He was a Nigerian folklore musician, film actor, dramatist, poet, and playwright, renowned for his mastery of storytelling as a cultural custodian who skillfully preserves and promotes Nigeria’s rich heritage through captivating performances.
Jimi Solanke, a native of Ipara-Remo, Ogun State, was born on July 4, 1942, in Lagos. He was fondly called ‘Uncle Jimi’ or ‘Baba Agba’
He attended Olowogbowo Methodist School for his elementary education before proceeding to Odogbolu Grammar School, Ogun State.
Solanke graduated from the University of Ibadan, where he obtained a diploma certificate in drama.
After graduation, Solanke moved to the United States, where he created a drama group called The Africa Review, focusing on African culture.
Members of this group usually put on African clothing, specifically Yoruba costume. They performed in black African schools.
Solanke established himself in Los Angeles, California, where his storytelling career began. He was described as a “master storyteller” by CNN.
In 1986, he returned to Nigeria with three members of the African Review group to work with the Nigerian Television Authority. Then, he came up with Storyland, where he tells stories with the insertion of artistic works by artists. At the same time, he plays his guitar with kids surrounding him, singing and dancing.
Some of his songs include Onile Gogoro, Eje ka jo, Jenrokan, and Na today you come. He also produced albums such as Eke ka jo (Let us Dance), In the Beginning, Ase, Storyteller, America Has Got Magic, Orin Orisa, Multiplicity of Praise, Hidden Gold, and Once Upon a Time.
He starred in several shows on Nigerian Television (NTA) starting from the 1960s to date, including The Bar Beach Show, For Better for Worse, Village Headmaster, Family Scene on Lagos Television (LTV), Children’s Half Hour, Storyland, African Stories on (AIT), and Sango.
He began his professional acting career in 1961 as one of the pioneer members of the Orisun Theatre Group, founded by Wole Soyinka. He was part of the team that made the film of Kongi’s Harvest by Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka.
His reputation earned him the lead role in most of Ola Balogun’s films.
Solanke died at Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital in Sagamu, Nigeria on 5 February 2024, at the age of 81.