Charming, impressive esthetically-artistic are the right words to describe Bankojo Ajibola David better known as, Beejay Sax the saxophone whiz that has gradually become a people’s delight at social gatherings and corporate events on account of his magical and fascinating touch on the Saxophone. His mystifying inventiveness, stylish ingenuity and impelling personality amongst other graceful qualities have stood the Ogun State-born entertainer far-off his equals, in the industry. This first class Engineering graduate of Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU) employs creativity never seen before – on stage. He is ultimately the right dose to a desired fun-filled music interest, if ever in need of one. He renders unheard-of beauty to songs; a shift from the norm is what he does, with a perfect blend of fine appurtenances from his band members – sweet rhythms is all that is left to savour. Without an inch of doubt, Beejay Sax is that guy that would leave you breathless with an appetence of life, seeing that he is irresistibly a fun-to-watch. Although, the saxophone was never his first love but having played several musical instruments he found himself becharmed by the resplendency of the saxophone. No sooner did he surrender to its ineludible enticements than he became a guru commanding the attention of music aficionados. Comparatively, playing the saxophone seemed easy as a duck soup owing to his fondness. A crave for perfection spurred his interest and as time went by, he learned to nurture a passionate romance around the music instrument, which he calls ‘A blissful romance.’ Funny right? Well, Beejay Sax is that regular dude you see on the streets, simple and charming with the fear of God that forms a perfect balance around his lifestyle. Like the say “One with God is well-favoured.” To this effect, one could almost submit that his glistening career is rather of attitude than luck and his climb into an A-list saxophonist is rather destined than co-incidental. Despite this taste of success, his humbling humility questions ones understanding as to how a man of his social standing would appear simple, accepting and unassuming. In one word, Beejay Sax is irresistibly a fun-to-watch.
Speaking with Manny Ita, the young maestro gives us an insight into his lifestyle, challenges, motivating factor and many more revealing/intriguing issues – all of these in one breath.
How did you start playing the saxophone?
I started from high school, at that time it was just an hobbie for me-I played it for fun at the school assembly ground. Later on, I started playing it professionally while I was in the university. I used to be very small in size compared to my peers, so there was this notion that people had back then that if you are small you obviously cannot play the wind instrument. So, this further motivated me. Aside from my love for music, I also love taking challenges and I do not believe in impossibility. That was what brought me to this line of music, because I played trumpet for a while but then, time went on and I discovered my passion and love for saxophone. So, I switched to playing the saxophone.
How many years did it take you to master the art of playing the saxophone?
I had an early musical background, so that made learning saxophone beans cake. It took me about two weeks to catch up and after that I began to represent my school and three months later, I started my own band.
You have been opportune to play at big corporate, social and gospel events. How did you contrive these feats?
I have just one principle, which is, “Whatever your hand findeth to do it well.” This is because, you cannot reverse time. So, any event I find myself I only crave to satisfy my clients and give them optimum satisfaction for their money and time. So, in doing this, my clients call me to express their warm satisfaction and appreciation for a job well done. This is why, anywhere I find myself I always try to be at my best and I also try to use every event as an opportunity to showcase my talent. At this note I must say that what has brought me this far is the quality of my job, because each time I play at societal events people enjoy what I do and then they get to invite me for other shows. So, that has been the secret of my success and it has really helped me in major events. How did you feel performing alongside Busta Rhymes in 2010 at Rivers State Carnival.
(Laughs) Where did you dig out all this from? Funny enough, I did not know the carnival was going to be that big though we were contacted earlier, but we later found out through adverts that Busta Rhymes was going to perform on stage also. I think Lil Kim was supposed to be amongst the performing art at the event, but she did not come. For our kind of music, we do not sing-we only play the sax. Surprisingly, something challenging happened that day after the London Still Band had performed; the audience were obviously not enjoying their performance and we were billed to come up next. So, we practically had so much to do in order to spur excitement at the event. But, with the help of God the crowd went wild with screaming and dancing. The funny thing was that, I was given 15 minutes to perform on stage but I ended up spending about 30 minutes. I and the life band seized the opportunity to express ourselves and it turned out to be a remarkable show along with the performance of other arts.
