On a recent trip to Nigeria, a bright student named Kayode Fatoba met an aspiring musical artist who called himself Ganjaman. Moved by the passionate spirit of his new friend, the entrepreneurial Fatoba helped Ganjaman write a song and then shoot a music video for it. “Soji (Wake Up)” has since received more than 20,000 views on YouTube and has drawn international attention to the village of Ekiti.
Elected as Simon Fraser University’s student society vice-president in 2014, Fatoba has established himself as an innovative leader in his campus’ community by starting clubs like the African Students Association, organizing the university’s first large-scale Peace Day event, and launching SFU Fashion Week. He also founded SkyNation, a digital company that makes website-hosting affordable in Africa, and in his spare time he also volunteers with Afrobeats. This list of accomplishments is impressive for anyone to take credit for, let alone a kid who grew up in Jane and Finch — a tough Toronto neighbourhood known for its high concentration of gangs and violence.
“I’m really just involved and I’m passionate about creating,” Fatoba, who came to SFU on the prestigious TD Scholarship For Community Leadership, says. “But my creativity is much different because my vision is bringing people together and my ideas are very creative in a different type of way.”
In a bid to further understand himself and what kind message he wants to deliver to the world, Fatoba decided to take a trip to Nigeria and rediscover his roots. When he first arrived back in Ekiti, he wept. Although he’d witnessed and experienced hardship in Jane and Finch, “it was a totally different experience me actually seeing what poverty looked like. But it was also weird because when I got there, it was an out of body experience… I [had] left there, grew up in Toronto, and all of a sudden I’m becoming semi-successful. My tears came from this overwhelming shock.” The Fatoba family, he adds, was the second one to leave the village.
In Ekiti, there was a lack of running water and limited electricity — things often taken for granted in the Western world. “That was one of the biggest things,” Fatoba continues. “I woke up, had to go fetch water with the kids, and we would fetch barrels of water and fill them up and that’s where you would get buckets to go to the washroom, to cook, to brush your teeth… and that was part of the inspiration to the track.”
The village’s persisting spirit and its ability to create positives out of negatives really hit home to Fatoba. Rather than taking photos and videos of his trip as originally intended, Fatoba — who himself has dabbled in making music — instead suggested a creative collaboration with Ganjaman that showcased this philosophy and the community that employed it.
“You know there’s some people who are just dead because they feel like they can’t do shit? That’s not what I saw,” Fatoba says. “What I saw was a group of individuals who, for me, I thought they didn’t have anything because [of] what I was used to. That, there was the core message… If you’re going through hell, keep going. If you think this is it, take a step and try again. That was the biggest topic that resonated with me and also resonated with him.”
The entire process took about two weeks, mostly because of lack of electricity, and Fatoba sometimes had to use the generator at the local barbershop to charge his camera. He enlisted the help of a group of locals, who banded together as the Ekiti Boys Movement, and divvied out responsibilities for them. The end result, “Soji (Wake Up),” is a proud showing of creative potential and culture. Even award-winning Nigerian recording artist Davido got involved, shouting out Fatoba as the video credits roll.
The track has enjoyed airplay on local television, as well as radio, and Ganjaman is being booked for live performances. As for Fatoba, he’s due to graduate university soon with a degree in health sciences and says he plans on using his gifts — an ability to lead, his ingenuity, his entrepreneurial instinct — as a platform to create at a higher level and showcase those that influence him who may not have a voice. Art, he maintains, is everywhere. “You just have to open yourself up to inspiration and listen.”