Steve Black Aiwansosa: “My Imperfections Made Me Perfect,’ A Review

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By Justus Nwakanma

Autobiographies make one of the most valuable reads for book lovers.They provide us with a firsthand account of a person’s life, thoughts, and experiences. They offer deep insights into perspectives and motivations and convey a sense of authenticity and honesty and also allow readers to connect more intimately with the subject matter.
Steve Black Aiwansosa’s autobiography “My Imperfections Made Me Perfect,” did not disappoint in this regard. Music connoisseurs, especially in the 80s and 90s and lovers of good biographies will connect deeply with this book which provides the reader with historical and cultural contexts of music and musicians of his era and indeed proves that embracing our imperfections can often lead to personal growth and uniqueness.

Divided in eight short, crisp chapters, the book begining from Chapter one, took us through Steve Black’s musical journey which began early. He was born on July 21, 1954, in Ibadan, Nigeria. His family moved to Abeokuta when he was two. With a natural inclination for music, Steve found it easy to engage with music from a young age. He was captivated by songs on the radio, particularly Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five,” and began writing his own songs. Steve joined his college choir, which was pivotal in shaping his musical path. Known for Afro music, Afro Funk, and percussion, his first major performance was with the Moonrakers in 1968, marking the start of his professional career.
He attended Eghosa Grammar School in Benin City and Premier College in Yaba. His musical journey began in the late 1960s, and he joined the college choir, which was pivotal in shaping his style. Steve’s first significant performance was with the Moonrakers band in Zaria in 1968, marking the start of his professional career. He found inspiration in happy gatherings, good moods, and dancing, which influenced his songwriting and performance style.
In Chapter Two, Steve Black attributes his success to the originality and uniqueness of his style. Professional managers played a crucial role, handling business aspects like concerts, endorsements, and survival while record labels marketed his music. He emphasizes the importance of setting rules and positive examples for managing musicians. Steve Black advises keeping new artist contracts to five years, renewable, and stresses the need for discipline. He notes the shift from passion to money among musicians today and highlights that significant financial investment is essential for success in the music industry.
In Chapter Three, Steve Black recalls his musical experiences in Lagos during the early 1970s. He joined The Clusters, with members like Laolu Akins, Mike Odumosun, Bob Cole, and Berkeley Jones. They later became Tee Mac Afro Collection in 1971. Black performed in various locations in and out of Nigeria, including London’s Sir Ronnie Scott’s at Soho Square, with his manager Barry Wasserman. He played with several bands, including The Virgins, Nigeria’s first female band, and collaborated with notable musicians like Harry Moscow. His performances spanned cities such as Kaduna, Benin, Port Harcourt, Aba, and Owerri.
In Chapter Four, Steve Black details his album releases, focusing on his 1979 album “Village Boogie.” This album is considered a legendary rarity and a holy grail for Afro-funk fans. It features a new version of “Brand New Wayo,” originally performed by his band Mixed Grill, and six other hit tracks. The album is characterized by polyrhythmic drums, lush horn arrangements, swinging bass lines, and a touch of guitar, all enhanced by Black’s distinctive voice. “Village Boogie” was acclaimed as the best funk release of the 70s, known for its ability to make listeners dance and spread joy.
In Chapter Five, Steve Black emphasizes his love for family and togetherness, reflected in his over three-decade marriage to Eunice Aiwonsosa, whom he met in 1991. They have three children who manage the business aspects of his music. Besides music, Steve is also involved in poultry and crop farming and fashion. He believes in the freedom of religious worship without interference and prefers personal communication with God. Guided by love in his actions, he avoids artificial spices in food, enjoys Gulder beer responsibly, and has a versatile fashion style. He strongly dislikes negativity.
Chapter Six expresses the authors disappointment with the current state of the Nigerian music industry, particularly criticizing the Nigerian Performing Music Association (PMAN). He reflects on the significant difference between the vibrant industry of his early career and today’s fragmented scene. Steve Black recalls the influential Nigerian Musician Union, which included legends like I.K. Dairo and Bobby Benson, and later transformed into PMAN, founded by artists such as Tony Okoroji and Onyeka Onwenu. PMAN once commanded respect and attracted high-profile attendees, including state governors and the head of state. However, Black laments that PMAN has been ruined by greed and internal conflicts.
