Bankulli is a big man– when he stands beside my 5ft 9.5″ I feel he’s 7ft tall. But he also knows how to perfectly fade into the background. This is probably his superpower. He helps other people shine by staying out of their way.
The first time I met Bankulli, he’d come to The Guardian with Ayo Shonaiya, DJ Abbass, and Ronke Apampa to see Jahman Anikulapo, my editor at the time. The trio had recently returned from the UK and was promoting a project for which they’d made the ethereal Ronke Apampa the muse and mascot. The editor asked me to do a feature on them and their project. Why, of course, it would be my honour, I said.
So, lady and gentlemen, what are your names? Everybody introduced themselves and then it got to the tall, big, black dude’s turn. He looked rather disinterested when he said flatly, “Bankulli.” Ehn? I almost laughed. Did he just say Banku and Kulikuli? I mean, that’s what I thought I’d just heard. But I didn’t say that to him because that would have been rude. Don’t ever laugh at other peoples names, my mother had once taught me, although it doesn’t seem like I’m following her instruction by cracking this Banku and Kulikuli joke now ?
However. Even though it’s been 20 years and I cannot for the life of me remember the details of that Abbass/Shonaiya/Apampa project, no one ever forgets Bankulli. He’s been with everyone that’s made it, always in the shadows, always pulling some strings.
He was with D’banj and Don Jazzy when the Oliver Twist challenge, perhaps the grandfather of all viral social media challenges went… viral. You must have seen him in one of the videos with Don Jazzy, D’banj and others as they all rolled their nonexistent butts, except for Don Jazzy, of course, who is blessed in the rear end.
Anyway, I bumped into Bankulli last year at Utazi in VI. Never knew he would recognise me. C’mon, it’s been about 19 years! But he was like… first he narrowed his eyes. I smiled and shot out a hand. I said, “Sam Adeoye, ex-Guardian.”
“I know you!” Bankulli boomed. “I know you na!”
“I didn’t think you would,” I said, grinning like a moron. I guess star recognises star ??
Then Bankuli said, “Samson Adeoye, I definitely remember you. But you were not fine then sha. You were not fine like this at all at that time.” Uh-oh. He really did remember.
He gave me a quick bro-hug and bounced off. My ??Day?? officially ??made! By the time I sat down to have my seafood okro and semo at Utazi, I grossly over-ate, you know, because there’s a way happiness can make you extra hungry.
As you can see, unlike me Bankulli has always been quite fine. He’s worked with so many greats you could say he’s this generation’s Sunday Are, but fitted with social media and technology mastery. You know that game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? If we were to create a version of it for Nigeria, we would call it Six Degrees of Bankulli. He’s connected to everyone in Nigerian music, from producers to singers and musicians and he doesn’t have to prove it to you. Those stars will tell you themselves.
Maybe that’s why they call him Osha. If you’re not Yoruba and you don’t understand the language Osha means god. You know what gods do but you may wonder what Bankuli does exactly.
I hear he’s a facilitator, a connector of important dots. The guy in the room who knows something or someone who can help light some fire in your ideas engine. But what nobody ever saw coming was that Bankulli could sing. And what better way to show he could hold a note than to guest star on a Beyoncé album?
Lately, Bankulli has been selling his own fluorescent T-shirts and hoodies. And just like everything he does, they look like they might catch on.
“WE RISE BY LIFTING OTHERS” ~ Robert Ingersoll