Alagba Adébáyò Fálétí… The passing of Yorùbá cultural exponent

In a statement issued in Abuja on Monday, the minister said Faleti was a trailblazer and a colossus across many genres, who left an indelible footprint in the Nigerian landscape.


Nigeria’s culture community has been mourning the passing of Alagba Adébáyò Fálétí, since the news of his death broke last Sunday morning at University College Hospital, Ibadan.

First to speak with The Guardian from Fálétí’s residence in Ibadan was the Deputy Director, University Media Centre, University of Ibadan, Mr. Ropo Ewenla, who noted that the mood at his residence was “one of acceptance of the ultimate will of God. A few tears here and there, but the mood is not one of utter sadness. He was prepared for his passing. At the last event we did in his honour, he could not attend, but he had live video streaming from his house, where he announced that it would be his last outing. He was well prepared for his exit.

“It’s a sad passing, but inevitable. I’m happy he lived a good life. He lived an exemplary life. An artist doesn’t die; his works live after him. He has been a great translator, even of Poets, Essayists and Novelists (PEN) Nigeria.”

Award-winning poet and lawyer, Tade Ipadeola, also noted, “Alagba Adébáyò Fálétí, who joined the ranks of the ancestors was a major poet and a lord of the Yorùbá language. Through his many interventions on the page, on stage and on the screen, he has left many landmarks and benchmarks that show that Yorùbá is a language of beauty as well as a veritable vehicle of thought. Baba was a hunter in his heydays. He had a mastery of the English language but one could always tell that his thinking was done in his mother tongue.

“I had the privilege of knowing him in person, he was a gentleman. His politics was entirely progressive and his choices in that arena put him above the crowd. If there is one thing I cherish above all else in his legacy as an artist, it is his total understanding of Yorùbá tones and his deployment of the same. We’re going to miss his personable presence and gentle humour but his works will live on.”

Also, a journalist and performance of Yoruba oral poetry, who Fálétí inspired, Akeem Lasisi, recounted the many areas in which the late Yoruba cultural performer thrived, when he noted, “It’s a huge loss to culture and entertainment industry in Nigeria. I believe that he represented the best, the deepest in cultural performance. He was one of those we can call natural actors in terms of the way he interpreted roles and added value in some of the plays and films he participated. He gave Saworoide, which was produced by Tunde Kilani, life in terms of how he understood and interpreted it.

“Also, he was a very fantastic Yoruba writer, playwright and poet. He was in the class of Olarenwaju Adepoju, Prof. Akinwunmi Ishola and Olatunbosun Oladapo. He was one of the leading Yoruba poets and among the very best in terms of quality of composition and imagination. Personally, he was one of those who influenced some of us, including me.”

Also, professor of theatre arts, Femi Osofisan, described Fálétí’s passing as ‘the loss of a huge treasure’ and lamented that it would be difficult to find his replacement.

In a telephone conversation, the award-winning thespian lamented, “It’s a sad loss of a big treasure of Yoruba culture. He lived a long and fulfilled life. Sadly, we don’t know who is going to replace him.”

Notable filmmaker and singer, Yinka Akanbi, who has worked closely with the late Fálétí, described him as a moving library of Yorùbá culture and tradition. He narrated his first encounter with the dramatist thus, “Our paths crossed twice in my professional life. First in1990 when I played Obe in his Bashorun Gaa, which he directed and when he played Baba Opalaba in Saworoide in 1999.

“You never encounter an elder like Baba Fálétí and go empty-handed. He was so loaded he would rub off on you no matter how brief the encounter. Baba sustained my interest in my culture and taught me a trick or two in acting. He lives in those of us who encountered and experienced him. Baba once told me ‘Obe,’ never hesitate to exploit all your God-given talents, Oloun lo fun o, kii se eniyan.” Thank you, Baba, for your numerous talents. Thank you for being such a giving elder. Thank you for living in us even as you soar on to that summit fit for the CHOICEST OF EAGLES!”

Also, filmmaker, Yinka Ogundaisi, earnestly concluded that his orphan’s status is now complete with the passing of Fálétí. According to him, “With Papa Adebayo Fálétí ‘s transition to the world beyond, I am now officially an “orphan” in the real and reel sense of the word.

“The last of my biological parents, my mum, passed on in 1979 to join my father, who had earlier transited from mother earth in 1976. Papa Adebayo Fálétí and late Buky Ajayi, both played my rich and aristocratic parents in the 1999 movie, Hostess, featuring Gloria Anozie-Young, Clarion Chukwurah, Yomi Obileye and myself in the lead roles. Hostess was a story of a young lady, Vivian (Gloria), graduate of music forced into prostitution by the circumstances of her father’s sudden death. She accidentally met the only son and heir of his parents (Yinka) on his business trip to Lagos. At his presidential hotel room, Remi (Yinka) who was impressed with Vivian (Gloria) dexterity on the piano, which, coupled with her unusual honesty earlier on display at their meeting, had no hesitation to junk his temperamental fiancee, Irene (Clarion) for her. The horrified aristocratic parents (Fálétí and Ajayi) promptly threw their weight behind Irene until her involvement in the criminal offence of kidnapping Vivian came to light.

“We had the reading rehearsal of the movie at the National Theatre and Papa Fálétí, at his own cost, came all the way from Ibadan for the rehearsal (separately from the shoots!) He also refused to stay in the hotel, opting instead for my modest apartment, where we spent the night going through the script, line by line to perfect, in his words, “the colloquials.” He had during the rehearsal given the cast the right pronunciation of “Irene” and when most members disagreed, he simply counselled that we all did whatever we thought was right! No tantrum! But he insisted on his own pronunciation to keep with what he said was “his broadcasting doctrines, even if the younger generations prefer their wrong but entrenched pronounciation!”

Today, those “younger generations” are now in Papa Fálétí ‘s shoes and, hopefully, they also now concede the rights of their own younger generations to them. He suggested and made generous use of traditional costumes for himself to promote our culture and as a major cultural slant of the movie.

“The production overran its budget and, being my first venture after resigning my corporate job with Xerox, this posed a major financial challenge to me. Papa Fálétí (and late Aunty Buky) were the first to volunteer the unpaid balance of their fees. Feeling jittery about how to cope with life after the security of guaranteed monthly salary, Papa guided me with his own story of life after his exit from the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS).

“Aside our common Oyo ancestry, we both spotted the same Oyo facial marks, which made him a natural to play the role of my father. All the credits so far attributed to him weren’t undeserved, but much more so. What remains unknown or so far unspoken about was that late Ade Love’s first (own movie) Ija Ominira (Fight for Freedom) was based on his novel, Omo Olokun Esin and his various single-handed conciliatory roles he played to settle the inevitable professional squabbles amongst our founding theatre lords. For me, he remains a father; always to be remembered as a worthy role model, a cultural icon, a pioneer that proudly held his traditional ancestry amongst his peers, especially at a time when to have facial marks that make the carrier an untouchable. He blazed the trails that I feel proud to have followed and on which tracks I shall remain. May his soul rest in peace!Fálétí acted, wrote, and produced a number of movies, which include Thunderbolt: Magun (2001), Afonja (1 & 2) (2002), Basorun Gaa (2004), and Sawo-Segeri (2005).

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Alagba Adébáyò Fálétí


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