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Why I follow in my father’s footsteps’

Source: Edozie Udeze/nathion -
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Emmanuel Adejumo who goes by the stage name Boy Salah is the son of renowned artiste and comedian, Moses Adejumo, alias Baba Salah. In this chat with Edozie Udeze, he explains why he has chosen to continue from where his father stopped and more

He comes from a family of artistes, a family where dance, acting, singing and even the playing of drums have consistently become a way of life. Emmanuel Adejumo, who goes by the stage name Boy Salah is the son of the legendary stage artiste and comedian, Moses Adejumo, alias Baba Salah. The peculiar thing about Boy Salah is that he does not need to wear himself out too much to resemble his old man on stage.

He is a natural artiste in terms of the way he carries himself in and out of stage. His striking resemblance of his father captures and defines his whole artistic essences. His power of elocution as well as his mannerisms point to the fact that Baba Salah truly sired him. Emmanuel is indeed at home with the principles of theatre.

At the National Troupe of Nigeria (NTN) where he has operated in different categories as an artiste, Emmanuel is a well-known figure. Most often when he is expected to do a solo on stage, he does so, wearing that same type of make-up and costume for which his father was known. Adorned in an oversized spectacle and a huge smoking pipe he often captures the picture of the man he sets out to imitate. Emmanuel is simply maverick and quintessential, once he is set to entertain the audience.

At the moment, he is with the department of Music of the National Troupe, where, only last weekend, he conducted the Easter Musical Festival put together by the Troupe. While he did so, he was just in character, naturally doing what he said, “I love to do this all the time. Today, I sang one of the tracks in my musical album. That shows too that I am both a singer, a performer and a drummer,” he said.

He went on to say that the name Baba Salah has been opening so many doors for him. “Oh, yes, it is a well-known name among the artistes community and it has been helping me so far to do my act. The concept of Boy Salah is for me to dress like my father and do my bit on stage. Even as a singer, this make-up helps to attract attention to myself,” he said.

A multi-talented artiste, he was first employed as a dancer, later he became proficient as a keyboardist. Today he has been posted to the music department where he is expected to be more useful and relevant to rebuild the place for NTN. “Apart from all these, I love to dance all the time. Even though acting has formed the greater part of my life, dancing gives me much joy,” he enthused.

Some of his brothers who are artistes include Lanre Adejumo, Muyiwa Adejumo and Smart Adejumo. “All of them are good comedians like our dad. One good thing about us is that we do our acting naturally and people really get to see the effect of our dad's profession in us.”

Professionally, Emmanuel has been into acting for close to thirty years. They were years when he said he was truly involved to make people relax and enjoy total theatre. “I am quite happy now because National Troupe of Nigeria is where an artiste is given the opportunity to exhibit his talent. The current director is so good at it. He wants every artiste to excel in his area of interest. To me, this is one of the best ways to encourage all of us to develop and be who we want to be.”

Talent, to Emmanuel, is what is inherent in everybody. “All we do at the NTN is to allow these talent to build in such a way that we can become big artistes tomorrow.” This is how the management of the National Troupe has indeed produced so many artistes over the years. Today, the current director, Akin Adejuwon has also taken up the onerous task of developing and nurturing more artistes who can become their own masters in the years to come.

The young Adejumo said he began to nurse the ambition of being a professional artiste right from his childhood days. “Around 1986/87, we began then to mimic our daddy. We would tie our wrapper on our neck and cut cartons of star beer and made bold ties out of it. We'd also put pillow on our tummy. Me and my immediate brother used to do this a lot. That would represent big tummy and we'd go about in the house pretending to be Baba Salah himself”.

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From that moment, not only Emmanuel himself but others around him who began to suspect that he'd take after his father. “Yes, each time daddy travelled abroad he would buy toys for us his children. He would give them out to us according to how he felt. He did not make choices: he'd only wrap them with gift wraps and put them together. He would then ask us to pick them one by one. Whatever you picked was your own luck. However, most times I'd pick either a piano or a guitar. Little did I know then that mother luck was preparing me to be an instrumentalist.”

That was how his interest in music started. Just like his father who is equally a pianist and a guitarist, Emmanuel, quickly began to attune his mind in that direction. Today he is not just a pianist, he also plays drums, guitar and saxophone. This was the moment the old man began to nurture him by singling him out for proper indoctrination. “Yes, my father was happy to see one of his many sons showing interest not only in the art but in his own style of acting and comedy. He'd then take me to places for rehearsals, for shows, for entertainment. That was indeed how the exposure and training began for me way back in Ibadan where we grew up.”

Baba Salah who used to be a musician, was in love with the piano. “He began to teach me how to play the piano. He played the keyboard very well. So, after our morning prayer everyday, he would call me as he sang and played the keyboard. Often I would sing along as I watched him on the keyboard. At other times too, he would play the guitar or the saxophone not just to entertain the household but to keep my interest in the art aglow.”

Even though his mother and some of his father's wives did not want him or his other siblings to follow in their father's footsteps, they could not utter their objectivion openly. “They didn't want us to be artistes. But in the end our father's wish prevailed. Our mothers were afraid we might end up marrying many wives just like our father did. Anyway, my own mother could not stop me, for indeed my love for the art was deep and convincing,” he said.

In his school days, Emmanuel used to be a prominent member of the cultural and dramatic societies. This was just for him to actualize his dream of being an artiste. “In those days, I was very popular in school. In the Igbo dance troupe then, I was the only non-Igbo who could dance Igbo dances with my Igbo brothers and sisters in school. Jide Alaje who is now a medical doctor was my closest colleague. Together we would do interesting Yoruba cultural dances to the delight of our colleagues. This was at Odona High School, Ring Road, Ibadan. By the time I got to form 4, we began to take other students out for cultural displays and competitions. That was how it all began for me. Even my teachers knew I'd end up being where I am today. It has been a long journey so far but I am glad I have come thus far to represent what my old man has always stood for as an entertainer.”

In all this, the young Adejumo said he is not ready to be a polygamist. “Oh, no,” he exclaimed, waving away the idea, “I cannot marry more than one wife. Daddy warned us not to do that. He explained to us that he married many women to help him in his career and other business interests. He said to us: I want you to like everything in me, but not in the area of women. Do not emulate me in women o. I married many women because of my work. You know in their own time, no parents would allow his children to follow an artiste. So he began to woo and entice them with money. Each one that came eventually ended up his woman. That was how it all started and daddy needed to protect and provide for them. So we all grew up without discrimination, for we all saw ourselves as one indivisible family,” he explained with profuse smiles.

Emmanuel who has his own dance troupe which he formed in 1994 at Abeokuta, Ogun State, has since relocated it to Lagos. With the troupe he makes tremendous waves by dancing and performing at social functions and all.

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