Alhaji Ayinla Omowura,colossus of African music
By Benson Idonije
Te first time I heard Ayinla Omowura in actual performance was in a recording session at
EMI's Oregun studios. This was in the 70s and it was a colourful and exciting session replete
with all the trappings of talent and artistic creativity.
The great exponent of Apala and colossus of African music was there with his entire group
and the recording engineer specially assigned to the band because he was used to their
antics. I saw raw talent and artistic motivation at their best as three albums of 36-minute
duration were recorded effortlessly at a go, with the session flowing naturally and smoothly,
unhampered by unnecessary breaks arising from musical lapses.
The whole thing was written in the mind; and as soon as the first percussive note was struck,
the session took off with the call and response pattern in which Ayinla waited from one
chorus to another, establishing social commentaries with thought-provoking proverbial and
Once he had cause for a retake, but instead of redoing the portion that did not sound
satisfactory, he did it all over again. And this time, even though the rhythmic pattern was in
the same racy, intricate fashion, the singing was not exactly re-enacted in the same
progression, word for word. But thesame message was conveyed and the same meaning was
made - a true celebration of African music.
I stayed through till the end of the recording because I was carried away by the intricate
complexities of his rhythms and the bluesy, down-to-earth voice that sang. I did not
understand the message but the compelling sound of the ensemble and the artistic creativity
of his vocal inflections registered an indelible impression on my mind.
The uniqueness of Anyinla Omowura's music was just beginning to attract public appeal and
his popularity assuming legendary proportions when he died. As a matter of fact, at the time
of his death in 1981, Ebi kii pa'gun dojo ale, one of his greatest albums, was enjoying
tremendous popularity at the number four position of the then Radio Nigeria Top Ten Chart,
whose idea was created by veteran broadcaster Ikenna Ndaguba.
His popularity was more pronounced at the grassroots level, and that is why it was more
visible in areas, such as Mushin and Agege, where all the meat sellers, motor drivers and all
looked forward to his new releases. He was a superstar, an institution and a great crowd puller. I had cause to attend one of his live shows at Mushin on the invitation of his recording
company. I reached the concert venue alright, but before I could get to the stage, it was a
lot of hassle as I was subjected to indignities and humiliation from his follower-ship who
physically barred people from getting through. There were three hurdles to cross. The first
one at the periphery was that of dancers who jumped for joy to the music that floated
through from the distance.
Needless to say that on stage he was power-charged and highly
Ayiola Omowura's death was premature and untimely, but he left a good number of albums
behind. His first big hit was Challenge Cup, a social commentary on a football match involving
Stationery Stores, with "Ode tio p'etrin a mura, also in the same album, helping to
consolidate his acceptance. Hit albums, which are also of evergreen interest, are Owo tuntun,
Abode Mecca, Eyin Oselu wa, Egbo tuntun, were were la fin s'ere wa, Shaki n se bi ora, Awa
kii se olodi won, a posithumous release, among others.
A foremost African musician, Ayinla's influence is beginning to manifest itself on the youth
and their execution of the various social music forms of today, a trend which is a glaring
testimony to his innovativeness, and the depth of his creativity.
His success was so overwhelming to the extent that he became an-idol to the masses particularly among the public transport drivers, and the traders to mention a few.
In the 10 years that he was on EMI Nigeria label, all his 20 albums sold a minimum of 50,000 copies on the first day of their release. Acutely popular,Omowura’s day of release was always a carnival at garages,Beer parlours and even at parties.,,
Apala party time
with Eyin Ose'Lu Wa probably from 77-tape rip with some 'warbles' on the first track