By Bamidele Johnson
In February, my wife and I went to Ibadan where we spent two days, during which all I ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner was amala. I flitted from amala vendor to another-to the barely disguised chagrin of my wife, who had to ask why I couldn’t eat something else. My fondness for amala is not in doubt.
I wish it had extended to the near sound-alike Apala, a Yoruba musical strain made popular-i believe-by Haruna Ishola and Ayinla Omowura, both deceased. Last year, I think, I got schooled by either Tunde Busari or Gani Kayode Jr Balogun (not sure) that the late Ayinla Adegator, popular in the old Oyo State, sang Apala. I loved his music, but it never came and still does not across as Apala to me. I have some of his songs, courtesy of Yanju Adegboyega. What do they sound like if not Apala? Don’t know. I suck at classifying musical strains, especially local ones, in view overlapping or unclear rhythm structures.
Ishola’s Apala and that of Omowura, in terms of beat patterns and tempo, are related. But I don’t like either. I made make efforts, but failed. Those efforts were induced by how much others, especially friends, gushed about both men’s music. I have two friends, one of whom will read this and likely comment, who are into Omowura.
They have not infected me. I think I built the immunity against Apala from childhood. I had early exposure to Omowura in Abeokuta, where I attended BBHS. Almost every low-fidelity speaker in the town back then played his music. My secondary school is not far from where he built his house and lived. We sneaked out of the boarding house to his house. We never saw him. We only saw women, kids and a Mercedes Benz car.
He was big in the town and I guess everywhere in Yorubaland. There were stories of all sorts around him, especially in his vicinity of Itoko and Arinlese. I didn’t like much of what I heard. The stories were about juju and violence. On the first anniversary of his death, we slunk out of the hostel to his house where Ebenezer Obey was playing. We didn’t spend up to 30 minutes there before a fight broke out and beer bottles were deployed. We fled.
Perhaps what also inhibited affection for his music was its popularity among tipper drivers, who converged at “sonse” joints close to my school on their way back from three quarries in the neighborhood. Sonse is the Egba word for ogogoro, which was a monster hit with tipper drivers of that era.
Last night, I finally got around to seeing Ayinla, Omowura’s biopic. There were two previous attempts, during which I had an aggregate of 30 minutes viewing. The music just bored the pants off me.
I had very little interaction with Haruna Ishola’s music before adulthood and I didn’t like it. I also found fuji unappealing until Kollington’s Fuji Megastar, Ijo Yoyo and I think Kasabubu (don’t know the sequence). Juju, which has now petered out, was my thing. Obey, Dele Abiodun, KSA, Pick Peters (in that order) were the men. Strange order? Most probably. I’m a bit off-the-wall, too. Musically, that is.
For example, until 2001, I hated mournful sound of Yusuf Olatunji’s Sakara music. I also heard plenty of it in Abeokuta and on AM radio stations outside the town. I found the funeral tempo haunting. I am a big, big fan of the American blues and the tempo isn’t more dirgeful than sakara’s. Guess that helped in my conversion. Today, I love his music and wish I had long before.
Today, also, the mainstream musical genres, apart from fuji, are gasping or have been swallowed up by contemporary strains. Not sure there are still recording juju, Sakara and Apala artistes. If there are, their chances of the big time are slim. The next big star is more likely to be a fuji singer or one of these young loons than a juju, Sakara or Apala singer. Waka, awurebe, Ilorin’s Dadakuada and Orlando Owoh’s variant of highlife look like they’re dead or in the ICU.