Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Some Information About Nigeria's Jùjú Music & Five YouTube Examples Of Jùjú Music

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part I of a a two part pancocojams series on Nigeria's Jùjú music.

This post presents some general information about Jùjú music and showcases five YouTube examples of that music.

Click for Part II of this series. Part II quotes an excerpt from the 1990 book JuJu: A Social History and Ethnography of an African Popular Music by Christopher Alan Waterman. That excerpt provides information about the mid to late 1950s stylistic branch of Jùjú music called "Toy Motion" and includes two English translated lyrics of songs from that branch of Jùjú music: J. O. Araba and His Rhythm Blues "The Swamp" and
J.O. Oyeshiku and His Rainbow Quintette, Excerpt from "This Is The Matter, In Abundance".

Note that J. O. Araba, the composer/performer of one of the songs that is featured in one of the showcased YouTube examples in Part I of this series, is also the composer of one of the songs that is showcased in Part II of this series.

The content of this post is presented for historical, cultural, and entertainment purposes.

Thanks to the founders and innovators of Jùjú music. Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post and thanks to the publishers of these examples on YouTube.

These excerpts are given in no particular order and are numbered for referencing purposes only.
Excerpt #1:
From Juju music in the eye of history
Posted By: Juju music On: July 17, 2016 In: Arts & Life
..."In a newspaper interview, Queen Ayo Balogun who was then the president of the Juju Musician Association at time of the interview corrects some notion about the perceived fetishness of juju music ascribed to its name. Juju, to the layman, is voodoo or jazz. The mere mention of juju may bring to the mind, frenzied incantations, craven images as well as other fetish paraphernalia. Ayo Balogun opined that Juju music had nothing to do with voodoo or black magic; that it rather had everything to do with making music that speaks to social conscience and good citizenry.

The origin of the name juju is an interesting one. Early juju musicians played an array of instruments majorly drums, guitars and their voices. It was not unusual for singers to sing and beat the tambourine. And sometimes in the heat of the groove, they would throw their tambourines high in the air and catch. The translation of the verb throw in Yoruba is “ju” and Yoruba, being a tonal language, repetition is often used to lay emphasis, hence the doubling of the verb throw which is “juju”. This brand of music derived its name from the showmanship of performers who beyond singing throws the tambourine with the view to catch and thrill the crowd. Although the tambourine is not much a consequential instrument tied to the sound of juju music as a whole, it also gives insight to the roots of juju music especially in the early African church.


Forty plus years after the Nigerian civil war and the boom of Juju music (along with oil sales in Nigeria), the juju superstars that linger on our lips are King Sunny Ade(KSA) and Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey, both one-time apprentices of Moses Olaiya, the musician/comedian, and Fatai Rolling Dollar, the agidigbo music maestro respectively.


As time would have it, the rise of juju music coincided with the oil boom of the 70s, so that praise singing became a prominent aspect of the music. This ensured that KSA as well as Chief Commander, honey-tongued griots, became not only superstar musicians but millionaires. Hugely talented and prolific, it is best to imagine them as the ying-yang of juju music. Whilst KSA is the graceful entertainer with nimble feet, Obey’s music is more reflective and philosophical—both are accomplished guitarists. As one would expect of music made for dance, KSA’s music is sometimes fast-paced and suffused with innuendoes that conflate dancing prowess with sexual activities. Obey’s closest attempt to a booty call was from his early numbers and his most successful love song, Paulina is at once a sultry appeal and a lover’s prayer.

If the 70s was for oil boom and mirth-making, the 80s was a very unsettling period in Nigeria’s politics and economy, fraught with coups and countercoups. Music and precisely juju music was one of the casualties of this era, the tune of the music moved away from merriment to more reflective and meditative themes, however this was after KSA signed a deal with Island Records. In the wake of Bob Marley’s death, Island Record’s attempted to raise yet another global superstar and the easy charm and charisma of KSA had drawn them to his sound which they re-engineered into a sonic masterpiece which became characteristic of King Sunny Ade’s music...

Names like Dayo Kujore, Mico Ade, Dele Taiwo cluttered the juju musicsape in the 90s, a draconian period of economic austerity occasioned by military rule. In the face of unrestrained hunger and hardship, by all means, culture is one of the early casualties. In this period ironically, juju music enjoyed the fresh breath of Sir Shina Peters(SSP). His triad albums Ace, Shinamania and Dancing Time were so successful in southwestern Nigeria that the widespread popularity trekked to Midwestern states and dared to cross the River Niger!

Shina Peter’s strategy to the juju of his forebears was quite enthralling. As with every genre of art, individual talent and insight was important and what Mr Peters did differently was to quicken the pace of juju music with a column of heavy percussion like the music had never had. His nimble feet and love for sexual innuendo was very reminiscent of King Sunny Ade but his percussion pattern was deliberately different. Even his snare drummer brought a distinctive sound that juju had never known.

