African Apala Music

The Original Music from the Yoruba People

The Apala music, also known as Akpala, is a genre of music that originated from the Yoruba people who are found in Nigeria, Africa. This genre of music was developed in the 1930s and is a heavily percussion-based type of musical style. Other instruments that are used in the Apala genre include a rattle, known as a sekere, and thumb piano called a agidigbo, and a bell, known as a agogô. Because Apala music is largely percussion based, there are usually two or three drums used as well. It was originally used to wake up worshippers after they had fasted during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Over time, the genre and style of Apala have become more complex and has been influenced by Cuban-styled music, which has made the genre quite popular in Nigeria.

 The establishment and rise in popularity of  Apala music owes itself to three Yoruba singers and performers - Ayinla Omowura, Haruna Ishola, and his son Musiliu Haruna Ishola. 

Haruna Ishola

Haruna Ishola began populising the Apala genre in the lead up to the Nigerian independence in 1960. He began recording Apala-styled songs around 1955, and quickly became a very popular and respected Apala artist. His Apala music was very traditional, including Yoruba proverbs and Koranic scripture in all of his songs, and not using any Western-style instruments or musical influences.

Haruna Ishola died in 1983, but his contribution and popularisation of the Apala genre has not been forgotten in Nigeria, and he is still considered one of the best and most popular Apala artists today.

Haruna Ishola - Kise Tenu

Ayinla Omowura

Ayinla Omowura was another artist to popluarise the Apala genre. He reformed the Apala music to create enriching melodies and arranged vocals to a faster beat. While he originally stuggle with producing and destributing his music because promoters and record owners wanted him to sound more like Haruna Ishola, Ayinla Omowura connected to people by promoting the values and social culture of the Yoruba people, which included the traditional roles of males and females, Yoruba polygamy, Muslims and Islam, the working poor and living on the streets, and the love of sports. He also sang about social issues that effected the middle and lower Yoruba classes. His music also became popular, and unoffically adopted as anthem, with bus drivers and conductors.

Ayinla Omowura - Awa Ki Se Olodi Wo

Musiliu Haruna Ishola

Like father, like son, Musiliu Haruna Ishola followed in his father's footsteps and became a successful Apala singer and artist. Musiliu is often given the credit for revitalising the Apala genre amongst the new generation of Muslims within the Yoruba community. In 2000, he released his album called Soyoyo, which brough Apala music to a wider, younger audience. With his music being played and remixed on radio stations throughout Nigeria, Musiliu has reenergised and reestablished the Apala music in Nigeria and among the Yoruba people.

Musiliu Haruna Ishola

If you have enjoyed learning about the Apala music genre from the Yoruba people in Nigera, you may want to discover more about the unique aspects of the Yoruba life by reading about their culture and way of life