Tuesday 2 May 2023

Story of Ayinla Omowura: A Yoruba music legend

Waidi Ayinla Yusuf Gbogbolowo better known as Ayinla Omowura (1933 – 6 May 1980) was a Nigerian Apala musician born in Itoko, Abeokuta in 1933.

Omowura was the son of Yusuff Gbogbolowo, a blacksmith, and Wuramotu Morenike.

He did not have formal education and started out working at his father's smithy but left and went on to working several jobs as a driver, butcher, carpenter and bus park boy.

He was however discovered by Adewole Alao Oniluola, who later became his lead drummer and started an apprenticeship in Olalomi, an Apala variant.

Omowura was known for feuding with other musicians including his superiors such as Haruna Ishola, whom he later acknowledged to be his superior. He also feuded with Ayinde Barrister, Fatai Olowonyo, Yesufu Olatunji and Dauda Epo Akara.

These feuds coloured his music over his discography. He was noted to have a quick temper and engaged in marijuana use and in physical altercations.

Despite being unlettered, Omowura was enlightened about current events and had a command of puns, proverbs innuendos and metaphors. He was a social commentator, critic as well as a moral instructor.

He often served as a mouthpiece for passing on government policies to the masses and was also a messenger of the masses back to the government. In his 1976 album, Owo Udoji he hailed the government for salary increment but however demanded for same increment in the private sector In Orin Owo Ile Eko, He explained the Lagos rent edict to his listeners and also praised the Mobolaji Johnson-led Lagos State government for the masses-oriented programme.

He influenced the response of the people to the policy and also explained the National Census of 1973 in his album National Census.

the 1973 album, Challenge Cup '73 he explained the change in driving from the left to the right hand side and the change of the Nigerian Currency from the colonial Pound Sterling to the Naira and Kobo during the General Yakubu Gowon-led military government.

Asides current affairs, he used his albums to extol the importance of sporting activities. His music also preached positive change in society and portrayed both mourning and celebration.

He was also a critic of women who bleached their skin and promiscuous women.

He had many aliases and earned the moniker, Hadji Costly because of his flamboyant dressing in agbadas made of high quality Swiss lace and gold jewellery.

His other aliases include Egunmogaji, Anigilaje and Alujannu Elere which demonstrated his status as the enfant terrible in music of the time.

Omowura was a muslim by birth, he practiced the religion and performed the Hajj in 1975. He however also engaged in traditional religion practices. He was married to Afusatu of the Ile Eleni clan and Tawakalitu Owonikoko.

Omowura was killed in a bar room brawl on May 6, 1980 aged 47. He died from a cerebral haemorrhage after being struck on the head with a beer mug by Bayewu, his manager at the time.

Bayewu was taken to court and sentenced to death a few years later. On the day he died, EMI Records recorded at least 50,000 copies sale on each of his albums.

Following the death of Omowura in 1980 and Haruna Ishola in 1983, the popularity of Apala music waned and has been largely replaced by Fuji music. New school Nigerian musicians, Terry Apala and Q-dot Alagbe have made music influenced by Omowura's style.

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