Aderupoko the Yoruba comedy legend talks,Ogunde,Duro Ladipo and More.

Aderupoko the Yoruba comedy legend talks,Ogunde,Duro Ladipo and More.

Image of Aderupoko biography

Aderupoko has to rank as one of the greatest Yoruba comedians.Growing up as a child Jacob,Papalolo and Aderupoko cracked me up with laughter many times.I remember in particular being at a party as a child and witnessing them perform live.

You see,in those days of the booming 70s and 80s,the comedians were part of night parties.The moment the musicians performing at the party or occasion takes a break,they will step in.It was great times.I came across this article in This day Paper by Yinka Olatunbosun,and i knew i just had to feature this.Yinka made a mistake though,he labelled Aderupoko as being part of Awada Kerikeri,No he wasn't.Awada Kerikeri was
from the late Ojo Ladipo's Theatre group which featured Baba Mero,Oga Bello,Iya Awero,Baba Mero's wife Sabitiu who died on stage sadly and Baba Aluwe.

Aderupoko became famous under the Ajimajasan Group,along with his sidekicks,Jacob and Papalolo.

 Of course, the name “Aderupoko” which literally translates as “one who overloads a vehicle’’ is a household name for many viewers of Yoruba television drama. Born Kayode Olaiya, this veteran actor-producer, recently, featured in Kunle Afolayan’s soon- to -premiere movie, October 1 in the supporting role as Inspector Afonja. At the various private screenings of the movie facilitated by various corporate organisations, the audience usually reeled with laughter while watching his part and even in anticipation of it. Aderupoko has a certain streak in comedy that is effortless and natural.

Aderupoko attended Ratibi Muslim School before proceeding to Goodwill Grammar School, Ibadan. His foundation for costume building was laid when he learnt sewing and clothes designs. Much later, he obtained a diploma at Obafemi  Awolowo University in a theatre course. “That was where I met the likes of  Kola Oyewo, ’’ he chipped in.

Aderupoko wife.

Although he lives in Ibadan, where he was born, he usually travels around the country and beyond as his schedule demands. At the wrap of a private screening in Lagos last Sunday, this reporter caught up with Aderupoko who insisted that the conversation would run smoothly in Yoruba. Not even the sharp sound of his phone could ebb the flow of the chat which captured his acting career spanning 48 years.

“I began my acting career with WNTV which was established in Ibadan in 1959,” he began. “I joined the station in 1966 with a storytelling programme. Initially, there was no recording of programmes. We often had dry rehearsals in the morning and camera rehearsals in the afternoon. The station would go on air from 4pm till 10pm. That was the nature of broadcasting in that period.

“I was given a 15-minute slot for storytelling. I would gather some children together and narrate the tales from our forefathers about the tortoise, Ijapa and his wife Yanibo; telling them about the clever wiles of Ijapa with the purpose of teaching young children moral lessons. I subsequently met the legendary Hubert Ogunde who also had a Yoruba drama programme on the TV then. In time, I became more interested in his drama than my story telling. Ogunde Theatre group had many members from different parts of the country. Duro Ladipo was from Osogbo and so was Oyin Adejobi but Ogunde was from Ososa, Ijebu.’’

Ogunde group was frequently visiting the television station for recording. Of course, Aderupoko was inspired enough by the group’s performances that he located a similar theatre group in his neighbourhood called Edunkunle Travelling Theatre. Although they were not yet featuring on the television, he joined them, performing at different schools. As a student then, Aderupoko led the drama group in the school. He would take ideas from his travelling theatre experience to complement his effort in the school drama group.

When he left Edunkunle Travelling Theatre, he joined Ola Omonitan Group popularly known as Ajimajasan. The group was also recording on television like Ogunde’s but it was not exactly a comedy series. Moses Olaiya, otherwise known as Baba Sala, pioneered the comedy series on television and he was in such high demand. Of course, he would travel around for performances, and for many weeks, might not be available for fresh episodes. The director of programes at WNTV thought they should have other options other than the Baba Sala’s Alawada. An audition was called to determine other groups who could provide good comic content for the television.
Baba Mero also known as Ojo Ladipo.

