Fuji music is arguably one of the most dominant ethnic music in Nigeria today. It began as a modification to a certain type of original music that was rendered solely to wake Muslims up during the Ramadan fast in Nigeria. That original music was known as Ajisari or Were music. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Fuji music is popular among Nigerian Yoruba Muslims because of the nuance of the Yoruba language as a currency of expression, the use of Yoruba musical instruments and the integration of Quranic references and allusions in the lyrics. Fuji music has often being described as Jùjú music starved of guitars.
Ajisari/were music, with its similar oral aesthetics to the muezzin’s call to prayer, was used to wake the Muslim at dawn for Ramadan fast. This genre was popularized by musicians such as Alhaji Dauda Epo-Akara in Ibadan who was also the founder of Awurebe music, Ganiyu Kuti (also known as Gani Irefin).
Alhaji Sikiru Ayinde Barrister is considered the creator of Fuji music and was a former student of Jibowu Barrister who was an Ajiwere music perfomer. According to Ayinde Barrister, Fuji music has a little bit of different genres such as Apala, Juju, Aro, Afro, Gudugudu and Highlife in its makeup. In addition to the inspiration provided by these different music genres, Ayinde Barrister blended the beats of the Sakara Drum (a Yoruba musical instrument) and melodic outputs of foreign musical instruments as used by Juju and Highlife musicians in order to create the novel form of his music. When asked why he chose ‘Fuji’ as the name of the genre, Ayinde Barrister said he came up with the name when he saw a poster at an airport advertising Mount Fuji, the highest peak in Japan. As the pioneer of this genre, Ayinde Barrister toured across the globe evangelizing the gospel of Fuji music and was the first Fuji musician to travel and perform outside the African continent.
Later on, other musicians such as Alhaji Kolawole Ayinla aka Kollington Ayinla, Fatai Adio, Saura Alhaji, Rahimi Ayinde (Bokote), Ramoni Akanni, Waidi Akangbe, Sikiru Olawoyin, Agbada Owo, Iyanda Sawaba, Ejire Shadua, Wahabi Ilori, and Wasiu Ayinde Barrister appeared on the scene, all introducing their style of Fuji music. Among these newcomers, Kollington Ayinla, also known as Baba Alatika or Kebe-n-Kwara, became Ayinde Barrister’s most notable rival until his death in 2010. Even though both men were friends, they often expressed their grievances and differences through the only avenue they knew which was their music. It was not uncommon for these men to take jabs at each other in their records which their fans only helped proliferate by purchasing their records and memorizing their songs.
Just as Fuji was created from Ajisari/were music, some other Fuji musicians also created their own brand of Fuji with a credible improvisation of form, style and content. One of the musicians who modernized the genre is Alhaji Wasiu Ayinde Barrister (who later changed his name to Alhaji Wasiu Ayinde Marshall). Under the guidance of Ayinde Barrister for nearly 15 years, Ayinde Marshall learned the craft and gradually started envisioning he will want his brand of Fuji music to sound like. He announced his arrival to the world in 1984 with the release of his hit, Talazo Fuji. His version of Fuji music delivered youthful energy and by the late 1990s, his transformative version of Fuji music had inspired a popular dance craze in Nigeria. Another artist, Adewale Ayuba, revealed a brand of Fuji music that denoted some sort of sophistication that often blurred the boundary of Fuji music as a peculiar among Yoruba Muslims. The youths identified more with his kind of Fuji (which was called ‘Bonsue Fuji’) because it was classic, clean and lively. In the early 1990s, Abass Akande Obesere (aka Omo rapala) sprouted into limelight with his version of Fuji that featured an onslaught of street slangs and sexual overtones. Even though his approach was unusual and risqué for the genre, he gained popularity and acceptance because his music slaked the pretentious interest of Fuji fans whose interests were beyond Yoruba metaphorical phrases and Quranic allusions.
From one generation to another, Fuji music has gone through various improvisations that continue to influence the style and content of the genre. With the use of horns, strings and musical progression, Ayinde Marshall incorporated a unique melody into Fuji music. At a time when Highlife and Juju were considered songs of the elite, Ayinde Marshall made efforts to broaden the appeal of the genre. He is arguably the most prominent Fuji musician alive and is seen as a mentor to most of the younger musicians – even those of other genres.
Fuji music has gained a huge fan base all over South-Western Nigeria, and among fans in other parts of Nigeria, Africa, the Caribbean, North America and Europe. Fuji artists today often go on tours in Europe, North America and some Arab countries and these trips and tours have immensely helped in popularizing the genre. Today, the notable Fuji artists in Nigeria include Alhaji Rasheed Ayinde, (Sir) Shina Akanni, Adewale Ayuba, Abass Akande Obesere, Otunba Wasiu Alabi (Pasuma Wonder), King Dr. Saheed Osupa (His Majesty), Shefiu Adekunle Alao (Omo Oko), Sule Adio (Atawéwé), Wasiu Ajani, (Mr. Pure Water), Remi Aluko (Igwe Fuji), Muri Alabi Thunder, Karube Aloma, Karubey Shimiu, Adeolu Akanni (Paso Egba), Shamu Nokia, Bola Abimbola, (Quintessential) Sunny Melody, Olusegun Ologo and Segun Michael just to name a few.
From the late 1960s when the first Fuji bands performed in public till today, the genre has taken a symbiotic detour with the innovative collaborations of its musicians with artistes of other genres. For instance, Wasiu Alabi Pasuma has been featured by many hip hop artistes in the Nigerian Music Industry and many fans of the genre have seen this as a good thing because they believe such collaborations will only further allow more people to discover and appreciate Fuji music. The genre continues to attract a younger generation and the number of Fuji kid stars such as Shanko Rasheed, Wasiu Container and Konkolo Wally is on the rise. This news is quite promising for the future of the genre which has gone from a period in the late 1960s to late 1970s when Ayinde Barrister and Kollington Ayinla were the stars to the present day when there are a handful of promising and creative artists who are eager to take the genre to greater heights.
- Ademigbuji, Adedeji. “Repositioning Fuji Music” The Nation. Web. http://thenationonlineng.net/repositioning-fuji-music/ June 24, 2016
- Amodeni, Adunni. “Why Fuji Music is Not Recognized – Adewale Ayuba” Naij.com. web. http://entertainment.naij.com/654165-fuji-music-not-recognized-award-winning-fuji-artist.html
- “Fuji Music” – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Modified November 4, 2016. Web. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuji_music
- Rewaju, Demola. “Demola Rewaju: 12 artistes that changed the face of music in Nigeria” YNaija.com, http://ynaija.com/demola-rewaju-12-artistes-that-changed-the-face-of-music-in-nigeria/ February 21, 2014.