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Baba Sala The Humour Merchant Clocks 80

Posted: May 23, 2015 at 4:19 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Before the Baba Suwes and Ali Babas of this world, there were many plying the art of humour in Nigeria. One of such is Moses Adejumo Olaiya, born May 18, 1935, and popularly known with his stage name of Sanni Lamidi and Baba Sala. The Ijesha-born actor became an octogenarian on Monday this week and he celebrated in a low key with his family in Ibadan

Baba Sala

Baba Sala

Though, he had many of his peers doing similar acts, it was generally agreed that he was the king of comedy in his time. Though his stage performances were in Yoruba language, his Baba Sala was well loved across the country. Laughter he seems to prove is a universal language. It also helped that his performance, similar to Charlie Chaplin. It was more of funny gestures than spoken words. One look at the man, you will immediately burst into laughter.

His most popular costume consist of a sanitary inspection uniform with an oversized bow tie, a huge eye glass frame with no glasses in it, and oversized shoe which never comes off despite the size. Other ‘accessories’ include a ridiculous hat and a pipe in his mouth. He never smoked the pipe.

In those days when entertainment was not big money, Baba Sala was an actual sanitary Inspector in real life. He combined that with an evening job of a thrift collector. But in his heart, he was an entertainer. After all his day job, he would join a band known as The Federal Rhythm where together they sang highlife music. The band remained attained some fame later on before it was disbanded. Among his band’s men was Juju legend, King Sunny Ade.

Baba Sala became a full-time professional theatre comedian in 1969 after he did away with his Moses Olaiya Concert Party which he formed after he disbanded The Federal Rhythm. He then created the Moses Olaiya International Alawada Theatre Limited. The group travelled extensively round Nigerian cities and towns, and even the United States and the United Kingdom, with many brilliantly produced performances which contributed immensely to his popularity as the first-rate artist.

In those days music and drama usually go together. Most theatre troupes had both stage actors, musicians and dancers. Baba Sala happened to be talented in all three. He later moved with the times my creating movies for cinemas and home videos. His major works include,  Orun Mooru (1982), Aare Agbaye (1983), Mosebolatan (1985), Agba Man (1992), and Return Match (1993). In 1985 he also tried his hand with a television drama titled, Tokunbo.

The big fall that slowly but eventually relegated Baba Sala to obscurity, was the piracy of his yet to be released work, Orun Mooru. The film was a sheer work of genius, and Baba Sala had gone ahead to get loans to finish it. But before the work was officially released, It was already being sold in the market and some small cinemas were showing it secretly to their customers. It was a heavy blow for Baba Sala and he lost all his collateral for the loan he got including his houses. He never really did a big project after that.

He had said about the incident, “It affected me seriously because we borrowed money to do the film. The practice then was to borrow money from banks to do our films. The films were often done abroad, unlike today where they use video. The money we used to borrow then was so huge that it required heavy collateral.

That was why my career almost took a dip. But that was how God wanted it. I now see it as a case of a woman killing a snake discovered by a man. It is neither here nor there. What really matter is that the snake is taken care of.”

As he celebrates his birthday, many Nigerians including those who enjoyed the joy and laughter he brought into homes, continue to appreciate and praise him. Many comedians have also acknowledged the inspiration they got from watching Baba Sala’s as children.

Top movie producer and, Fidelis Duker had this to say about the icon, “Baba Sala is an Inspiration and great Nigerian who laid the foundation and footprints on which many of us used to attain the heights we are today. I remember going to Queens Cinema off Airport Kano around 1986 to see Mosebolatan. This great Nigerian is regarded as the father of Modern Nigerian Comedy.”