Tunji Oyelana exemplifies the artist whose overdue are rarely sung, and when they are, the profoundness hardly matches the recognition and acclaim he rightly deserves.
But he remains so totally accomplished both as a musician and dramatist that it has become increasingly difficult to identify him with one without the other.
Some of Oyelanas biggest hits include “Guguruperere” and “Enia Bi Aparo” recorded in the 1970’s by EMI Records in a recording career that perhaps began with SegunSofowote ‘s solo production effort.
It was Sofowote who first appreciated the profoundness of Oyelana’s potentials: and he took him on his own in the early days of Afrofushion when Fela Anikulapo spearheaded an Afrobeat relocation. One hand to boost this renaissance at the time were such names as *Johnny Hastrup of Monomono, Blackman Akeeb Kareem, SegunBucknor,* etc.
Basically, Oyelana is an authentic “highlife musician” who, over the years has taken advantage of “Yoruba Folklores” and the “Woro Rhythmic concept” to forge an individual dimension for himself.
Evidence in his highlife music is this indigenous rhythmic elevated contemporary level and given vocal meaning and significance by a voice that has projected songs in various idioms but can now be heard in a matured setting , generating profound feeling.
These qualities are perhaps more evident in For better for stay : For worse for go , an album that up till now still has potential for international success.
Produced by “OdionIruoje” while still at EMI in the 1980s, the album title speaks volume about the reality now that surrounds most marriages that hit the rocks because of the changes in fortunes for bridegroom who are no longer as financially buoyant as they were when marriages were contracted.
He is also in his elements on such traditional highlife renditions as “Igbi Aiye and Oruladugbo”. Two folk songs where singing is giving a dramatic feeling and emotion in order to project the messages.
Other renditions include People of this world and It’s not your fault brother, both are original compositions and vocal delivery.
One also had the opportunity of watching him in actual performance in the early eighties at the campus residence of Professor Wole Soyinka . The occasion was the marriage ceremony of one of the Soyinkas daughter, Oyelana held the audience thrilled, not by the live rendition of his popular hits but by the creative imagination with which he reeled out lyrics with spontaneity. Beautifully laced between organ sounds and rhythm, he ran social commentaries and fitted them into melodies to capture the essence of the ceremony.
“Since Oyelana was discovered by Soyinka in 1960”, he has since integrated him into Soyinkas theatrical group. Playing roles in some of Soyinkas plays like Mask, Beautification of Area Boys, Soyinkas King Baabu, etc. Also his lead role in the television serial, Sura the tailor made him popular.
His music continues to play a vital role in the accomplishment of his drama productions where in collaboration with his mentor, music has been used as a satirical vehicle for condemning corruption in high places , misrule by governments and the institutionalization of social vices.
A case in point is the powerful music behind “Etika Revolution” done by him and Soyinka in 1983 with a session unit referred to as “Unlimited Liability Company Limited”.
The music became popular because it achieved its desired objective of pricking the conscience of the then government and their collaborators, though banned by the authorities, it was in great demand, and as an underground sound , it sold and reflected as a hit on the famous radio Nigeria 2 Top 10 chart.