Vanessa Obioha pays tribute to the late musician Sound Sultan whose imprints in the music industry, she writes, will remain indelible
We met almost three years ago at FESTAC Town in Lagos, a few days after he celebrated his 18th anniversary with a musical ‘Jungle Story’. Before we began the interview, a fan walked up to us and asked for a selfie. Without airs, he indulged the fan, allowing him to have a memento of him to cherish always. Unlike that fan, I never bothered to take a selfie with him, maybe because of my belief that stars live forever in our hearts.
Yet, when the news broke that Olarenwaju Fasasi, popularly known as Sound Sultan passed on Sunday morning, a part of me shattered and I kept replaying my last interview with him. It was the first time I had a close encounter with him, seeing through the artiste whose songs were part of my adolescent memories.
Back then in school, my classmates and I would sing ‘Mathematics’ during breaks, admiring the creative way he applied the popular Mathematics acronym ‘BODMAS’ in his lyrics. It was those early days of Plantashun Bois and Remedies, but Sultan, encouraged by his brother Baba Dee, came into the spotlight with that song. The import of that song on the Nigerian economy was vague to my classmates and me at the time but over the years, I would come to appreciate Sultan as an unconventional storyteller. From ‘Motherland’, ‘Hello Baale’ to ‘Ole (Bushmeat)’, Sultan told stories of patriotism, love and hope. His musical ‘Jungle Story’ captured the political, social and economic happenings in the country.
Since his passing, ‘unassuming’, ‘humble’ are the words that many have described him with. Words poured out from the old and young, including Richard Mofe-Damijo, who featured in ‘Jungle Story’.
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in a statement described him as a bundle of talents who used “his God-given gift to advance the course of mankind.”
The All Africa Music Awards (AFRIMA) in a statement described him as “a prime example of a shining star and a powerful voice of African music. His dedication to the craft was impossible to miss.”
THISDAY Group Politics Editor, Nseobong Okon-Ekong who had many encounters with him during his time as an entertainment and lifestyle journalist regarded him as “calm, friendly and unassuming. He had no airs of a celebrity about him. He had a certain warmth and charm which came directly from his heart. His talent cuts across many entertainment genres. That is why he was very well respected by those who were ahead of him in the industry and equally admired by the younger generation of entertainers.”
Sultan lived a life that was not mired in controversies. One can arguably say he lived simply. He didn’t belong to the class of celebrities who show off their wealth on social media. His modesty made him stay in his neighbourhood FESTAC, instead of moving to Lekki where most A-list celebrities usually reside. To be sure, he could afford to live there but like he told me in 2018: “I don’t judge by how high. I judge by how long.”
While he entertained fans with his music, he also empowered up and coming musicians with the launch of Naija Ninja, a record label he founded with his brother Baba Dee. He dabbled into movies too with films such as ‘Head Gone’.
Beyond his music, he was known on the basketball field. He even had his own team, Lagos City Stars.
Sultan’s head was filled with witty and decent rib crackers that often sent those who kept his company into fits of uncontrollable laughter.
Now united with mother earth, Sultan will remain indelible in our memories. He is indeed the fine wine he thought himself to be, even though his life was cut short by Angioimmunoblastic T-Cell Lymphoma — a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, which is a group of related malignancies (cancers) that affect the lymphatic system (lymphomas) — at age 44. This disease with a tongue-twisting, jawbreaking name is one Sultan would wrap a comedy skit around if he had survived it. Who knows, he might just be laughing as he journeys to the Great Beyond.