On July 11, 2021, the world received news of Olanrewaju Abdul–Ganiu Fasasi a.k.a Sound Sultan’s passing. This writer’s mind was filled with mixed feelings. Grief was chief among my feelings. I suppose many did too.
You see, everytime we hear news of death, an unexplainable introspection hits us. We remember it’ll one day be our turn. As the reality that our whole existence will then be in the minds of others or get forgotten, it breaks our heart . We query the very meaning of a life which eventually us to death and the [crazy] unending cycle that it is. It confuses us, still. We’re left with even more questions. Death becomes something we do not fear, or in another instance, maintain faux bravehood. To that end, we resolve to live life —not exist, but, live. Eat right, be kinder, spend more time with family, be more intentional about love (receive and give it), laugh innocently, travel —whatever made us happy, we would do it. We will create more beautiful memories now, do all the things we were scared off, and go about everyday as though it were our last. Simply living in the moments and wholly enjoying them.
Meanwhile, I had previously found it quite difficult to understand grief or the expression of it. Especially for a person or people I didn’t know personally. And this isn’t to say I lack(ed) empathy. But life happens: teaching us its [hard] lessons; at times when we least expect it.
To many who knew the name [and person], Sound Sultan, he was the musician who gave us the evergreen jam “Mathematics (Jagbajantis)” which was and [would still be] a hit in Nigeria. Here are a few lines from it:
“Everybody, join Jagbajantis
Make we solve mathematics, wey dey dábáru our continent
Oh oh oh
Oyibo say, na BODMAS we go use take solve mathematics
So, follow Jagbajantis
Oya, carry biro
B for Brotherhood (love your neighbor as yourself)
O for Objectivity (Be objective generally)
D for Democracy (No matter how bad it is, it is not military)
M for Modification (Our behavior let’s try to be serious)
A for Accountability (If you been dey chop money, abegi take am easy)
S for Solidarity (United we stand, divided… Ò má shéy o)
This song, released in 2000, brought forward the imbalances in wealth distribution and poverty line in Nigeria, and Africa at large. And this is what Sound Sultan’s music was about —it preached. It was truth.
And his sermons (music) addressed poverty, corruption, bad governance, and societal ills in Nigeria.
I rocked “Mathematics” as a child in the early 2000s. My earliest memory of matching a face to the voice behind that song “Mathematics” were his performance clips in ‘Night Of A Thousand Laughs’ CDs —the ones my elder brother used to buy back in the day. Sound Sultan’s voice was beautiful. There is a video of him singing his classic “Motherland” in an acoustic session with Ndani TV. He sang so well and from deep within for one who started out as a rapper.
Need I add that Sultan was a good songwriter. And boy he could write good songs: from “Mathematics” to “Natural Something”; to “Kokose” featuring WizKid; to “2010 Light Up” featuring M.I Abaga; to “Remember”; and they’d remain so whenever we hear them. The man knew what to dish out at different times. Perhaps, this is a secret behind his longevity in the music industry —making it astonishing that he was 44.
However, beyond the music, Sound Sultan was many things to many different people. Some experienced all of him. Or a fraction of his person and/or gifting. Others saw a tiny bit.
He was a comedian. I suppose we remember his joke about a [certain] love interest, Kate, at Night of A Thousand Laughs. It wasn’t the regular kind of joke a comedian told. This ‘Kate’ joke is told in a particular rhyming pattern, (as though he were spitting bars), yet it made audiences laugh loud. He told it [almost] everywhere he performed at the time.
Like I read in a tribute piece written by Victor Daniel saying:
“To the many boys at Satellite town he was the one who made basketball a game to dream about.
To Tunde Kelani he was the actor.
To Uche Douglas he was the model.”
In like manner, to Kenny Ogungbe he was the lad who in furtherance, endeared Kennis Music to many Nigerians.
To many Nigerian celebrities/entertainers he was the guy who never failed to show up. Even when it was sometimes discomforting for him, he showed up still.
To his brother, Baba Dee, he was more than [business] partner for the Naija Ninja dream. He became Naija Ninja.
Personally, I’ll remember him as human, as one who lived life, and a beautiful voice that evoked depth and reached my core. A man whose smile was as warm as life. Although he was not perfect — as perfection is something none of us can actually attain — the excellence and simplicity he embodied will be remembered. It’ll provide a degree of comfort whenever the thought of him crosses our mind.
It has been over a week since his sad news. I’m listening to “Motherland” —a song he used to remind Nigerians there is no place like home— and it’s sad that I’ll use it to tell Sound Sultan’s story in expression of my grief as I write this. These lines now mean more:
How I wish say
I fit reach you
Anywhere you deeeeey.
Rest in power, king. May Allah be merciful to your soul.