On February 18, 2005, the Awurebe exponent, Alhaji Dauda Akanmu Kolawole fondly called ‘Epo Akara’ breathed his last at the age of 62. His exit marked the end of musi-cultural era, the era of a generation of musicians whose roots are deep in the urban social fabric and heritage of the Yoruba people of Southwestern Nigeria.
Like Fuji, Awurebe genre evolved from ‘were’, which was a means of entertaining the muslim faithful in the holy month of Ramadan. His band name was formerly, ‘Dauda Epo Akara and His Ajisari Group, an indicative of the fact that he was playing ‘were’. He reportedly rebranded the group and adopted Awurebe group after returning from pilgrimage to Mecca in 1974.
Some of Epo Akara’s contemporaries in the early days of his music career were: Gani Kuti, Lawuyi Oke Eleta, Sakariyawu Ladoye(who later switched to drumming), Isiaka Ogidan, and Tunde Ayefele. Gani Kuti began his ‘were’ exploit at Boundary Area of Ajegunle, Lagos, before relocating to Ibadan. However, Epo Akara pioneered the brand, Awurebe and others followed suit. Unlike Fuji that it’s creator remains a subject of debate and controversy, Awurebe’s lordship has always been attributed to Epo Akara without dissention. Even the acclaimed Fuji progenitor, Late Dr. Sikiru Ayinde Barrister had at different times consistently traced Awurebe origin to Dauda Akanmu. For instance, in Barrister’s LP, ‘E sinmi Rascality’, released in 1982, while appreciating the leadership of each genre of Nigerian music, he sang:’olorun naa lo s’ola Awurebe fun Dauda mi Akanmu o…abata ta kete bi eni o b’odo tan, isi gaju’. Also, in ‘Fertilizer'(1985), Barrister confirmed Epo Akara’s authority: ‘Dauda Akanmu o, Epo Akara ni’lu Ibadan lo l’awurebe o’.
Epo Akara’s style was rooted in a blend of folksy traditional art and philosophy. Awurebe is the fusion of Apala, Sakara, Woro and even Dadakuada from Kwara state. It is the perfect blend of these various musical cultures that have given the genre a uniquely definitive identity.
Epo Akara’s music was not only about praise-singing, but also to comment on issues of national significance. He deployed his prowess to promote or condemn government policies and programmes. When the then Head of State, General Murtala Muhammed created additional seven(7) states on February 3, 1976, the Awurebe icon waxed an album, ‘Ipinle Tuntun'(Vol.7) to commend the military regime. ‘Ipinle ti e fun wa o ma dun mo wa o e. Ibadan pelu Oyo o, omo iya sa ni wa’. ‘we are delighted with the newly- created states, Ibadan and Oyo have become one’.
Alhaji Epo Akara’s love for Ibadan was unquantifiable. He lived there throughout his life; even when other notable musicians believed that their trade could only thrive in Lagos. He never hid his love for the largest city in West Africa. In ‘Ori mi dara’ (vol.6), he praised Ibadan as the base of the wealthy and the noble. ‘ilu Olowo Ibadan, ilu oloye ti wa ni, ori mi dara ni’badan na bi mi o e’. Also in another album, ‘Is Gaju’, he sang: ‘eeyan t’ori e ba ti daru o, lo le f’omo ‘badan sere o’. In all his LPs, he always celebrated the ascension of successive Olubadan to the throne.
One of the arch-rivals of Dauda Epo Akara was another Ibadan- based Awurebe star, Yisau Osupa Anabi. It was alleged that when Epo Akara travelled to Abidjan, Cote D’Ivore for a musical engagement in the late 70s, Osupa Anabi hurriedly released an album, alleging that Epo Akara had been arrested and jailed for drug trafficking. The record, according to a reliable source recorded high volume of sales to the extent that Epo Akara fans became jittery and devastated.