You read Mechanical Engineering, graduating with distinction. How did you juggle between music and education
Honestly, it was very difficult. It was like climbing a mountain with rocks in your bag, but I just had to put in my best at both sides. Sometimes, I would receive telephone calls at the show about one or two assignments that needed to be submitted that very day. At a point, while I was in 300 Level, I once thought of ending the whole thing, because I could not cope with the challenges. I was practically doing Mondays to Fridays in school and weekends in Lagos; it was not easy for me at all. But, at some point I had to leave one for the other-opportunity forgone. But, thank God I did not leave music for Engineering, because only God knows what would have happened to me. As a matter of fact, my certificate is somewhere under my pillow (laughs). The truth is, nothing can take the place of academic experience; the people you meet, exposure, and you cannot just disregard the place of education in one’s life. So, I would say that my educational background relatively rubs off in my interactions with people at large.
Can you share some of your challenging moments
Well, most of my challenging moments were in school. There were times I failed my courses and my lecturers would call me to tongue lash me. I was really scolded severally but, somehow I got back on track. Managing people is also challenging. Most people just think that playing the saxophone is so easy that all you need to do is just play it. But then, you need to be in the right frame of mind. I have to coordinate my band members, staff and management team. So, managing people and time is really tasking. Considering the way our job is, signing contract time is totally impossible, because you would want your clients to be happy. There were times I had two different events to play in a day and most clients do not actually start their programme as at when due. You know the usual African-timing (laughs). Sometimes you will have to be time conscious and other times you just have to be considerate, so as not to spoil someone’s day of joy. So, I try to be diplomatic and tactical. There was a particular event that the bride practically refused to dance until I showed up. Meanwhile, the bride and her parents were already outside waiting for me (laughs). Believe me, it was very embarrassing and I could not count the number of calls I received during the time I left the first event to the second one. But, I actually thought it was a joke when my crew told me that the bride and her parents were outside awaiting my arrival. To my great surprise, they were truly outside waiting for me (laughs). Apparently, everyone at the reception already knew what was happening and when I got in they did not hesitate giving me a malign look like; “Iwo lo fe ba bati wa je” (laughs). Thankfully, it turned out well and they had to call me later on to show their appreciation. So, these are some of the challenges that we face.
What makes you unique from other saxophonists?
It is the favour of God. I am always prepared to take on any challenge, because most clients tell you what they want, but on getting to the event you will find out that the audience does not fall within the genre of music that they want. So, I always try to study my audience before deciding on what to play. I play for both the young and old. What we do cannot be found anywhere, because I play with the life band and I play different genre of music; both traditional, classical to the classics, oldies and the contemporaries. We blend everything together to thrill our audience. So, people always seem to wonder how we combine different genre of music into harmonious tunes. Beejay Sax is has grown to become a house hold name, which is why when people call to book us, I always try to find out where they saw me play. This is because; you must have seen me play in a church programme, so obviously you would want the same kind of music. You might also have seen me in a cocktail. So, basically I do this in order to truly know what genre of music my clients want.
So, where do you draw inspiration from whenever you are on stage playing the saxophone
I do not want to sound spiritual, but to be sincere my inspiration solely comes from God, him alone. Most times, when I am not in the right frame of mind I tend to close my eyes and wait on God. As an artiste, people always expect you to perform magic; magic in the sense that, they expect you to arrive at an event and spice up the whole place at the drop of a hat. Not forgetting that there are other external factors that control the mood of the crowd. For instance, you go to an event and the people are hungry, you obviously do not expect them to dance or smile. Being comfortable also plays its own role, because when the guests are not comfortable you can never get their attention. But, most people careless of these factors rather, all that concerns them is we paid you so, you must perform magic. Now, you can see that my inspiration comes from God and no one else.
Who are your role models?
I like Lagbaja, because of the message that is creatively passed across in his music, which is for the mature mind. Lagbaja is highly technical with the saxophone and the rich content of his vocals. I also love my very good friend, Yemi Sax, Mike Aremu, Segun Olayemi, Kunle Ajayi and others who are like our founding fathers here in Nigeria. Looking internationally, I like Kenny G, Gerald Albright and a few names I really cannot remember at the mo.
