says the hunter would not kill a rat).
Relationship with Sunny Ade, these days?
It is as cordial as ever. If I want to see him now, I will see him. We are very cordial friends.
Advise for today’s musicians?
We have really worked for them. They came to meet a lot in our reservoir which they now use to build up their music. I will advise that they should also work hard for the coming generation to lean on. They should not allow computer to ruin them. I am almost 70 years old now and I still play my guitar. In our days, we play analogue. I can play almost all musical instruments.
Any plan to release an album to lighten up your fans soon?
I waxed one last year, titled ‘iyanu’. In 2012 too, I came up with one christened ‘Igba Otun.’ Another one will be coming this year. What I want to do now is to release the video clips of the albums so as to give them ample publicity.
By Gboyega Adeoye