Referred to as the “Queen of Waka Music”, Salawa Abeni is a Nigerian singer known for promulgating, promoting and modernizing the waka style since the late 1970s.
Salawa Abeni was born on May 5 1961 in Ijebu, Ogun State. At the young age of eight, Salawa found her niche in waka music. Waka music is an Islamic oriented Yoruba musical genre, and it began with the likes of Alhaji Batile Alake followed swiftly by Salawa Abeni. Her music is a combination of talking drums, conga drums, saxophone and keyboards amongst others. She joined Leader records until 1986 and released her first album titled Late General Murtala Ramat Mohammed in 1976. The album sold over a million copies in Nigeria, which was a record for female artists in Nigeria. She has performed in and outside the country and has released up to twelve albums during her music career.
In 1992 the Alafin of Oyo crowned her Queen of Waka music.
She married Kollington Ayinla, a Fuji legendary musician and stayed with him till 1994. Queen Salawa fell off the grid for about 5 years due to hypertension. However, she returned to the music scene, bigger and better with a new album entitled Testimony. Some of her hits include Indian Waka and Experience.
Her beautiful music composing skills earned her multitude of fans nationwide and during her reign, no social functions were completed without the touches of her electrifying beats especially in the circle of those who appreciated the waka music. Even though the waka musical genre is dying out, Salawa’s music still lives because it is part of the fabric from which Nigeria was cut.
Today, Queen Salawa Abeni is highly regarded as an icon of Nigerian music not only for paving the way for female artists but also for her staying power in the male dominated Nigerian music industry. After four decades as a performing artist, her vocal and percussion style is still fascinating and she has even caught the attention of a younger generation of Nigerians. Her recent performance and audience reception at Felabration 2015 with her son, Big Sheff, is a valid indication that she is not going away anytime soon.