Since SSP, juju music has seemingly remained stagnant as a genre. The entire 90s did not produce one single enduring juju artist. By the mid-80s, fuji music was already growing in prominence. Fuji music finding its early origin in the wake-up music of the ajisaari amongst moslem Yorubas wrestled the baton of popularity with juju music. Interestingly, fuji music is the closest in equivalence to American hip-hop music. For one, fuji music was bereft of that subservience to forebears that juju embraced so tightly; young fuji turks were more Faulkerian in their attitude to the reigning masters and even though fuji was not as sophisticated as juju in sound, it was widely embraced across South Western Nigeria.

That juju music has not produced a single influential practitioner since SSP is a reason to assume that the genre has remained stagnant for about two decades. This does not take away from the continual practice of this style of music by local bands and even by its former practitioners, or the thousands of LPs of the albums churned out still enjoying its fanatic audience till date, or that new school practitioners of afrobeats are pinching from the music and taking the substrate to their sonic laboratories to develop something which is at best referential.”

Excerpt #2:
"Jùjú is a style of Nigerian popular music, derived from traditional Yoruba percussion. The name comes from a Yoruba word "juju" or "jiju" meaning "throwing" or "something being thrown." Juju music did not derive its name from juju, which "is a form of magic and the use of magic objects or witchcraft common in West Africa, Haiti, Cuba and other South American nations." It evolved in the 1920s in urban clubs across the countries, and was believed to have been created by AbdulRafiu Babatunde King, popularly known as Tunde King. The first jùjú recordings were by Tunde King and Ojoge Daniel from the same era of the 1920s when Tunde King pioneered it.

Jùjú music is performed primarily by artists from the southwestern region of Nigeria, where the Yoruba are the most numerous ethnic group. In performance, audience members commonly shower jùjú musicians with paper money; this tradition is known as "spraying".

One of the centers of the performance of jùjú music is in Ibadan. Most jùjú musicians are based in the zone of market forces, and most of these are in an area of immigrant neighborhoods. There are several contexts in which jùjú music is performed. One of these contexts is ‘the Hotels’. The Hotels are concentrated in the immigrant areas and they serve as taverns, dance halls and brothels….

The jùjú music performed is not the focus of the venue but most patrons prefer live music to records. The bands that perform do not have a guaranteed wage; instead they rely upon donations from patrons. Most bands will only perform during the weeknights, leaving the weekends free for more lucrative gigs.

Another context in which jùjú music is played is at celebrations called àríyá. These celebrations are parties which celebrate the naming of a baby, weddings, birthdays, funerals, title-taking, ceremonies and the launching of new property or business enterprises. These events are sponsored so the musicians are guaranteed payment. The wealth of the hosts and the guests is shown through their reward to the entertainers. It is customary to press the contribution to the musician’s forehead so that everyone can see how wealthy they are. The musicians will often return good payment with praise songs to the donors. Live music is crucial to the proper functioning of an àríyá.”

Excerpt #3:
Lagos All Routes
Juju And Highlife, Apala And Fuji
..."Unlike the pan-ethnic styles of highlife and afrobeat, juju music is strongly associated with the Yoruba ethnic group, natives of Nigeria’s southwestern region. Juju is a variant on the pan-West African tradition of palmwine finger-picked guitar playing, and is typically performed by Christian Yoruba musicians. The style has origins in the 1920s as an urban folk music. Its modern foundations were put into place by I.K. Dairo, from the late 1950s. Within a decade King Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey emerged to dominate the more recent development of juju music. Juju song lyrics typically encompass traditional Yoruba proverbs and aphorisms, excerpted Christian hymns, prayers, and Biblical verses, and verses of praise. Ensembles usually consist of guitars (and sometimes keyboards) supported by various percussion instruments. As with most Yoruba popular music, the hourglass tension drums (‘talking drums) are prominent. In the development of juju music since the 1960s, Sunny Ade has generally been considered the innovator, while Obey has positioned himself as the traditionalist...

‘Sir Shina Adewale’ is not actually the name of an individual — rather it is a combination of the names of juju musicians Sir Shina Peters and Segun Adewale, who formed a band together after leaving the more established juju singer Prince Adekunle. Like a lot of juju from the 1970s on, the minor-key sound of Awa Ni Superstars (We Are Superstars) reflects the influence of Fela Kuti’s afrobeat, while its quick tempo also hints at the fuji-infused direction Sir Shina would take when he eventually formed his own band in 1980."...

Excerpt #4
Juju WRITTEN BY: Virginia Gorlinski
"Juju, Nigerian popular music that developed from the comingling of Christian congregational singing, Yoruba vocal and percussion traditions, and assorted African and Western popular genres. The music gained a significant international following in the 1980s largely owing to its adoption and promotion by the world-music industry.

