Jùjú Music is a prominent music genre of the Yorubas and has been described as guitar band melody; a laudatory and dedicatory music established by the Yorubas from various “palm wine musical tones’ in Lagos in the 1930s and 1940s. The word “Jùjú” (not to be confused with Western Africa mystical power attributed to charm or fetish) was derived from people yelling ‘ju so ke’ (throw it up) when the music was played in the streets accompanied by tossing up and shaking a tambourine.
Starting in the early 1930s and 1940s when Jùjú music was prevalent only within Yorubaland to the early 1970s when the music had become a popular genre across the country to the 1980s which both saw a short-term decline and later, a resurgence of Jùjú music with the release of Shina Peter’s remarkable “Ace” album, the Jùjú music we listen to and enjoy today has gone through a lot of changes in terms of instrumentation, melodies, sound and fan base.
Here are the most influential artists that have impacted the genre
1. Tunde King, Pioneer of Juju Music
Born Abdulrafiu Babatunde King on August 24, 1910 in Olowogbowo area of Lagos Island, Tunde King is widely credited for coining the name Jùjú and is considered the founder of Jùjú music. Starting in the mid to late 1920’s, Tunde King and a group of friends would often get together at a mechanic’s shop in the area of Saro Town for “evenings of music making”. Over time, Tunde and his group slowly transitioned from playing palm wine music that was common among guitarists in Lagos to producing songs in Yoruba and converting them into a story-like song in a verse-repeating and audience responsive format.
His rise to fame began once his music was aired on Radio Lagos in 1932 and in 1933, King and his group would start receiving official, solicited invites from the rich and famous elite members of the Lagos community. However, it wasn’t until after Tunde King and his group performed at the funeral ceremony of Dr. Oguntola Odunmbaka Sapara (famous for his spirited campaign against secret societies that were spreading Smallpox) in June 1935 that this music became known as Jùjú music. Some of his notable recordings were “Eko Akete”, the definitive “Oba Oyinbo” (White King) and “Sapara ti sajule orun” (Sapara has gone to Heaven). Tunde King passed away sometime in the 1980s.
2. Tunde Nightingale, The Owambe Superstar
Born Ernest Olatunde Thomas on December 10, 1922 in Ibadan, Tunde Nightingale is considered the first artist to become a hit performer playing Jùjú music in the post WWII era. The career ascent he would experience during this era was in part due to I.K. Dairo’s popularization of the Jùjú sound.
His nickname was conferred on him by adulating fans after a high energy performance in which he sang all night (like a Nightingale bird) in his smooth, avian-like singing voice. His music style was known as So Wàmbè (Is it there?); a racy allusion to the decorative beads worn by women under their clothes to make their dancing more affective. By the 1960s, Nightingale will have a more loyal and prominent fan base than I.K. Dairo among Lagos socialites. He passed away in 1981 after an illustrious career during which he recorded at least 40 albums.
Born in 1938 in the town of Egbinrin, Ogun State, he was first a stenographer and then ventured into music, first playing with highlife bands and would later on launch his own group, “Idowu Animasaun and His Lisabi Brothers” in 1967.
The band name will later on change to Idowu Animasaun and His Lisabi Brothers International after their 1974 European tour. He was one of the premier Jùjú music attractions and a peer of King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey and Prince Adekunle in the 60s and the 70s. Today, he is an evangelist and oversees the Worldhope Ministry on the outskirts of Ibadan, Oyo State.
4. General Prince Adekunle; Afrobeat Jùjú Innovator
Josiah Adeyinka Adekunle was born in Abeokuta, Ogun State on October 22, 1942 and is from the Oke Ona royal family. Known for his characteristic dark shades, Prince Adekunle served as a mentor to notable Jùjú musicians such as Sir Shina Peters and Segun Adewale who both got their start playing with his band, Prince Adekunle & his Western State Brothers.
He started touring Europe in 1972 and would later on change the name of his band to General Prince Adekunle & his Supersonic Sounds around 1975. Some of his famous hits include “Aiye Nreti Eleya” (The World is waiting for your demise), “Give us this day our Daily Bread” and “Eniyan Laso Mi” (Humans are my clothing).
