J. J. Ransome-Kuti, Granfather of Fela Kuti and Wole Soyinka and the First Nigerian Gospel Musician
Josiah Jesse Ransome-Kuti was one of the greatest men in Africa whose achievement are widely unknown. Apart from being the first gospel musician in Nigeria, he was a clergyman and he held the political office of a district judge.
Josiah Jesse Ransome-Kuti was of Egba origin and he was born on the 1st of June, 1855 in Igbein, Abeokuta, Ogun state, Nigeria. He was born to Likoye Kuti and Anne Ekidan Efupiye. His father was a traditionalist while his mother was an early convert to Christianinty.
Josiah was influenced by his mother’s belief despite opposition from his father. At the age of 9, he bagan to attend the Church Missionary Society (CMS) in Abeokuta. In 1871, he moved to Lagos to continue his studies at CMS Training Institute. After completing his education, Josiah went back to Abeokuta and took up a teaching job at St. Peter’s school in Ake. Three years later, he went to Lagos teach music at CMS Girl school. There, he got married to Bertha Olubi at the age of 26.
He was a staunch member of Anglican Church and was appointed as a Catechist in 1891. He became a deacon in 1895 and was later ordained a priest in 1897. Due to his high intelligence, he was appointed a district Judge in Egba district. He had much respect from his people because hevwas just and fair.
Josiah Jesse Ransome-Kuti was a maestro in music. He was a master in playing church organ and a talented composer. His music attracted many pagans and converted them to Christianity.
In the year 1922, he travelled to London for Church Missionary Society Exhibition. While there, he sang 43 songs that were released on double-side Zonophone discs by the Gramophone company. Some of his songs are the well-known Channels tv wake-up call “ko le baje o, ko le baje o, ise Oluwa,..,… ” (it can’t be destroyed it can’t be destroyed, the work of the Lord,……), the popular Sunday school children song “eje k’omode k’owa o, eje k’omode k’owa o,……. jojolo, omo kekere jojolo awon l’ore Eledumare, eje k’omode k’owa” (let the children come, let the children come,.…….. tender, tender little children are the friends of God, let the children come) and the Egba anthem “l’ori oke ati petele, ibe lagbe bimi si o…., ( uphill and down the plain, there I was born.,…). He also translated many Anglican (English) hymn to Yoruba. He was nicknamed the Singing Minister by the Europeans.
He fathered 9 children. His son, Reverend Isreal Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, was the first president of Nigeria Union of Teachers. He (Oludotun) married the famous Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti who was a female activist and the first woman in Nigeria to drive a car. One of their sons was Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the popular afrobeat musician. J. J. Ransome-Kuti was also the father of Eniola Soyinka, the mother of Nobel Laurette Wole Soyinka.
J. J. Ransome-Kuti died at the age of 75 years in the year 1930.
Nigeria Historical facts, wikipedia, Vicki brennan @blog.uvm. edu, nairaland, dacb.org