According to a surviving member of Epo Akara’s band, Pa Sakariyawu Ishola: ‘ Osupa Anabi released the album barely three days after our arrival at Abidjan. And our boss, being a talented musician and master of his trade did a rejoinder through his album ‘Abidjan Special’ to dispel the unfounded rumour’. Osupa Anabi had sung:’ijekuje ti e n je, imu ki mu ti e n mu o…ta lo ran yin lona ibe un’. Meanwhile Epo Akara in Abidjan Special replied: ‘ko ri fun o bi ero re si mi o e…awa o r’ewon ni’lu Abidjan o. Baba n gbo o, be n bu wa leyin ba o gbo,baba n gbo’. He also promoted the abundance of Ankara fabric in Abidjan, ‘ankara yebeyebe o wa l’abdijan’.
Dauda Epo Akara played the role of a peacemaker in the highly celebrated Barrister-Kollington feud in the early 80s. While the rift was tough and resulting to the Fuji musicians splitting into two factions of the warring Fuji gladiators, the Awurebe maestro dropped ‘Ija o pe’ in 1982 where he mentioned and appealed to the feuding musicians to seathe their swords. ‘Ibo la kii ‘yan de o, ta o fi máa ba ‘ra wa ja, Kolawole, ija o pe e’. The rift between Barrister and Kollington was subsequently settled with the intervention of the then Deputy Governor of Lagos state, Alhaji Rafiu Jafojo.
One sad moment that remained indelible in his lifetime was the loss of two of his band members, Omoboade and Dauda in an auto crash at Alapako Area of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway in 1975. The tragic occurrence occurred when Epo Akara band was returning from a musical outing in Lagos. According to one of his wives: ‘Alhaji didn’t like anyone playing or singing the lyrics of ‘Ijamba Moto’ in his presence as he would start crying’. It was gathered that Alhaji Dauda Epo Akara recorded the tribute track of ‘Ijamba Moto’ LP thrice, as he could not hold his tears in the two previous recording sessions.
In a chat with one of the Awurebe king protégé, Sule Epo Akara, whose stage name is ‘Oyinmiyinmi’, he referred to his late boss as a talented musician with humane personality. ‘Ha! Oga mi Akanmu Baba Tawa, Akanmu omo ta piti, iya e gbe e. Olorin ti o see f’owo ro seyin ni. He gladly encouraged me to establish my own band. ‘Alagbe ma je n tan o, o ti to da duro’. Sule Epo had fourteen albums to his name.
Benson Idonije, a prominent music critic said: ‘Epo Akara released over 80 albums and was also on the road performing at prestigious engagements. But it is sad that a musician of his stature did not enjoy international recognition and exposure’. Honestly, what the Awurebe maestro left behind doesn’t commensurate with his fame and works. He has just an uncompleted single-storey building along Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. This writer believes that Oyo State Government under the leadership of our amiable governor, His Excellency, Engineer Seyi Makinde could out of his usual magnanimity, post-humously honour this Oyo state music ambassador by renovating his house. For example, the immediate past administration of Senator Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun state, renovated the Itoko residence of late Apala legend, Ayinla Omowura, as his effigy has been erected on his grave.
But why has it been difficult for the children of these music icons to step in to their fathers’ shoes? For instance, Musiliu Haruna Ishola resurrected Apala with ‘resurrection’ in 1991 and after his hit album ‘soyoyo’, in 2002, his popularity has dwindled. Ayinla Omowura’s younger brother, Dauda Anigilaje and his son, Akeem fell by the way side before their deaths in 2005 and 2016 respectively. Perhaps, Omowura’s shoe was too big for them. The grandson of the sakara legend, Yusuf Olatunji, Abideen Ajasa Olatunji is trying his best in Abeokuta to keep Baba Legba’s legacy alive.
It is apparent that every individual has his or her endowment.