5. King Sunny Ade; the Jùjú Maestro
Popularly known as the Minister of Enjoyment, Sunday Adeniyi also known as King Sunny Adé (KSA) was born into a Nigerian royal family on September 22, 1946 in Osogbo, Osun State. He got his first major music gig in 1964 when he became a guitarist with a notable Jùjú band, Moses Olaiya’s Federal Rhythm Dandies highlife band. KSA was musically inventive integrating the Congolese Guitar into his music in the 1970s and adding synthesizers in the 1980s.
KSA also created his own unique Jùjú music and dance movements calling it ‘Syncro System’ defined by the addition of Hawaiian Steel Guitar into his routines and live performances. He is considered the most commercially successful Jùjú artist of all time having released six albums a year which sold on average 200,000 copies each year from 1975 to 1980. John Parales, an American journalist for the New York Times, once described KSA as “one of the world’s great band leaders.” He is truly one of the most significant musicians of all time.
6. Fatai Rolling Dollar, Proponent of Highlife–Jùjú Fusion
Born as Prince Olayiwola Fatai Olagunju on July 22, 1926 in Ede, Osun State, Fatai Rolling Dollar kicked off his music career in the 1940s as a percussionist in the popular Konkoma bands of that particular era. To survive as a young artist, Fatai Rolling Dollar would transition from playing the Thumb Piano (agidigbo) to the guitar in 1955 and by 1957; he would form his eight-piece band, Fatai Rolling Dollar & His African Rhythm Band. Ebenezer Obey, who went on to become one of the major stars of Jùjú music, joined his band in 1958 and was even mentored by Fatai Rolling Dollar.
His stage name was conferred on him by his primary school mates because he had a habit of carrying roughly two shillings which his father would give him to spend on his siblings. At the time of his death, he was considered by some to be the godfather of Jùjú music. His creative, storytelling ability to blend highlife and Jùjú music has never been replicated by any other artist. He passed away on June 12, 2013.
7. Ebenezer Obey, The Jùjú Melodist
Nicknamed the Chief Commander, Ebenezer Remilekun Aremu Olasupo Obey-Fabiyi was born on April 3, 1942 in Idogo, Ogun State. Ebenezer Obey formed his own band, The International Brothers, in 1964 after years of guidance and mentorship under Fatai Rolling Dollar. Starting in the mid-1960s, he got more creative with his music by introducing the bass guitar and multiple Yoruba talking drums in order to generate more rhythm. Along with King Sunny Ade, he dominated the Jùjú music scene from the late 1960s into the 1980s.
He will name his style of music Juju Miliki (Miliki is a Yoruba word meaning enjoyment) after the “Miliki Spot” hotel where his band often resided. Today, the former Juju superstar is an evangelist who has elected to sing gospel music instead of the secular Juju music.
8. I. K. Dairo, the First Juju Ambassador
Born Isaiah Kehinde Dairo in 1930 in Offa, Kwara State, I.K. Dairo, who was once a barber and a cloth trader, is considered one of Africa’s first international music stars and the man who brought Jùjú music to a broader audience that included the Nigerian elite. His music career will take off when he established his own band, the 10-piece Morning Star Orchestra, in 1957, switching its name to the Blue Spots in 1959. No other artist experimented more with Jùjú music like I.K. Dairo did; he incorporated traditional sounds of the Nigerian culture, utilized other Nigerian languages in his lyrics and even introduced the accordion, slide guitar and talking drum into Jùjú music.
From the late 1950s to the mid-1960s, I.K. Dairo was the prominent figure in Jùjú music and his fan base grew across ethnic lines because his music exemplified the nation’s cultural sovereignty especially after Nigeria gained independence from Britain in 1960. In response to his overwhelming global popularity and his contribution to music, he was awarded a Member of the British Empire (MBE) in 1963 by Queen Elizabeth. After a successful career spanning five decades, he passed away on February 7, 1996 at the age of 65.
9. Sir Shina Peters; Afro Jùjú Originator
Born Oluwashina Akanbi Peters on May 30, 1958 in Ogun State, Sir Shina Peters is the acknowledged inventor of Afro Jùjú music; a potent blend of Afrobeat, Jùjú and entertaining and striking Fuji-style beats. He experienced his first taste of Jùjú music stardom playing with General Prince Adekunle and would later on form his own band with Segun Adewale.