“The likes of Duro Ladipo and Ola Omonitan were called for audition but Ajimajasan and Baba Mero were selected. That was how my group, Ajimajasan was renamed Awada group. The programme became rotational between the two selected drama groups. The difference between our group, Awada and Baba Sala’s Alawada is that he was the only comic character in the plots of his drama whereas in ours, every character was funny. For instance, in our drama, Iya Ijebu used to wear weird-looking head ties, Jacob would use a fastening rope as belt while I would paint my teeth in strange colours and dress like an old man; we also had Baba Eleko and Arikuyeri.’’

Aderupoko said the sort of comedy peddled by the group was grounded in moral virtues and lessons on cause and effect. Back then, the television producers would screen the content of the comedy series before it would be broadcast. In all, the actor spent about 12 years with Olaomonitan group before Jesters International was launched in 1980 at Glover Memorial Hall, Ikoyi, Lagos. It was made up of Jacob, Papilolo and Aderupoko. Parallel launch was held at the Obisesan Hall and Premier Hotel, both in Ibadan.

“Sikiru Ayinde was on the bandstand that day,” he recalled. “Before that, it was also King Sunny Ade who brought us to limelight as special appearances during his performances. He got the idea when he travelled to the US and notice that some band had comic sketches in their reserve that add spectacle to performances. We used to sing funny versions of Sunny Ade’s popular songs and people were totally thrilled by those performances. We often got 15 minutes of Sunny Ade’s performance time to do our own show. The mock performances that we staged were done with accompanying improvised musical instruments. We made wooden guitars in mimicry of Sunny Ade’s.’’

Owing to that wide acceptance of the group’s performances, they always travelled with Sunny Ade for all his performances. That they did till February 22, 1987 when Jacob died.

“After that, things were not easy,” he continued. “The government stopped the budgetary allocations for our programme on the television. Then, we had programmes in the state televisions in Ondo, Ogun, Oyo and Lagos where our series were being recorded. But a lot of people thought it was because Jacob died that the series was stopped. Seeing how difficult it was becoming to make ends meet, Papilolo decided to quit acting. I kept enduring until the new crop of home video producers emerged.’’

The actor could barely fund a movie production with the sudden financial mishap occasioned by the defunct series. Unassumingly, he accepted roles, however little it seemed, just so he could continue to register his presence in the movie industry. Gradually, he found my feet again and later got sponsors to produce movies such as Oko Aye, Ayorunbo, Taloloyun. While making a mental note of the movies he had featured, Aderupoko did not struggle with the titles as much as he did with the dates.

“Looking back, I acted in Ogunde’s Aye not in a lead role, though. I can’t remember the year don’t let me misinform you or even confuse the owners of the film. I was in Ade Love, Ija Orogun, Taxi Driver and many more. I acted in Mainframe Productions such as Saworo Ide, Agogo Eewo, Ti Oluwa Nile and Oleku.’’
Aderupoko with Jacob and Papalolo.

The master comedian described the movie October 1 as an outstanding movie adding that the experience he gained as a member of the production team was unprecedented. He eulogised Afolayan for the courage to produce such high budget movie, with state-of-the-art equipment. For him, many movie-makers worry so much about the financial implication of prolonged production that avoidable errors are often overlooked. Aderupoko’s concern for high-budget movie rests on the knowledge that movie producers may not recoup their money as movie pirates feed hungrily and freely on finished works.

“Nigerian government is yet to tackle piracy. Most of the piracy suspects are at large. It is only through private screenings that movie producers can recoup part of their money before it is released into the cinemas. Once it gets to the cinemas, no one can control the distribution of the movie. It is sheer impunity. In some other countries, the movie industry constitutes a big chunk of their commerce and revenue. But for new artistes, I’d say everybody should wait for his or her time. No one should be in a hurry to stardom. Rome was not built in a day.’’

By Yinka Olatunbosun.
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