Mrs Baliqees Jejelola Aduke, an executive member of Epo Akara Fans Club affirmed that four of Dauda Epo Akara’s children are singing Awurebe: ‘yes, four of Alhaji’s children are singing. They are Alhaja Tawa, Ramoni, Sarafa and Suliyat’. Asked which of them possesses the trait of Epo Akara’s musical dexterity: ‘they are all superb with good voices and the shoulder-shrugging dance style of their father’, she replied.
Born in Ibadan in 1943, Dauda Akanmu Epo Akara started as an ‘Ajiwere’ (Ramadan early call) singer. He was discovered and signed up by Omo Aje Records under the astute management of the current Olubadan of Ibadanland, His Imperial Majesty, Oba Saliu Akanmu Adetunji, Aje Ogungunniso 1.
Waheed Ganiyu, Journalist and Media Consultant writes from Ibadan, Oyo state
‘Juju music is still active’, says Toye Ajagun’
Far-famed veteran musician, Uncle Toye Ajagun has revealed that Juju music in Nigeria is not dead, maintaining that it is still potent and meaningful as it was in the past decades.
The Juju maestro insisted that the advent of Fuji has not overshadowed Juju music in the country describing it as “a mistake and wrong assumption if we say Fuji has swallowed Juju music.”
Ajagun stated this while featuring on a radio show in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital on Monday
Speaking further, the ‘Magbe-Magbe’ creator tackled the self acclaimed Fuji lord, Wasiu Ayinde Marshal, popularly known as K1 and others like him who have infused different strings into their musical arrangements saying that they have deviated from the ‘standards.’
He said the introduction of string instruments by these fuji musicians is a total departure from the standard laid down by the creator of fuji music, late Sikiru Ayinde Barrister.
According to him, “Wasiu Ayinde Marshall knows that Juju music in Nigeria is not dead. He still gives us our due respect. I listened to one of his recently released albums where he praised me, King Sunny Ade, Idowu Animashaun, Ebenezer Obey and others”.
The juju singer also disclosed that his own style of music is aimed at promoting peace and love among his followers and listeners in the country.
“I use my music to promote peace; I do not use it to cause acrimony among people”.
Justifying his style of music, the Egba-born musician explained that the album he released in 1976 was targeted at restoring the frosty relationship between two top juju musicians of that time, Admiral Dele Abiodun and Emperor Pick Peter.
He charged the present-day musicians and youths to work and pray hard and not to allow frivolities to deprive them of their glorious future. He specifically advised them not to allow current enjoyment to deprive them of the better things waiting ahead of them in the future.
Ajagun, however assured his numerous fans to expect him in the studio soon as plans are in top gear for the release of his next album.
Ayinde Barrister Was Unstoppable | By Tunde Busari
Another reason Ayinla Omowura’s star could not eclipse that of Ayinde Barrister, if Omowura had lived beyond May 6, 1980 till December 16, 2010 when Barrister passed away, rests on the flexible body and template of Barrister’s fuji music.
Again, nobody can and should disparage Omowura by placing him at the back of Barrister on the queue of our indigenous musicians. Barrister would not throw such insult at Omowura because he acknowledged and respected his prodigy and seniority in the house of Agodo, where music resides.
That was why he could not seriously take him up beyond a feeble reference in his AWA O JA, a vynl he released in 1979, shortly before his Fuji Londoners band collapsed. The title of the album-AWA O JA- is even self-explanatory on Barrister’s reverence for Omowura who had just hit him with a thunderous punch in his elpee, dismissively comparing him with all sorts of little living things.
And when Omowura died nay tragically and Barrister entered studio to record his tribute, he came out with a joker which made his fuji an all-conquering genre. If Barrister was not a soldier and musician, he would have made a brilliant career in academics. He was in love with research and vigorous musical engagement. That’s the secret of his many timeless releases-be it studio records or stage performances.