Sir Shina Peters would embark on his solo career in the early 1980s forming his own band, Sir Shina Peters & His International Stars. The group’s first album titled Ace in 1989 was a monumental success and made Sir Shina Peters the most relevant Jùjú artist in the late 1980s and for a greater part of the 1990s. With the release and success of the group’s second album, Shinamania, Sir Shina Peters became a global star and was celebrated as the person who revived Jùjú music.
10. Ayinde Bakare; Mr. Jùjú
Born in Lagos in 1912, Ayinde Bakare started his musical career with Tunde King and started recording with a British recording label, His Master’s Voice (HMV), in 1937. Starting off with four band members in 1937, he would grow his band to eight band member; who played instruments ranging from gangan, conga, shekere and the electric guitar, in 1959.
Always adding various musical instruments to his creative ensemble, Bakare is believed to be the first Jùjú musician to use an amplified guitar in 1949. Always determined to ensure that Jùjú music never strayed from its traditional origins, Bakare was quite popular among Lagos and Ibadan socialites in the 1950s and 1960s. Unfortunately, he died under mysterious circumstances on October 1, 1972 in Lagos after a wedding party performance.
11. Benjamin ‘Kokoro’ Aderounmu; the Blind Versifier of Jùjú Music
Born into a royal family in Owo town, Ondo State on February 25, 1925, Kokoro started entertaining Lagosians with his inimitable single style and a tin drum and will later on switch his instrument of choice to a tambourine and samba. He started going blind midway through his secondary education at Modern High School in Okitipupa, Ondo State. His musical expedition would take him from Owo to Okitipupa to Ibadan, Oyo State, and eventually to Lagos where he would get exposed to the music of I.K Dairo, Victor Olaiya and Ayinde Bakare.
Over the course of his lengthy and illustrious music career entertaining in Nigeria and abroad, Kokoro stands alone as the one-man act Lyrist of Jùjú music. Armed with his samba and unable to afford stylish musical instruments, Kokoro sang effortlessly in Yoruba language about family issues, poverty, love, societal conflicts and money. It is widely believed that Nigerian Author Cyprian Ekwensi’s 1960 novel, The Drummer Boy, is based on the life of Kokoro. He passed away on January 25, 2009, at the age of 83.
12. Dele Abiodun – The King of Adawa Sound
Known as “The Admiral”, Dele Abiodun was born on March 30, 1948 in Bendel State. As a young student, he dropped out of school and relocated to Ghana to study music at The Young Pioneers School of Music. His decision was against his father’s wishes who wanted him to be a doctor, lawyer or an engineer. The Admiral’s type of music, which he would call “Adawa Sound”, is a blend of the Jùjú Music of the 60s and the pure highlife music that he picked up while in Ghana. “Adawa” means something rare, unique or autonomous; a point The Admiral wanted to clearly emphasize in pointing out the originality of his music.
In 1969, he returned to Lagos from Ghana and shortly thereafter, he established his own band, Sweet Abby & his Top Hitters Band. The Admiral never attained the level of stardom that his fellow Juju contemporaries like King Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey had; however, he is credited with infusing modern sound elements such as electroclaps and drum machines into Jùjú music. He would share his refined Adawa sound with the world with the release of his 1984 album, Its Time for Jùjú Music.
13. Segun Adewale, Pioneer of Yo-Pop
Segun Adewale was born in 1955 into a royal family in Osogbo, Osun State. He got his early start in music by listening and watching his father play the guitar. However, his foray into music really took off when he moved to Lagos, where he met I.K. Dairo. It was under the tutelage of I.K. Dairo that Adewale learnt how to arrange, compose and perform Jùjú music.
After a stint playing with Prince Adekunle in the 1970s, Adewale will join Shina Peters in 1977 to form new group called Shina Adwale and the Superstars International. The successful partnership will release nine recordings over the three years and would later on split in 1980. Over the next few years, Adewale will refine his sound and by 1984, his music would evolve into what he would describe as Yo-Pop; a blend of Funk, Jazz, Jùjú, Reggae and Afro-beat.
Other Notable Jùjú artists include Ahuja Bello, Dayo Kujore, Irewolede Denge, Dele Ojo, Ambrose Campbell, Daniel Ojoge, Adeou Akinsanya, Oludare Olateju, Bola Abimbola, Brewster Hughes.