What is your impression about Nigerian music?
Nigerian music is determined by Nigerians, because back then I used to say what everyone else would say. Like they do not have content but one day I thought about it and I came at a final conclusion that Nigerians like to have fun after a long day of stress. So most Nigerian artistes that sing these kinds of songs are invariably meeting the needs of Nigerians. Unlike some other places where they have a well thought-out life and a society that spurs creativity within you. Presently, if you are not singing anything positive you will not sell in the Nigerian entertainment industry. People just want to feel special and happy and that is aptly what our musicians are doing. But then, music changes with time and it is now left to the artistes to change their music to suit the current trend.
Do you have plans releasing your own musical album any time soon?
Yes, as a saxophonist I would not want to cover songs all my life. But, we do this, because it is what Nigerians demand of us. We wanted new songs played in jazz version. So, part of what I intend doing this year is to produce some new instrumental music and still get the average Nigerians to enjoy it. This time, there will be no singing at all just the saxophone, but it will be a rich and melodious tune. Music is widely referred to as a food to the soul. Now, how would you affect the lives of Nigerians positively with the saxophone? Any music that does not affect you positively is not music. I do a lot of spiritual songs and that is why I seek to release songs that would enliven a drab mind. So, one of the ways that I can achieve that, is to do sweet music that would make people forget their sorrows and hope for a better tomorrow. This is actually part of the things that we are working on. If you had the power to change something in Nigeria what would it be?
(Laughs) I do not want to go into government issues, but I would speak in respect of my career. Piracy is one major problem that thwarts the efforts of every Nigerian artiste. All I want is for musicians to work and reap the fruits of their labour, because most pirates do not really know what it takes to make a good music and at the end of the day you will make out only two naira per CD. That is a complete reap off and it is clearly not helping this profession. One of the reasons why I am not so particular about releasing an album is simply because, of this intellectual theft and reap off. The only thing the CD does for an artiste in Nigeria is to increase their popularity, yet leave them penniless. Even, Nigerians are adding more to this ugly situation, because people would always want to receive songs via Bluetooth. They are less concerned whether the artiste has made a dime from that song or not.
What role did your parents play in your music career?
That is another aspect, but the truth is my dad loves education and would stop at nothing to ensure that his children acquire at least a bachelors degree. I even heard my dad name me after a professor. At some point, when my parents discovered the passion I had for saxophone their fears began to grow and they were not encouraged per say. But, God helped me as I started making money with the saxophone and then their support grew gradually. The truth is, why are we really going to school-is it not to make money and become successful in life. And the funny thing about the whole story is that, I met the professor that my dad named me after through music and ever since then we have been good friends. Mechanical Engineering would not have taken me this far, because through music I have been opportune to meet with; Governors, President, Dignitaries and other highly placed individuals in this country. In few words how would you describe your personality?
The old Beejay does not talk much, but I have changed probably due to my work that allows me to meet and interact with people on daily basis. I used to be more of the quiet type back then and these days most people pick offence. I love God and I started from the church, which is why most of my songs are spirit filled. I do not joke with my faith. I am simple and easy going; I interact with both the rich and the poor, young and old. In brief, tell us about your background I was born in Lagos, I am from Ijebu, Ago Iwoye in Ogun State. I had my primary and secondary school here in Lagos and I went to Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State where I bagged Bs.c. in Mechanical Engineering.
How is your love life?
I love Jesus (laughs). I am single, but to be married soon. What are your likes and dislikes I hate back stabbers and cowardly minded people. I love hard working people, sincere and honest as well. I love to sleep and relax at my leisure time and I love seeing movies and having fun.
I want to be number one in this field. I want to do what no one has ever done before by breaking new grounds and taking African music all over the world. I want a situation where people can easily relate to our music. I do not see impossibilities around me-all I see are possibilities. I also want to make more money (laughs).
Few words to aspiring saxophonists
All I can say to them is, whatever your hand findeth to do do it well. Never give excuses for not being at your best-rather endeavour to be at your best at all times. Tomorrow holds a brighter future for your struggles. Never have regrets, just keep moving on.