The principal progenitor of juju was palm-wine music, a syncretic genre that arose in the drinking establishments of the culturally diverse port cities of West Africa in the early decades of the 20th century. In Nigeria’s port of Lagos, palm-wine music was foremost a song tradition. Roughly, it was a coupling of the melodic and rhythmic contours of European hymn singing with the textual aesthetics of Yoruba proverb- and praise-singing, all performed to the accompaniment of a banjo or guitar (or a similar stringed instrument) and a gourd shaker. As the music grew in popularity, so too did its celebrities, most notably Tunde King and Ayinde Bakare. King is credited not only with coining the term juju—in reference to the sound of a small, Brazilian tambourine-like drum that was used in his ensemble—but also with making the first recording of juju music in 1936. A year later Bakare went a step further by signing a recording contract with the British label His Master’s Voice.

From the mid-1930s to the late 1940s, juju was performed as dance music—in taverns as well as at assorted family festivities, such as naming ceremonies and weddings—without any significant shifts in instrumentation or musical style. In 1948, however, the Yoruba talking drum was added to the ensemble. With its ability to "talk" by imitating the tones and rhythms of Yoruba language, the drum brought with it an instrumental repertoire of traditional proverbs and praise-names (short descriptions of the honourable characteristics of a person) that were inserted into juju performances, often as commentaries on the song texts. Call-and-response choruses (a feature of much traditional West African music) and electric guitars were introduced within the next few years, as was additional amplification to insure the maintenance of a sonic balance between voices and instruments within the expanding juju ensemble.

These developments were largely indicative of a re-Africanization of juju music that paralleled a mid-century rise in nationalistic sentiment. In the years surrounding Nigeria’s achievement of independence in 1960, I.K. Dairo was the country’s most prominent and influential juju musician. Although he added an accordion to the ensemble, Dairo ultimately strengthened juju’s ties to Yoruba culture, primarily through emphasizing the use of Yoruba talking drums and traditional song repertoire. With his band the Morning Star Orchestra (later the Blue Spots), Dairo released many hit recordings in the late 1950s and early ’60s.

Although Dairo retained a following until his death in the mid-1990s, his popularity was rivaled in the mid-1960s and indeed surpassed in the 1970s by younger juju artists and innovators Ebenezer Obey and King Sunny Ade. Obey, most significantly, increased the number of guitars in the ensemble, injected the repertoire with Christian religious messages and social commentary, and pitched his music primarily to the urban upper class. Ade, who had a more populist appeal, further expanded the ensemble to include five or more guitars, an enlarged percussion section, and an electronic synthesizer, in addition to several vocalists. From the late ’60s to the mid-’80s, Obey and Ade volleyed for the largest and most novel ensemble. In the process much of juju’s Yoruba character yielded to a style more heavily influenced by rock and other international popular music genres.

The effect of Obey’s and Ade’s work was the modernization and popularization of juju, as well as its transformation into a veritable commercial genre. It was Ade, however, who was most responsible for garnering for juju a truly global audience. Propelled by the growing interest in world music—an industry concerned primarily with syncretic popular forms—Ade made a tremendous international impact, particularly with the release of his monumentally successful album Juju Music (1982).

As the genre matured, it spawned musical offspring through the work of enterprising musicians who fused it with other African popular styles, such as Afro-beat, fuji, and the Yoruba-based music known as Yo-pop. Such fusions ultimately became juju’s competitors in the marketplace. By about 1990 the juju craze had subsided in the international arena, but the music continued to thrive in its Nigerian homeland. Ade, like many others, recalibrated his style to increase its local appeal, and he played to enormous and enthusiastic audiences into the 21st century."

Example #1: Sunny Ade & his African Beats - Syncro System Movement

groovemonzter, Published on Jan 27, 2011

artist: Sunny Ade & his African Beats
song: Syncro System Movement
album: Syncro System Movement (side one

Example #2: Julius.O. Araba and His Rhythm Blues - Kelegbe Megbe / Yabonsa / Turaka

Planetolusola, Published on Apr 17, 2012

60's juju performance from the legendary J.O. Araba. (RIP)

Video source: Konkombe 2/6 Nigeria Music Documentary (Youtube)

Example #3: Fatai Rolling Dollar Wan Kere Si Nomba Wa

Wintv 247, Published on Sep 6, 2013

Prince Olayiwola Fatai Olagungu, known as Fatai Rolling Dollar (22 July 1927 -- 12 June 2013) was a Nigerian musician, described by the BBC as a "nationally celebrated performer."[1] He died on 12 June 2013, at the age of 85 or 87, and was praised by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.[1][2][3]
He started his musical career in 1953 and mentored a number of musicians including Ebenezer Obey and the late Orlando Owoh, among others. He was known for his dexterity at playing the guitar, Rolling Dollar's last major hit was Won Kere Si Number Wa.

Example #4: Admiral Dele Abiodun & His Top Hiters Band - Awa o ni Legba (Audio)

planetolusola, Published on May 5, 2014

1 Awa o ni legba
- Adawa lofi agba han won
- Ajanaku koja eran a mupa leya
- Aba teni je
- Kekerenke
- Ajuwa ye ye o

Example #5: Juju Music Documentary with King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Shina Peters, I.K. Dairo

hitmann83, Published on Jul 29, 2016

Concert Documentary at Tafawa Balewa Square Lagos Nigeria 1987.

This concludes Part I of this two part pancocojams post.

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