He sneaked into the hearts of the allegedly livid fans of Omowura and discovered their need in his tribute. He sneaked out and laid his song on the percussion supplied by his new band members which was ably anchored by his lead Apala talking drummer of the old Fuji Londoners, Kamoru Ayansola. What did Barrister sing? He flirted with Omowura’s template without really copying his lyrics; he picked only his sound, singing:
Iku wole ola
Iku wole ola
Abiri ti ku
Abiri rorun o
Ayinla omo yusufu…
I learnt that the track was magical as it melted the high voltage anger in the heart of Omowura’s fans and warmed Barrister into their hearts with an appreciable number of them becoming fuji converts and sharing patronage between him and Ayinla Kollington who was an acclaimed protégé of Omowura.
In his subtle but aggressive expedition, eight years after Omowura’s exit Barrister experimented with Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s Afro and produced FUJI GARBAGE and FUJI GARBAGE Series II, the latter in particular catapulted him to the level he probably did not imagine it could take him.
With his perfect use of piano and steel guitar, blend with fast tempo from apala, sakara, omele, agogo, sekere, igba and drum set, Barrister successfully pulled fans of juju and Afro genres at home and abroad to his fuji as evidently revealed by Sir Sina Peters in an interview in which he sensationally revealed how Barrister stole the show at a party where he performed alongside a top juju act at the TBS, Lagos.
SSP went ahead to confess that Barrister’s fuji profoundly influenced his invention of Afro-juju, the new genre which separated him from the conventional juju played by KSA, Ebenezer Obey, Dele Abiodun, Segun Adewale and few others.
Three years before FUJI GARBAGE and five years after the demise of Omowura, Barrister felt the need to bring his fuji to the Egun sub-ethnic group in the westernmost part of Yorubaland. He waxed an album titled SUPERIORITY and devoted a track which brought the best of Egun sound from Barrister. He sang:
Ruru fun wa kajo haha
Won binu wani
O ru fun mi gangan
Eleven years after Omowura’s death, Barrister also was determined to impress and capture two other major ethnic groups in Nigeria, namely Hausa and Ibo. He released FUJI NEW WAVES precisely in 1991 using his intro to woo those people in their respective tongues. When General Ibrahim Babangida paid a state visit to the former Oyo State, Barrister was at the Liberty Stadium where a grand reception was organized for the Head of State, Commander-In-Chief. He sang:
Ya jonmon Hausawa…
Sabudi Anabi Mohamma
Yomuhirawa waka fuji
My postulation here is that with hard work and continuous update of his fuji with different styles and instruments, for instance, Barrister would be relevant, and even soar higher were Omowura alive. In that context, in fact, Omowura would need to do what Musiliu Haruna Isola is doing to Apala, by infusing piano and guitar into the genre, to escape fuji’s onslaught.
If Omowura still relied on his ‘25 tanshi 40’ which he sang in his last elpee, I guess, his music might not make appeal beyond his catchment zone. He might not be a favourite of the political elite of the Second and Third Republic who seemed to be in race to get Barrister’s fuji at their occasions including campaign rallies.
For instance, at the Social Democratic Party (SDP) campaign for its Presidential Candidate, late MKO Abiola in Osogbo Stadium, Barrister was on stage, sharing the show with KSA.
I think, where Omowura ended it was a comfortable spot to remain an enigma he is, and when the Mainframe film is out of location and editing room, I have no doubt in my mind, based on conviction, that it is going to do more promotion to the legendary of Omowura because of the brain behind it.
But Tunde Kelani must be reminded that Omowura was never a standing musician. May God repose the souls of Omowura and Omo Agbaje. Amen
Ayinla Omowura Vs Ayinde Barrister: His Atheistic Declaration | By Tunde Busari
While dissecting the campaigns of Napoleon, a renowned philosopher of war, Carl van Clausewitz wrote: “We do claim that direct annihilation of the enemy’s forces must always be the dominant consideration.. once a major victory is achieved there must be no talk of rest, of breathing space…but only of the pursuit, going for the enemy again, seizing his capital, attacking his reserves and anything else that might give his country aid and comfort.”
