When he clocked 50, members of the Odunfa Caucus, a group of A-list actors that are well regarded in the Yoruba home video circle, rolled out the red carpet, and for one week they celebrated their leader and one of the industry’s great actor, producer, and director. They sang, danced and eulogised Olayinka Akanni Ganiu Quadri aka Yinka Quadri who is undoubtedly one screen personality who is widely admired by the Yoruba moviegoers and patrons.
This time, Masomo is 60 and members of the Odunfa Caucus and his colleagues and admirers have started a month-long celebration in honour of the iconic actor, whose popularity as a leading actor in the Yoruba genre is to say the least overwhelming. Sixty, but looking so ‘boyish’, Yinka, blessed with good look and frame is a darling of the Yoruba movie buffs. They accord him star treatment and they would sit to watch a movie once it stars Malomo, an alias he earned from his constant refrain.
Humane and amiable, those who have followed his shimmering career that has spanned close to 40 years say Yinka’s versatility, unrelenting zeal, and determination to satisfy his innate desire define his enviable profile. They assert that it is those attributes that have guaranteed him a place on the top rung and that have made him the darling of the Yoruba movie buffs and even non-Yoruba’s who patronize movies produced in Yoruba.
Son of Alhaji Saliu Quadri, the Asa-Oye of Oro land in Kwara State, Yinka grew up on the Lagos Island and was roundly recognized as the ‘unbeatable table tennis champion’. How the table tennis champ dumped the game of table tennis that made him so popular, for a career in acting, is a story that Olayinka said would take a whole day or even two days to tell. But he summed the story up by recalling that he was inspired by the acting and filmmaking prowess exhibited by legends like the late Chief Hubert Ogunde, Kola Ogunmola, Duro Ladipo, Adeyemi Afolayan aka Ade Love, and Pa Moses Adejumo aka Baba Sala. ‘’The more I was exposed to their works both on stage and screen, the more I was moved to give acting a shot. I eventually did but not after so many struggles,’’ he recalled.
The ‘struggles’ as Yinka whose first-ever paid job was as a trainee architect with the Lagos State Town Planning Ministry, recalled was with voices inside of him. The first voice was furious. The fellow with the voice he heard thought it was ‘stupid’ for Olayinka to even contemplate dumping his work as a trainee architect for ‘acting that was a mere hobby’’. The second voice wondered why a man would want to move from certain to uncertainty.
“I mean his own was that I have a future in table tennis’’. But the third voice pushed hard and eventually carried the day. The voice constantly assured Olayinka that he would not regret the decision he was about to take, that of becoming an actor. In fact, Olayinka said that the voice had assured him that he would become as great as the late Pa Hubert Ogunde and the others once he puts his mind to it. And that was the deciding factor for Olayinka who is now more popular as ‘Masomo’ and who sits pretty well on the A-list of actors in the Yoruba movie circle and who commands a lot of respect in that fold.
A scriptwriter, director, production manager and film consultant, Yinka is a native of Oke-Ola, Oro town in Irepodun Local Council of Kwara State. The actor prolific was born on September 1959 in Lagos. He was educated at St. Patrick’s Primary school, Idumagbo, Lagos and at Christ High School, Ebute-Elefun, Lagos.
Yinka’s debut as an actor was as Agbodorogun, a warrior in an epic of the same title. But he hit a nerve when he interpreted delightfully the role of Fagbamila in Laniyonu, a television series, which he scripted and produced for the Lagos Television. The television series was reputed to be a must-watch for fans of the LTV as long as it ran. Yinka admitted that it was the smooth run he had on that series that shot him up into reckoning and made him a recognizable face. It was also his role as Fagbamila in Laniyonu that won his parents over. They had expressed strong reservations over his decision to engage the acting runway.
He says: ‘I faced stiff opposition. That is, I encountered serious family problems and criticisms. They didn’t think that as a child from a rich and prestigious home the theatre was the best place for me. They wondered what I wanted to achieve with acting and just making people laugh. A number of my childhood friends even stopped talking and associating with me. But as God would have it, I became popular and all those who chastised me ran back and they all wanted to be associated with me’’.
A widely traveled actor of vast credit, Yinka has taken part in so many movie productions that he has lost count. Star of hit movies including: “Edunjobi’, ‘Abule-Sowo’, ‘Oloruka’, ‘Akanji Oni Posi’, ‘Ojiji’, ‘Irumu Lowo’, ‘150 Million’, ‘File Be’, ‘Kadara Mi’, and ‘Baba Darijiwon’, Yinka still remembers with nostalgia his participation in the production of the movie ‘150 million’. He speaks of the movie: “The movie was shot with the best of equipment. It was well-shot, which is why it was widely accepted when it was released. We were all proud to be part of the movie.”
But has acting been rewarding? Yinka says it has and admits that it has brought him tremendous fame and has provided just what he needs to be comfortable. If there are other gains of the profession for Yinka, then it’s the fact that there has been no dull moment.
He says: “No dull moment at all. You are on the road almost 24/7. We travel a lot, meet people and generally work to make ends meet. So, there is no dull moment for me in this profession and I wouldn’t have been happier in another profession.”
An actor who wants to be remembered for the quality of his performance and who reiterated the fact that he would continue to entertain as long as he lives, Masomo’s career wish is to be a world-acclaimed star and entertainer. He also hopes to play a long game in the industry.
“I want to get to a height when I would become a leader in the industry. It is also my desire, In shaa’a Allah, to become a world-class entertainer, who will be regarded both at home and abroad.”