Apala (or Akpala) is a musical genre, originally derived from the Yoruba people of Nigeria. It is a percussion-based style that developed in the late 1930s, when it was used to wake worshippers after fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. The rhythms of apala grew more complex over time, influenced by Cuban music and eventually became quite popular in Nigeria.
Instruments include a rattle (sekere), thumb piano (agidigbo) and a bell (agogô), as well as two or three talking drums.
Haruna Ishola is undoubtedly the best-known performer of apala in Nigerian history. Others may hold a contrary view that Ayinla Omowura is better known, and the most successful musician of Apala. Both of them played an integral role in the popularization of the genre, and it is distinct from, older than, and much more difficult to master than fuji music. Although Ayninla Omowura died in his forties in 1980, he recorded more than 20 LPs and remarkably, all are very successful.
Although Fuji music remains the most important form of traditional music amongst Yorubas in Nigeria, apala is still very popular amongst Muslims of the Yoruba tribe. Special mention must be given to Haruna Ishola’s son, Musiliu Haruna Ishola, who is often credited with revitalizing the apala genre and spearheading the apala-resurgence of the 2000s.
With his 2000 album (entitled Soyoyo), Musiliu has succeeded in bringing apala music to a wider, younger audience, thus breathing new life to the genre and keeping the tradition (and his father’s legacy) alive. He is credited with re-popularizing a genre that was fast becoming the preserve of older Muslims of the Yoruba tribe. The success of his Soyoyo album meant that a younger (often Christian or Animist) generation of Yorubas have now demonstrated a renewed interest in apala music. His songs can often be heard on popular radio stations across Yoruba land.