Top Three Yoruba Musicians Of 20th Century Nigeria


September 27, 2019

Your first taste in music and your overall music experience while growing up was probably defined and influenced by your parents’ taste in music. My parents had a huge catalogue of Yoruba music in their rich and different variations; mostly Sakara, Apala, Fuji, and Juju. I mean, an entire section of my dad’s catalogue of Yoruba music is a massive collection of these CDs and Cassettes. I wonder how much they are worth at the moment.

It’s interesting that when I think about the music in this category, I think about them with fondness, when as a child, I would rather listen to something else. It’s only now that I realise how iconic these musicians and their work is. I can’t go back to the car drives with my dad where all he played was fuij and juju music, but thanks to music streaming platforms, I can always re-live some of these moments in my head.

If your parents are anything like mine, you should know these people, and the epic work that they did. I have to confess; the list is made up of my personal favorites — there are scores of others I’m leaving out. Oh, I almost forgot to add. If you were born later than the late 90s, chances are that you missed out on this experience. Sad, I know.

Yusuf Olatunji

His brand of music was the Sakara genre and he is the GOAT. If you are all about the sweet boy life, then Baba Legba (as he was fondly known) is for you. His music is perfect for an weekend, evening car spin. Increase the volume of your speakers, nod your head to the rhythm, and whistle in sync with the lyrics as if you have no care in the world.

Musiliu Haruna Ishola

His father, Haruna Ishola popularized the Apala genre and is considered one of the greatest to run in the Apala game. The genre, however, lost much of its appeal until Musiliu Haruna Ishola came into the fold and spearheaded the resurgence of the genre. His revitalisation attempts gave the genre a new vibe that appealed to the audience of that time.  If you have any memory of this guy, his 2000 monster hit, Soyoyo should come to mind. I can’t think of a perfect description for the album, but I know it is the work of a guy marking his territory.

Sikiru Ayinde Barrister (Alhaji Agba)

How can you be Yoruba or Nigerian and claim that you have never heard of the Fuji genre? Fuji is unarguably the most popular traditional Yoruba music in recent times; there are even different variations of it. Everybody keeps trying to add their own touch to it.

There is no way to ever forget the impact of Alhaji Agba, or doubt his relevance within this genre. The man released over 60 glorious albums before he died in 2010. Among the various bodies of work I was exposed to growing up, Fuji Garbage is my personal favorite. It’s music that should have its own dance (the way all music seems to have their own dance today).

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