LANREWAJU ADEPOJU and His National Akewi Theatre
Ewi is a form of ancient poetry in Yoruba language. Owing to the unwritten aspect of Yoruba history, Ewi was lost in antiquity as the exponents perished with time. But the old men of today are not forgetful of the vacant positions of Ewi chanters in the modern society. They were who kept Yoruba history intact in their compositions in the days of old.
When an Oba (king) was deviating from his ancestors’ path, Ewi singers were around to remind him in their poems what tragedy occured to eminent Obas who made such mistakes in history. The moving cognomen (Oriki) of powerful leaders of the society would not be stimulating until they were chanted in Ewi by the Yoruba men of poetry. What motivated an Oba or a chief to dip his hand deep into his pocket to dish out money for his subjects unmindful of the amount cannot be anything but Ewi.
When an old warrior rose up in a jiffy from his seat and dashed into his strong room to arm himself for a war of revenge, he was being propelled by Ewi.
The arrival, therefore, of Lanrewaju Adepoju as the leading Ewi exponent who Yoruba-land has been fortunate to produce in this century makes both old and young in the land heave a sigh of relief that at last one of the departed souls of Ewi elders has been reincarnated.
Wherever he goes to recite his Ewi, even the old who walk with the aid of a stick won’t be left out of his audience. A radio and TV personality in Nigeria, Mr. Adepoju blends old Ewi with the modern to satisfy the yearnings of Ewi fans.
No doubt, he knows the history of Yorubas in depth and from this draws his materials which by inspiration he transcribes into thought-provoking Ewi. He is not devoid of humor and puns as well. For whenever ‘Lanre’ (as he’s popuIlarly called) decides to make you laugh with his Ewi, you’ll be thoroughly amused and entertained.
It is commendable that this inimitable poet has decided not to go the way of his predecessors. By recording his Ewi, Mr. Adepoju is preserving for generations unborn what Ewi poems are like in our time.
The flautist is reminiscent of the drummers and flautists who used to adorn the palaces of ancient Obas in Yoruba-land, and who could still be located in a few palaces today. The instrumentals accompanying the Ewi compositions encourage listeners to dance to the rhythmic sounds and the Ewi incantations.
Name: Mas’ud Olanrewaju Adepoju
Date of Birth: 30th June, 1940
Parentage: Late Pa Gbadamosi Olajide Adepoju and Alhaja Asmau Adepoju Apinke Adepoju
Education: At school age, picked up profound interest in formal education as a result of inspiration from school-going cousins that visited the village on holidays. Dream went unfulfilled on account of a combination of general poverty and the parents’ lack of faith in the value of Western Education. And so, long after passing school-age, had to combine the rigours of regular family farming with a number of such village vocations as basket weaving and selling of firewood, from which he made reasonable savings. At age 12 – 13, when the savings amounted to one shilling and six pence (1/-6d), a copy of “A B D OLOPE’ was purchased at that price, and with this, a belated start at a private lesson class was made. Having exhausted the book in only five days, bought and studied other preliminary Yoruba Books till able to read and write well. Later moved to the city where he finally had the opportunity to progress at his private studies that subsequently included the English Language. Thus, form the modest start at a village lesson class, all education to date had been through self efforts – without the benefit of formal classroom attendance. Display of innate skill and talent began with the opportunity to serve the WNTV/WNBS as Broadcaster/Producer.
(a) Odd jobs – Houseboy, Newspaper Vendor;
(b) Early Professional undertakings – Barbing Draughtsman-ship and stenography;
(c) Petrol Station Attendant (1962 – 1964);
(d) Freelance Radio Artiste with WNTV/WNBS and NBC (now FRCN) (1964 – 1968)
(e) Proof – Reader (with the defunct People’s Star Press, Publishers of Imole Owuro and Sunday Star) (1968)
(f) Writing of books, full-length and short plays (60s – 70s)
(g) Freelance broadcasting (WNTV/WNBS) and Theatre Art performing (with Egbe Alebiosu led by Adebayo Faleti) (1968 – 70).
(h) Founded the Akewi Theatre Company (1971)
(i) Full-time appointment as programme Producer/Broadcaster, WNTV/WNBS) (1973 – 75).
(j) Founded Lanre Adepoju Records Label (1976) which later became incorporated as Lanrad Records Limited (1982).
(k) Other companies founded are Wisdom Publications and Adepoju Farming Industries Limited.
Marital Status: Married with Children
Philosophy: Fear of God (Through dedication to the service of Allah)
Hobbies: Cycling, Writing, Reading and Travelling
Chieftaincy Titles (a) Alasa of Ibadan Land (1987)
(a) Solidra Award (by Solidra Circle, Lagos) – equivalence of the Oscar and Grammy Awards (1983)
(b) N.T.A. Parade of Stars Awards (1985)
(c) U.S. Based Nigerian Patriotic Association Flague (1987)
(d) Eminence Award (U.S.)
(e) Honourable Fellow of International Chartered World Learned Society U.S.A. (2015)
(a) Three (3) Yoruba books – “ironu Akewi”, “S’Agba di Were”, and “Ladepo Omo Adanwo” – adopted as textbooks up to University level.
(b) Another book – “A Glimpse of Reality” – being a compilation of university lectures and other public speeches.
Countries Visited: Italy, France, Britain, East Germany, U.S.A., Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, Republic of Benin, Sierra Leone, Saudi Arabia
Membership of Board and Association:
(a) Member, Board of Governor, Akuro High School (1977 – 80)
(b) Member, Ibadan United Front
(c) Member, Egbe Onkowe Yoruba (Yoruba Creative Writers Association)
(d) National Chairman, Egbe Akewi Yoruba (Association of Yoruba Poets)
(e) Ibadan Foundation
(f) President, Universal Muslim Brotherhood
(g) Member (Associate) University of Ibadan Senior Staff Club.