In Chapter Seven, Steve Black criticizes Nigerian broadcast media for demanding payments from local musicians to play their songs while airing foreign music for free, unlike the past when stations like RN2 played music based on quality alone. He contrasts this with his positive experiences with BBC in London. Black attributes the prevalence of low-quality music on Nigerian airwaves to this pay-for-play system and laments that many Nigerian musicians fail to reinvest their earnings into their craft, leading to financial instability in their later years.
In Chapter Eight, Steve Black describes his role as a consultant for Soundway Music Publishing, a European company. His background in music production and performance led to a mutually beneficial relationship, aiding musicians, songwriters, and artists, particularly from Africa. He emphasizes the need for proper training and highlights Soundway’s role in fostering musical talent and creating successful hits.
The next segment of the book is titled “Testimonies.” Here we have a fist hand testament of friends and associates of Steve.
Jaiyeola Ajasa’s tribute praises Steve Black as an unsung legend whose mastery of musical instruments has enriched our lives for decades. He eulogized Steve for his profound sense of rhythm and extensive music knowledge, marking him as a timeless figure in the industry, cherished for his generosity and musical genius.
Yinka Alakija of Prime Qwest Band says he is looking forward to celebrating with Steve and enjoying his energetic performances on stage as he reaches 70 years.
Paula Duran, Creative Director at Soundway Music Publishing, praises his longstanding tenure with Soundway, noting his role in fostering relationships between Nigeria, Europe, and the global music scene as a consultant. Duran appreciates Black’s ideas and his support in working with talented artists, emphasizing his ambassadorial role in promoting African music and culture.
Richard Cole describes Steve Black as a legendary figure in music and highlights his talents as a drummer, dancer, singer, and entertainer. He praises Black’s enduring impact and energy, noting his continued vibrancy even at 70.
Renowned musician, Emma Ogosi reminisces about knowing Steve Black since 1968, when they were both active in the music scene in Nigeria. Ogosi was with his band The Expensive in Kaduna and Kano, while Black led The Elcados in Zaira. Their paths crossed again in Benin City, where Ogosi, a producer and director at Mid West Television, frequently hosted Black on his program due to his impressive skills as a drummer, singer, and performer.
Alozie Alonzo Uzoukwu reflects on his seven-decade journey alongside Steve Black, a musician whose talent first captivated him at the Palace Hotel in Kaduna. Their paths crossed again in Lagos, where Uzoukwu interviewed Black for The Punch, sparking a lasting friendship.
Dr. Tee Mac Omatshola Iseli recounts his musical journey in Nigeria, in 1970 how he formed the band “Tee Mac Afro Collection” with Steve Black, whom he met through the Clusters International. They toured Nigeria, gaining popularity for their Afro Pop music, and later became the resident band at Batakoto in Lagos. Their music attracted notable figures like Ginger Baker and Fela Kuti. Despite challenges with band loyalty, Steve Black remained steadfast.
His daughter, Mercy Itohan Aiwansosa praises his selflessness as a father; who always , always prioritizes his children and shapes their lives. Steve’s willingness to listen and grow serves as a great example. His generosity touches everyone around him, ensuring their needs are met.
Tony Okoroji, Chairman, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) calls him the musicians musician and praises Steve Black as a dedicated musician whose commitment to music transcends mere fame or profit. “Black’s passion, articulated through his articulate speech and polished appearance, sets him apart from those who merely claim the title” Tony says.
Uchenna Ikonne of Comb & Razor Music in New York reflects on the harsh realities of the entertainment industry, particularly in Nigeria, where many artists are forgotten but says Steve Black Aiwansosa stands out as a rare exception, maintaining relevance and vitality across seven decades as a musician and performer.
One of the beauties of this book is in the use of pictures which provides a visual representation of Steve Black, making the biography more engaging and personal for the reader. The pictures also provide historical context, showing the subject at different stages of his life or career.