One of the reminiscences of my growing up days are the excitement we enjoyed from cultural activities of our people in those days. Those activities were as that time, primed and prioritized.

One of such activities was the annual Egungun Festival. Till date, the excitement of that time still relishes the memory of my growing up days. The excitement of the annual Egungun festival at that period reached its peak with the concluding days when the bigger Egunguns were already done with their “Ijade” their earthly activities for the year, and are retiring to “Igbale”, the abode of the ancestors where they will remain and from where they will emerge for the next festival. The retirement of these bigger “Egunguns” were characterized by fun-filled chaotic activities like “Igbaja”. (An activity in which the ‘Egunguns’ throw away with such mustered frenzy all wares in the market that belong to disobedient sellers who have been forewarned that no one is to come to market on those assigned days to display wares). The exciting chaos and frenzies that characterized the frenetic activities of the bigger “Egunguns” in those concluding days were what all and sundry looked out for.

But, One very big “Egungun” stood out. The particular “Egungun” came out towards the last days of the Festival every year with new and beautifully crafted costume, “Eku”. He was called “OGBABU”. ‘Ogbabu’s mask to the costume downward was elegant, vast and roundish. The new costume and mask he made every year was a great beauty to behold. The moves of this "Egungun" with such gaiety and grace added to the euphoric feeling of the people. No violence. No unduly wild activities, but elegance and refinement.

His withdrawal to the “Igbale”, the place of the ancestors unlike other 'Egunguns' was not characterized by violent activities and wild behaviors. From the first day of his appearance to the last day, he would bless the people. He was part of the top-league "Egunguns" that visited the palace for special 'Iwure', blessings for the king. He delighted people with such wonderful “Egungun” music with dexterical backups from his drummers who would be mildly weird on their drums to dictate his beautifully mystical gyrate gestures, as his moves were more preternatural and sacredly gorgeous as he retires home.

When the news of Pa Jimi Solanke’s demise hit me, the first expression that came to mind was that the Masquerade has gone home!

Pa Jimi Solanke no doubt possessed the grace, the gaiety of the Senior 'Egungun' described above. He was was a definition of what Yorubas call 'Agba Oje'. A senior professional Masquerader. His artistic flairs transcend this sphere. Pa Solanke was an embodiment of artistic prowess which have found means of prosperous expressions in diverse artistic works and projects which will continue to relish our memories for generations to come.

Pa Jimi Solanke possessed the voice of the Gods. His reverberating baritone voice will be difficult to be matched. Perhaps, the nature had tactically placed Pa Solanke in a position to play his elderly roles well with his wonderful, enthralling, captivating story-telling abilities which is something known with the elders. His weave of words in the story-telling acts were so seamless and wonderful that they permeated the deepness of the minds of the viewers.

Musically, Pa Solanke possessed the voice of nightingale and composing abilities of the “Odidere” bird all together. He was one of the champions of folk music which appeals to different generations, even, to the present recalcitrant young generation who ordinarily do not give any chances to anything indigenous.

For the younglings who are not privileged to watch Pa Solanke in his Minstrel role on the NTA children’s show called storyland, and were yet to be grown-ups when he was hosting children’s show, another story-telling program on AIT in the early 2000s, please ask your elders and they will tell you of the great exploits of Jimi Solanke.

In acting, Jimi Solanke was a master of the arts. He started with the pioneers. He was part of the cast of “Kongi Harvest”, a play written by Wole Soyinka which was part of the country's 1960 independence celebration. Pa Solanke featured in several of Ola Balogun’s film. Another pioneer and Veteran of Nigerian arts and film industry, not that he started his career abroad after his days in the University of Ibadan.

Pa Solanke in his senior-manner has helped nurtured many generations of artists across all genres. The reason he was relevant even to his last days. His last major work that already hit the wave and the public entertainment space is his voice (over)/Narrating role in Jagunjagun, a film by Femi Adebayo that recently shook the Yoruba film industry as one of the first ever of its kind in its achievements of international standard in many ramifications. Surely, the resounding and reverberating narration of Pa Jimi Solanke in that film is one of the prodigious aesthetic ingredients that has stood the film out and made it had such wide acceptance and popularity.

As a Creative person and Theatre consultant, I gained so much from Baba's personality and influence. I still remember the role he played in my last major project. As the consultant for the Festival of Arts projects of JNISSI Schools, one of the best private schools in Lagos Mainland, I had recommended Pa jimi Solanke to be instituted in the schools wall of Fame for his astounding achievements in arts. Baba did not just came as a Wall Famer, he used the opportunity as usual to make good impression of himself to Pastors Wole and bukola Oladiyun the Chairman and Director of Studies of the School, as well as the staff and the children. That singular participation has brought him so close to Daddy and Mummy Oladiyun who also are overseers of Christ Living Apostolic Ministry (CLAM) family, to the extent that they made an input into Pa Solanke’s PET project, An Art/Film village in his hometown, Iperu Remo.

But now, the Masquerade has gone back to the sacred groove. Pa Jimi Solanke has gone to join the ancestors. He retires home “jejely” with such beauty and grace.

Your son, Abiola, as you fondly called me by my first name, paying my last respect.

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