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Remembering late Ayinla Omowura after 40 years: Why Traditional Music Is Dying

If upcoming musicians understanding the proverb that says, “A river that forgets its source often dries up,” they will not allow traditional music genre to fade away.

Why traditional music genres are vanishing with young people not showing an interest? Who is to blame? Unarguably, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s genre, Afrobeat is well embraced by youngsters, why are upcoming artistes shun Apala, Fuji, Juju, Sakara etc, to play hip hop? These are some critical questions that crave for answers. GISTMONTSER writes.

Many decades ago, traditional music is what dominates African continent, especially Nigeria where local musicians are hired, every weekend, to play live at birthday parties, wedding ceremonies, burial ceremonies, street carnivals, house warming events and other ‘Owambes’.

All over the world, Nigeria is known to have a diverse musical culture. Every aspect of our lives is affected by traditional or local music. It is usually seen as a medicine that reduces work stress, gives hope to the poor and reminds us of our cultural history. 

Some of the famous musicians that our forefather idolized include Tunde Nightingale, Bobby Benson, Orlando Owoh, Eddy Okonta, Yusuff Olatunji, Haruna Ishola and many other great artistes. They are the originators of rooted genres likes Highlife, Apala, Ajisari/Were music, Sakara, Juju, Fuji to mention a few. Unfortunately, some of these artistes died with their kind of music while many are fading away.

For example, ‘Ajisari’ genre of music which is used to be Islamic music, played by the Muslim group in Yorubaland to wake people up for Ramadan fasting has vanished. This musical genre was made accepted by the late singer, Alhaji Dauda Epo-Akara.

Also, one of the greatest musicians is Apala music creator, Ayinla Omowura who died forty years ago. On May 6, 1980, Omowura was killed in a beer parlour brawl at his hometown in Itoko, Ogun State. He died at the age of 47.

Lyrically, Omowura songs are deep in meaning with philosophical messages. His composition is for the wise to think on and his sounds speak to smartest one who has an ear to listen to the talking drum. 

Ayinla Omowura And His Apala Group recorded hit tracks including Awa Kise Olodi Won, Danfo o si ere, Anjonu elere, and many others. His career took a new dimension when he joined EMI Nigeria in 1970 and recorded a single titled Aja to foju dejo in June of that year. The tremendous success attained by the single was quickly followed by three other extended play records. One was recorded in September 1970- Ema fowo s’oya si wamo and the other two, Danfo o si ere”/”Ema tori owo pa’nia and Anjonu elere were recorded on the 20th of July 1971. His first album which was recorded in the same year was a chartbuster, with a release of over 50,000 copies. His success was so overwhelming that he became an idol to the masses – particularly among the public transport drivers, and the traders to mention a few.


He left for Mecca and Medinat to perform the Muslim holy pilgrimage in 1975 and became Alhaji Ayinla Omowura.

In the 10 years that he was on EMI NIGERIA label, all his 20 albums sold a minimum of 50,000 copies on the first day of release. Acutely popular, Omowura’s day of release was always a carnival at garages, beer parlours and even at parties.

He recorded two albums at the same time in 1980, unfortunately only Awa kise olode won was released before his tragic death that year. The second one, 25+40 was released posthumously in 1981. He was married to many wives and children.

To celebrate the traditional music icon at 40, a book on his life was launched on Wednesday, May 5. Yoruba traditional leader, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, Juju musician Chief Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi and other Yoruba societal leaders where at launching of the book.

The book, entitled: “Ayinla Omowura: Life and Times of An Apala Legend,” is a 537-page research work written by Festus Adebayo.

Also, as part of measures in recognising his musical effort, the Ogun State government, last year renovated the late Apala music maestro residence at Abeokuta.

According to the Senior Consultant on Tourism and Culture to the former governor of the state, Ibikunle Amosun, Yewande Amusan, the gesture is aimed at preserving the late music legend’s achievements by turning the house into a tourist site. This effort comes after the state government unveiled the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s family house in Abeokuta as Kuti Heritage Museum, in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.

But why is traditional music dying? Why aren’t more upcoming musicians showing an interest?

Many youths say that traditional music is outdated but only a few sees it an inspiration. Recently, some of the young stars of today have been able to bring back lost memories by sampling and remixing evergreen songs. 

Singer Innocent Idibia popularly known as 2baba work with late highlife legend, Victor Olaiya on ‘Baby Jowo’ project. Other young artistes that have remix oldies song include Flavour, Olamide, Omawumi, Wizkid amongst others.

Femi Esho, CEO of Evergreen Music feels younger musician still need to go back to the drawing board and do it right. When he says, “many of them (new generation acts) are very lazy. Look at Kwam 1 for example; he has taken Fuji to a new dimension that is worthy of emulation. Some of them are doing fine, but several of them are extreme noisemakers.”

Speaking on these trends, a renowned music producer, ID Cabasa once criticized older generation musicians for allowing the local genres to fade away.

He was quoted saying, “Many of young traditional musicians are playing the genre in a stylish way which I expect elderly ones to at least encourage them but, not. On like hip hop, nobody is going to tells you how to play it and they got endorsement deal or signed based on freestyle creative. I think they should be free. It is not a must the up and coming acts sing the same pattern the old ones play their music in 70s or 80s. Music is evolving minute.”

Cabasa further blamed the living legends for not updating their musical skills and digitalized their content.

He said, “Many of these musicians will hardly be found on social media, not even Facebook it this modern era where people are making huge amount of money on the internet. There is so much money to be made when your music is digitalized than be in the local market.”

Content created and supplied by: GistMonster (via Opera News )

Apala Ayinla Omowura Fela Anikulapo-Kuti Fuji Sakara

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