The name, Segun Awe may not ring a bell now, but in the early ‘70s, he was a famous guitarist in Chief Ebenezer Obey’s juju band.
In this interview, Awe opens up on his days with Obey and how he left his band in a dramatic fashion, before going solo and finally moving to New York years after. Enjoy it!
Tell us briefly about yourself?
My name is Lawrence Oluwasegun Awe Olola. But many in the music circle call me Segun Awe. I was born in Aiyetoro, Ekiti State.
What was your childhood fantasy?
I did not have any childhood fantasy. I just loved music, especially that of late I.K Dairo who was my idol. I loved him more than any other musician in Nigeria. My love for him still stands today, years after his death. You need to listen to his songs to understand and appreciate his creativity.
Did your parents support your dream of becoming a musician?
Yes, they did morally, and this gave me all the push I needed. My late father wanted to sponsor me to any level. And the golden chance to prove myself came when I played in my school band and when my town’s king invited me to perform during the masquerade festival. This I did several times, playing drums to the delight of all, and that was pretty in my early days in music. Before I left primary school, I joined Dosummu Omoleye’s Juju Band where I did my best. He loved me so much and that’s why he asked me to come along with them to Ibadan when he relocated to the city. But sadly, I could not because I was still in school. However, when I finished, I moved over to Ibadan to join them.
You were also with Ebenezer Obey, how did you join his band?
Many years after, I left Dosummu to join Chief Ebenezer Obey. I joined him in 1973 and together we released so many hits, beginning with Mr. Wise, till 1974 when he started his Inter-reformers Band. We recorded so many hit albums within my five years stay in the band, and it was memorable playing guitar in the band.
But sadly, I had to leave Ebenezer Obey because of a situation that made me feel bad. It all started when he told me that he wanted to stop playing shows because of the fact that his records were selling like hot cakes. This, he disclosed to me exclusively. He may have singled me out for the news because we were so close. To him, he can’t be making good money from record sales and yet be playing shows. According to him, playing gigs was too engaging and wearing him out fast. At that moment, I felt he was about to disband his group, so I decided to go solo. First, I approached Mr. Kayode Erogbogbo, one of our biggest fans. Luckily for me, he promised to buy me some musical equipment and a truck costing about N135,000 which was a big amount then. But I told him not to deal with me through any of his brothers. He agreed and asked me to write down how I would pay him back his money. But to my surprise and disappointment, his brother who was with us that day told late Samson Ogunlade, our band captain everything that transpired between us. Ogunlade immediately got across to Ebenezer Obey who was outside the country then. When Obey heard about it, he was sad and disappointed with me. On his return to Nigeria, he did not hide his disappointment over my plans to leave the band. It was from that moment he changed his behaviour towards me and became very unfriendly.
Obey later employed a young guitarist to understudy me with a view to replace me eventually. One day, he called me and asked me to leave his band. I prostrated and begged him but sadly he had made up his mind. So, I left.
After leaving Obey, what came next?
After quitting Obey’s band, I started my solo career, with Afritonas Music. Luckily, I was able to face all the challenges that came my way squarely. And with time, I began to make headways until I released my first album in 1982.
Can you give us an insight into the challenges you faced at that time?
My main challenge had to do with getting equipment for my shows. The other one had to do with lack of promoters. But since life must continue, I had to start doing the promotions myself. Though, it was killing, I had no choice. I spent money that I didn’t have. I was forced to play free shows in the name of survival
Why did you have to leave Nigeria for America where you spent 12 years?
I had to leave Nigeria because there was the need to overhaul my music, making it to have international standard and appeal. Luckily for me, I got what I wanted in New York after enrolling in a music school. Although, it was not rosy for me as a black man in a white man’s land, I was able to record my latest songs, which were a rework of my past releases.
Are you a member of PMAN?
I used to be a member of PMAN. But I turned my back on the association when I discovered that the members were like politicians. Everybody knows that politicians are hustlers, so why should musicians who should correct them through their music be behaving like them? Honestly, I am ashamed and disappointed.
What’s your definition of beauty and love?
My definition of love and beauty is simple: it’s learning and showing love in the real sense to your partner.
Were these among the qualities you considered before picking a wife?
Good sex to me is part of love. This is because sex is supposed to be part of a woman’s covenant with her partner. She is not suppose to say ‘no’ anytime her husband wants to make love to her. The same thing applies to the husband anytime she makes a move. Nobody should say ‘I am not in the mood today’ because that is not supposed to be. Mood or no mood, you are expected to make yourself available for the sake of love.