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Origin of Apala Music


One indigenous social music type which needs exploitation for contemporary appeal is Apala (Olusoji, 2010:40).
Apala is a Yoruba popular music whose origin could be traced to many sources cutting across such disciplines as
music, linguistics, history, religion, and so on. Some scholars such as Mustapha in A Literary Appraisal of Sakara:
A Yoruba Traditional Form of Music and S. O. Olusoji in Nigerian Dances for Piano, suggest that Apala evolved
from indigenous music of the Yoruba and can be regarded as folk songs which later metamorphosed into social
music (Olusoji, 2010:40).
Akin Euba in Islamic Musical Culture among the Yoruba: A Preliminary Survey opined that Apala began during
the fasting season, young Muslims got together to perform music to awaken people for the early morning meal
(Saari). But an informant said Apala has no particular date of origin, and that it has been in existence and was
called “ere f’owo b’eti” (cover your ears). He also added that Apala has been in existence before the likes of
Muraina, Alao and even Ligali Mukaiba, but it was popularised by Haruna Ishola and Ayinla Omowura.
One tradition indicates that Ede is the birthplace of Apala. That a man called Balogun and his son Tijani, were
Apala singers, as early as 1938. Another suggested that Apala music had long started before 1938. Ajadi Ilorin for
instance, was remembered to have played Apala music as early as 1930 (Ajetunmobi et al, 2009:38).
Whatever position is true, what is certain is that Apala evolved among different Yoruba sub-groups that drew their
inspirations from popular Yoruba musical forms at different times. An informant also affirmed that Apala music
originated from different Yoruba sub-groups. This explains why there are more than three different styles or forms
of Apala music, as dictated by the frequency of sound production and combination of instruments used at different
times. Each individual developed his own Apala version among the people of his community, getting inspiration
from other Yoruba music, local experiences and creative ingenuity. Among such styles of Apala are:

Haruna Ishola

[i] Apala San-an – (cool beat) Haruna Ishola,

Ayinla omowura

[ii] Apala Songa – (hot beat) Ayinla Omowura,
[iii] Apala Wiro – (in between Apala san-an and Songa),
[iv] Apala Igunnu – (mixture of beat) Musiliu Haruna Ishola,
[v] Apala Olalomi – (mixture of beat) Ayinla Omowura (Ajetunmobi et al, 2009:39).

Whichever the form, Apala music is noted for its highly proverbial folklore blended with percussive instruments
of which drums play a leading role. Apala ensemble consists of Agidigbo (a thumb piano having four or five keys
and a rectangular box resonator), Sekere (a gourd rattle) and Akuba. While an informant (Interview: Mama
Obatala (70), 30, Balogun Parapo, Itoko, Abeokuta, April 26, 2010.) said Apala has only three instruments –
Sekere, Akuba and Gangan.fig 1,2,3
Many artistes have distinguished themselves in the performance and practice of Apala music. Some of the major
exponents who nurtured Apala from obscurity to prominence include: Ligali Mukaiba, Haruna Ishola, Ayinla
Omowura, Adisa Aniyameta, Raimi Dogo, Lasisi Layemi, Aminu Olaribigbe, Lasisi Onipede and Kasunmu Alao.

Excerpt from:

Traditional Music in Nigeria: Example of Ayinla Omowura’s Music
Sekinat Adebusola Lasisi (Mrs.)
Department of History and Diplomatic Studies, Olabisi Onabanjo University.


Credit: Bimbo Esho

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