The summary of Clausewitz postulation is that enemy must be fought totally and crushed in totality. That must have been the mindset of the late, Apala maestro, Alhaji Ayinla Omowura towards Dr Sikiru Ayinde Barrister when Omowura was hit by realization that he needed to fight Barrister and kill what he dubbed fuji music at infancy. How?
It is an unwritten ethics that two warring musicians must restrict themselves to the use of innuendo and metaphor to get at each other and satisfy their respective promoters and fans. But Omowura shattered the law and fired a direct salvo at Barrister to unmask any veil from the target of his hot lead. In his elpee released in 1979, the overly confident Omowura sang:
Ki o ma se je n gbo o
Pe mo ji e lorin lo
Ko je je bee
Oro apara niii
Omowura’s non-conformist choice was deliberate to splash a mud onto the face of Barrister’s identity and reduce him to a weeping boy in the community of music lovers. On the strength of the school of Clausewitz, Omowura needed to be pardoned because he had measured the astronomic rise of Barrister and felt the danger it could and indeed would constitute to his fame and stability.
He had seen the then 30-year-old Barrister leading his full band to a musical tour in the UK in 1978. He had heard about his exploits in that tour, at least the one which Barrister narrated in his ‘London Special’, a vynl, released on his return to Nigeria. He had observed how social and political elites were outdoing one another to have Barrister performed at their functions before and after the general elections which ushered in the Second Republic on October 1, 1979 and returned the soldiers to the barracks after 13 uninterrupted years in power.
Most importantly, Omowura had remembered the effect which his voluntary engaging Barrister for naming ceremony for his baby in 1974 had on his fans base.
Relying on Dr Festus Adedayo in his famous book titled AYINLA OMOWURA: LIFE AND TIMES OF AN APALA LEGEND published in 2020, a copy of which he autographed for me on May 1, 2020, Barrister’s acceptance was noticeably on ascendancy as early as 1974.
On page 127, he wrote: “The relationship between Omowura and Barrister was really very close until 1974 when the former invited him to sing at the naming ceremony of one of the children given birth to by one of his wives, which held in Mushin. By then, it was gathered that Barrister had climbed up in musical reckoning as well as such, when Omowura invited him to come and sing for his guests at the naming ceremony, which he gladly accepted, there was no way that Barrister’s fast growing acceptance in the musical world wouldn’t be at cross-purposes with Omowura’s who saw himself as the numero uno among Yoruba musicians…It was gathered that at this time in 1974, Barrister had got to challenge the favoured and highly reckoned musical top class like Ebenezer Obey and Sunny Ade at the duo’s musical dens in Yaba, Lagos State.”
If the same author could turn round seven months later and write: “If Omowura had not died, there would never have been the Barrister who supervised over the traditional Yoruba African music stratosphere of the 80s to 2010 like a wild wind,” then I should show understanding that every mortal can slip at one time or the other.
But with the above reference, Omowura could obviously not have obstructed Barrister’s invasion of the indigenous musical space because Barrister had already depleted Omowura’s fans at Omowura’s party due to his classy performance which magnetised Omowura’s fans on dance floor. What later became Alhaji Chief Sikiru Ayinde Barrister Fans Club paradoxically started from the balkanization of Omowura fans in Mushin, a situation which set the tone for the rivalry and fight which Omowura fought to the finish in May 6, 1980.
Islam, Christianity and African Traditional Religion recognise the paramountcy of a supreme being and influence of destiny in man’s journey on the surface of the earth. Every believer in God, therefore, should and must recognize that whatever he will or won’t become in life is inscribed on the sheet of his or her destiny.
Yes, Omowura’s prodigious body of lyrical compositions are incontrovertible. They are even more evident in the ongoing Tunde Kelani publicised production in Abeokuta. Yet, Omowura did not create, neither did he write Barrister’s destiny. So, Dr Adedayo’s claim, ko je je be, oro apara niiiiii
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