Isaiah Kehinde Dairo, popularly refered to as I K Dairo was a renowned Jùjú musician. He was born in 1930 and died in 1996.
I K Dairo attended a Christian missionary primary school in Offa but quit his studies due to a lean year in his family’s finances. He left Offa and traveled to Ijebu-Ijesa where he chose to work as a barber.
On his journey, he took along with him a drum built by his father when he was seven years old. He became a fan of drumming in his new city Ijebu Ijesa so much that during his spare time, he listened to the early pioneers of Juju music in the area and experimented their every rhythm with drumming. His interest in Juju music however increased over time and in 1942, he joined a band led by Taiwo Igese but within a few years, the band broke up. In 1948, he went to Ede, a town in present day Osun State where he started working as a pedestrian cloth trader and played music with a local group on the side.
One day, while his boss was away traveling, I.K. Dairo decided to join his fellow friends to play at a local ceremony, unknown to him, his boss was to come back that same day and when he did get back, he was furious with the act and I.K Dairo was relieved of his job as a result.
IK Dairo later pursued various manual tasks after being fired and was able to save enough money to move to Ibadan where Daniel Ojoge, a pioneer Juju musician usually played. He got a break to join a band with Daniel Ojoge and played for a brief period of time before returning to Ijebu-Ijesa.
I.K. Dairo’s musical career entered the fast lane when he founded a ten piece band called the Morning Star Orchestra in 1957. In 1960, during the celebration of Nigeria’s independence, the band was called on to play at a party hosted by a popular Ibadan based magistrate.
With a lot of prominent Yoruba patrons at the venue, I.K. Dairo showcased his style of Juju music and earned attention and admiration from other Yoruba patrons present, many of whom later invited him to gigs during cultural celebrations or just lavish parties. In the early 1960s, he changed the band’s name to Blue Spots and also won a competition televised in Western Nigeria to showcase the various talents in Juju music. During the period, he was able to form his own record label in collaboration with Haruna Ishola and achieved critical and popular acclaim and fame.
I.K Dairo’s emergence at the end of 1950 coincided with the rising euphoria towards independence. He was seen then as a premier musician who could capture the exciting moment preceding the nation’s independence. The musical taste during the period had graduated from appreciation of solemn music to much more intensified sounds. The period was also one of lavish parties with musicians as a side attraction.
I.K. Dairo’s musical success in the 1960s, was influenced by different factors including a resort to include traditional sounds, the political life of 50s, which inspired him and a focus on rhythm, beats and tempo that reflected different ethnic sounds and in the process leading to his appeal rising beyond his primary ethnic group. His band experimented and played with musical styles originating from different Yoruba areas and also utilized the Edo, Urhobo, Itsekiri and Hausa language in some of their lyrics.
The band’s well organized and slick arrangement, Yoruba and Latin American influenced dance rhythm and patronizing lyrics on the entrepreneur pursuits of patrons were factors that contributed in his rise to the height of the Juju and musical arena in the country. He also employed musical syncretism, mixing the Ijebu-Ijesa choral multi-part sound with melodies and texts from Christian sources.
In 1962, he released the song ‘Salome’ under Decca records. The song mixed traditional elements in Yoruba culture and urban life as major themes. The song was a major hit for him. Another song which was quite popular was Ka Sora (Let Us Be Careful), the song is sometimes described as predictive of the Nigerian civil war in its warning about the pitfalls of unreasoned governance. He also released other popular hits including one about Chief Awolowo, who was incarcerated at the time the song was released.
Dairo’s stay at the top in the Nigerian music scene was short lived because by 1964, a new musician in the person of Ebenezer Obey was gaining grounds and by the end of the 60s, both Obey and King Sunny Ade had emerged as popular acts of the period. However, Dairo continued with his music, touring Europe and North America in the 70s and 80s. He was also involved in a few interest groups dealing with the property rights of musicians. Between 1994-1995, he was a member of the Ethnomusicology department at the University of Washington, Seattle.