Ayinla Omowura photo by @punchnewspaper

Ayinla: A Yoruba Music Legend


Forty-three years after his shocking murder, Ayinla Omowura remained among Yoruba’s most celebrated Apala musicians. Apala is an Islamic-influenced Yoruba music genre that uses the Yoruba language to educate and entertain listeners. Unlike most Apala musicians, Ayinla sang the Olalomi variant of Apala music.



As a son of a blacksmith, Waidi Ayinla Yusuf Gbogbolowo(aka Ayinla Omowura, Anigilaje) practised the trade of his father and worked under him. However, he left shortly after and worked various jobs as a driver, butcher, carpenter and bus-park boy. Adewola Alao Oniluola later discovered Ayinla, and he started learning the Olalomi variant of Apala music under him. He adopted part of his mother’s name: Wuramotu Morenike, into his stage name and became Ayinla Omowura.


Musical Career

Although he had little formal education, Ayinla Omowura is well-versed in Yoruba. His rich use of Yoruba puns, metaphors, hyperboles and proverbs in his music led to his wide fame and huge fan base. He sang under EMI records, where he made twenty-two records, two of which were released after his sudden death.

As a musician, Ayinla acted as a mouthpiece of the government and a messenger for the people. In his song “Orin Owo Ile Eko”, Ayinla discussed the Lagos rent verdict to his listeners. In his 1976 album “Owo Udoji”, he praised the government for the salary increment of workers in the public sector, but he requested that such increment should apply in the private sector too. His songs also focused on societal issues, and they discussed societal norms. In his song “Pansaga Ranti Ola”, Ayinla talks about promiscuous women and rebukes their indecent ways. In “Oro Kan Je Mi Logun”, Ayinla mocked women that bleached their skin and likened their skin colour to that of a toad skin.

At the peak of his career, Ayinla was a flamboyant dresser. He is reputable for his grand agbada of the highest quality of Swiss lace. He also loved wearing gold chains and gold rings. His dressing gave him the alias “Hadji Costly”. Ayinla Omowura was known as a coarse short-tempered Apala musician. He had disputes with other Apala musicians like Yesufu Olatunji, Fatai Olawonyo and Haruna Ishola, whom he later acknowledged as his superior. This led to constant fights erupting at the parties he went to perform. Ayinla was also a chronic hemp smoker. His smoking led to his blackened teeth and lips. 



Ayinla’s death was shocking to everyone who knew him. He fought with his manager Bayowa in a bar. In the process, Bayowa hit a mug on Ayinla’s head, and he slumped. Ayinla died from a brain haemorrhage on May 6, 1980. Bayowa was charged and sentenced to death a few years after Ayinla’s death.



On a final note, Ayinla Omowura was a Yoruba philosopher, social commentator and critic. His songs were sung to the ears of youths and adults to guide them in living an ideal life. His songs also guided the government on the people’s wishes and how to fulfil them.


Gafar Tinuoye


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