Afrojuju, yeah! That’s what it was called. It took the entire nation by storm. Every where you went, it was dancing time, the Shina Peters way! Sir Shina Peters had arrived.
No one saw it coming. Just before he burst on the scene, we [at least westerners in the south west] were all crazy about Fuji Garbage by Barrister. When we discovered afrojuju, we left the garbage where it belonged… the bin of history.
Between 1989, when Shina Peters came out with chart bursting ‘Ace’ and 1993, when he had, in my opinion his last hit album, ‘Mr. President’, Shinamania swept across the nation like wild fire.
Children loved him. Women couldn’t have enough of him and the men; they just couldn’t stop moving to his rhythm. We all danced. We bopped our shoulders, right and left, rhythmically, doing Ijo Shina.
Shina’s brand of Afrojuju was new. It was innovative, fast, danceable and revolutionary. Before Ace, we had not heard juju music played that way. It was music that transcended age, sex, creed, tribe and language. Hausas loved Shina Peters. The Ibos adored him and the Yorubas were proud he was one of their own. But Shina belonged to all of us at that time.
He sang in Igbo. Serenaded us in Hausa and crooned to us in Yoruba. Whenever he could, he also tried to sing in English although that language was not his strong point. He tried anyway.
And it was as if SSP knew he had a good product. A significant part of the ‘Ace’ album was dedicated to him thanking us for wanting to dance to Afrojuju. Somehow, he expected the album was going to be a monster hit. And it was. From then on, there was no stopping him.
He consolidated with Shinamania, his second hit album and riveted his superstar status forever into our memories when he released Dancing tyme. Against all expectations, Dancing tyme was also a hit, silencing his critics once and for all.
SSP sang about everything. He sang about politics, he spoke up for women; he sang gospel music and not so godly music at times. Ok he used raunchy lyrics a lot of times.
He also introduced us to all the young money men of that time. Most of us heard about Femi Otedola and his group of friends for the first time on SSP albums.
Every show promoter wanted SSP in their concerts. His face alone on a poster was sufficient to sell out shows and no party was groovy until we danced to Afrojuju.
Like every true innovation and success story, afrojuju also spawned a lot of counterfeits and wannabes. Many people wanted to be like Shina. But hard as they tried, none of them could reenact SSP’s charm and appeal. Shina Peters was untouchable.
But Shina Peters was also a realist; he knew that nothing lasted forever. He even sang about it. I remember he said
‘Oba me wa, Igba mewa loni ile aiye, enikan o le lo’le aiye gbo’;
This paraphrased means
‘Kingdoms come and kingdoms go, nothing is permanent’.
He knew he wasn’t going to be everyone’s favorite forever. But whilst he was, he took his opportunity, gave it his best and enjoyed himself to the fullest. And we are all grateful he did.