•The Story Of The Maverick Of APALA Music
Call him the Maverick of Apala music and you won’t be wrong. Nasiru Atuwon from Ikorodu introduced guitar, a Western European musical instrument, into Apala, a purely traditional music genre to the astonishment of his contemporaries, who doubted his ability to make a success of the new venture. Bravo! to Nasiru’s innovative spirit as he succeeded in making a fortune out of his daring nature.
In the ’60s and ’70s, the social life of Ikorodu indigenes and residents caught up the fever of innovation in Apala music as they came under intense influence of the then-new Apala artiste, Nasiru Atuwon, who dominated the social space of the city as an octopus that spreads its tentacles for effective control of its space with his guitar in Apala music. Atuwon came into the city with his Guitar Apala’s lyrics and rhythm that was practically irresistible to music buffs, socialites and celebrities. The rich in the city could not ignore him either. He sang praised them, wooing and inducing them to appreciate him with wads of Naira notes (currency) whenever they were guests on occasions where Nasiru was playing or as guest artiste at their events.
The popularity of Nasiru, without exaggeration, was ubiquitous. Whenever he released a new record, it was always on the airwaves on radio and television, used as a continuity gap-filling teaser. Record-selling stores in Lagos and Ikorodu were usually crowded as fans and admirers huddled on streets in front of the stores to listen to his newly-released record. Fans in Ikorodu could be said to be rabid. They saw him as the pacesetter of their social life, taking to a new height their cultural hegemony and of course, the standard-bearer of Ikorodu innovation in the social space.
Nasiru was born in Ikorodu in 1928 to an Igbemo music artiste, Pa Atuwon. Early in life, Nasiru joined his father’s band as a drummer. He did more than that in his father’s band. He was also a singer, who took over the microphone whenever his father for one reason or the other, had to leave the stage to ease himself or for any other reason. Thus, Nasiru enabled the band to avoid a vacuum on any occasion. That, of course, was how he learnt the rope. It was not long when he believed he had learnt enough from his father’s band. He left and went to set up his own band.
What surprised many observers after Nasiru literally obtained independence from his father’s band was that he didn’t play Igbemo music as his father. He came up with something new and interesting that attracted public attention and assured him of patronage. He brought innovation to his father’s genre of music as he went into the Agido genre of music instead of Igbemo. The innovation had a positive impact on his professional journey and fastened his rise to stardom. Agido could be classified as a genre of Apala music. The icing on his cake of innovation was the introduction of guitar to his music. What a novelty!
Besides Apala, socialites of the great city were also fans and followers of other genres of music such as Sakara, Waka and Sekere. As people of peculiar style, they didn’t go for run-off-the-mill Apala. Yes, they were fanatical fans and followers of Apala laced with guitar sounds. Apala music is a brand introduced in the South-West zone of Nigeria in the ’30s. It has elements of Cuban culture that was brought to Nigeria by indigenes who had earlier sojourned in Cuba during the slave trade era. Other instruments that give Apala music its push are two or three small talking drums, a gong (agogo), maracas and a box guitar known as agidigbo. All these are Apala music instruments that Nasiru ‘s Midas touch wove into a powerful driving wheel that dancers could not resist at parties and social gatherings. Nasiru expanded his musical horizon beyond the South-Western zone of the country. He was once the artiste that Yoruba people who were settlers in Kaduna on a particular occasion invited to play for them. Nasiru succeeded in taking his hosts to what could be called cloud nine of enjoyment and satisfaction. His hosts were thrilled beyond their expectation that they honoured him with the title of Hadji Matador.
It was not only outside Ikorodu that Nasiru was honoured, his people in Ikorodu were the first to realize the value of his entertainment entrepreneurship, leisure-enhancing value, the elevation and enrichment of the social life of the great city. In unison, celebrities, socialites, shakers and movers of the social space gave him a chieftaincy title: Amuludun of Ikorodu, then chief entertainer of Ikorodu. Chief Nasiru Atuwon left his footprint on Ikorodu entertainment and by extension, Yorubaland and Nigeria. In his entertainment life, Nasiru had more than 80 records to his credit. Fanatic fans, especially ladies fell over themselves to have a taste of what made him a fantastic Apala maestro.
He was equally known for using music as a social crusading tool and fighting for of justice. The percussion-based lyrics that were steeped in tantalizing rhythm which he employed in praising celebrities and those who were generous and had made a benevolent impact on the lives of people, was to acknowledge their contributions to the communal development. He used his lyrics to encourage the rich who were considerate and doused in the milk of human kindness to do more, while simultaneously urging others to emulate the good gestures of those who had soft spots for the poor and the needy.
His music was not only for praise-singing, it was also used to champion the cause of social justice. On an occasion, one of his family members had a clash with a woman who was close to a military officer. Unfortunately, for Nasiru, it was a time the civil war was raging in the country. The influence of military men was predominant. Nigeria was then under a military government. When the reason of the crisis was eventually untangled, Nasiru, a prolific producer, waxed a record to practically explain the nitty-gritty of the crisis and reap the commercial benefit as the record sold in large numbers. He was a phenomenon in the entertainment circuit that reflected what used to make Ikorodu tick. This was pronounced in the city’s treating of guests which made parties bubble with vivaciousness. It was also a mark of generosity that made the city out and became the object of emulation for other cities and towns. Ikorodu, at the time Nasiru was ruling the music and social waves, was unmatched in the lavish entertainment of guests at parties. It was a period of Guitar Apala in Ikorodu and Nasiru was the chief entertainer. He rose to the occasion with all his power, not losing sight of the spiritual salvo that gave him all-around success, that made him unforgettable. The man died on July 17, 1988.