Yoruba music genres: Who’s gonna fill their shoes?

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Kunle Awosiyan


Most adults still have vivid memories of the varieties of music we enjoyed growing up.

Today’s youths will either go for Fuji or Afro hip-hop. Some of them who speak about Fela Anikukapo Kuti only know about the legend through “Felabration” where their own music stars perform annually.

The youths of today hardly listen to the songs of Fela or those of his sons, Femi and Seun, even when it is obvious that personalities as Burna Boy, Wizkid and Tiwa Savage coined their musical genres from Fela’s beat and lyrics.

In his song, “Who’s gonna fill their shoes”, legendary country singer, George Jones laments the gradual death of real country music in America. The death of Jim Reeves, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Don Williams, Kenny Rogers did not only change the face of country music, it left a big vacuum in the music tradition of native America.

Just as it is in the Yoruba setting where some great singers died and their music genres also died, the question that came to mind is “where have you gone, the old Yoruba music genres?”

How many adults still listen to the “ìjálá Ọdè”, the “Hunter’s chant” of Akinola Oniiwere, who is also known as Ogundare Foyanmu. His genre was a pure class of rendition derived from typical hunter’s tradition of the Yoruba race.

The question is who will fill these shoes? Yoruba music genres of the old, where have you all gone?

Do we still remember Ayinla Adegator, the  Dadakuada crooner and Odolaye Aremu, one of these was dubbed the Alaroye Ilorin, who shared almost the same genre that elated our sense of humour in those days.

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The likes of Ligali Mukaiba, Ayinla Omowura, Haruna Ishola, Fatai Olowonyo, Yusuf Olatunji, Saka Layigbade, Jimoh Ojindo and S.A. Aka ruled our days then in the Apala and Sakara genres.

Our fathers could separate these great singers by their tones but for people of my age in our fifties, it will be a bit difficult to differentiate “Sakara” from some genres of “Apala”. These are our own country music that have become so difficult to replicate in today’s music industry.

The likes of Tatalo Alamu did something that looked much like “Wèrè” while Dauda Epo Akara sang “Áwùrébe” in Ibadan.

Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister and Killington Ayinla transformed this to real Fuji while Salawa Abeni and Batili Alake dominated the “Waka” genre.

One would not forget the Ikale woman who sang “Munene Munene”, Comfort Omoge, in her “Asiko” genre and the popular Iya Aladuke, Mrs. Hawawu Alake who originated “Sẹnwele”.

Then were the masters of the strings and accordion like Ambrose Campbell who sang “Odale Ore, Eni to ri nkan hee”.

Campbell sang “Eroya E wa” in his highlife genre, which had since become the opening song for popular “Eroya” programme on Osun State Radio station. Campbell formed Britain first ever black band.

Unknown to many youths and young oldies, some of the songs of Chief Ebenezer  Obey and King Sunny Ade were originally released by Campbell.

He sang during the reigns of Bobby Benson, Victor Olaiya even though their genres were a bit different. While Campbell did his own with what he called “Ashiko”, Olaiya and Benson did pure Highlife.

It was Pa IK Dairo and Fatai Rolling Dollars that opened the streets with their “Juju” genre, which today stands out as the only oldies that are still making wave in social gatherings. Thanks to King Sunny Ade who has continued to beat the drum and making it louder.

The likes of Ebenezer Obey, Sir Shina Peters, Dele Abiodun are silent now.  Could that have been due to old age and dwindling creativity?

Of course, there were Tunji Oyelana and Jimi Solanke with their Folk songs. Oyelana’s “Okete and Ifa” will always remain in our brain as some of the best folks ever sung.

The question is who will fill these shoes? Yoruba music genres of the old, where have you all gone?

*Awosiyan ([email protected])

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