Yoruba language is very rich in songs and music, every Yoruba situation has a corresponding song, which is inspirational and educational . There are three categories of Yoruba song, these are: i) Traditional song; ii) Christian song; and iii) Islamic song.
Each of these songs is subdivided. For instance, the traditional song has:
• Ceremonial song- sung at marriage, house warming, naming, anniversaries, chieftaincy installation, etc
• Praise song- sung when a task is accomplished, or after victory in a war.
• Burial/mourning song- when evil befalls, a catastrophe happen, death of a promising child, financial loss, disaster, epidemics, etc.
• Traditional religious song- for festivals, masquerade, planting, harvest,
Christianity also has varieties of songs like hymns (sung at regular church service), devotional song (sung for a particular service-other than regular/congregational worship), burial sung (sung when burial service is held), and Christmas carol (sung during yuletide).
Islam also has several songs, there are regular, devotional, burial and ceremonial/festive songs.
Interestingly, Yoruba music of today is more of hybrid of the three categorized songs in terms of lyrics, styles and instruments. Through adaptation, certain Islamic and Christian songs are similar to the traditional song, a feature that is shaping and re-creating Yoruba music.
The Yoruba Genre
Sakara– a mention of this genre of music, mind goes to late Yussuf ?latunji, ?gba indigene, Yoruba music with Islamic tonation. Although, Sakara has undergone changes by present day singers, yet its focus as praise and adulation song still remains. Instruments include Goje, (Yoruba violin) and Sakara drum.
Yoruba music influenced by Islam in style, tone, message, its purpose is to praise, and to eulogize. Goje, a two string fiddle is a major instrument for this music, and Sakara drum, one of the four major family drums in Yoruba land. It is popular among Ibadan, ?gba, and Ij?bu.
Wéré music- is another version or a brand of Islamic styled Yoruba music. Originally, Wéré is used to call muslim faithfuls to early morning prayer and to get ready for fasting during Ramadan. The Ajiwere or Oniwere always took the lead among the group to perform the wake-up call.
Ajisari– as the name suggests, is another Islamic song similar to Wéré, use during the Ramadan. The differences between the (two look-alike) Islamic Yoruba songs are: Wéré is performed by a group with a leader, but Ajisari is performed solo. Two, Wéré is an all-night-wake-up song, on the other hand, Ajisari is an early morning song, prior to Sari (the meal before the fast commences).
Apala– is another Yoruba song with Islamic tone, it is used during Ramadan, but it has more musical instruments more than Wéré and Ajisari, prominent among its instruments is ??k?r? (Shaker).
Agidigbo– it is another Yoruba genre, a piano based Yoruba music. Agidigbo is tied around the player’s neck by a loose rope. Agidigbo’s instruments are Bell (Agogo, a cylindrical metal shaped object which comes in a single, double or multiple with percussion stick), Talking Drum (Gangan), a popular Yoruba drum made from wood, cone shaped with a leather cover on both ends, the drum has adjustable leather stripes on the outside for tweaking when talking drum is played. Talking drum has a percussion stick (a 1-1/4 foot long beating stick with a curve end knob) to code message by the drummer.
Waka Music– is another form of Islamic music, common among the Ij?bu, popularized by Batil? Alak? and Salawatu Ab?ni the [Waka Queen].
??k?r?– it is a Yoruba music named after ??k?r? (Shaker), a large gourd with threaded beads woven around gourd, which is tied on both ends. The back and forth movements of ??k?r? creates rhythmical sound as directed by the lead singer or any ??k?r? holder. It is a solo music, but with a band of chorister. ??k?r? musical instruments are: Aro, Dundun, Omele, Agogo. A popular ??k?r? king was late Alhaji Alamu Atatalo, this genre is popular among Ibadan-Oluyole people.
Fuji Music– it is another type of Islamic music, a by-product of Wéré and Ajisari, although, Fuji music comes second after Juju in Yoruba land, Fuji genre has transcended Islamic rhythm- it has become a household music for Christians, Muslims, young, old, men, women, even non-Yoruba, who live within and outside the geo-political confine. Also, the genre’s message has gone beyond religious confine, rather, its socially embracing messages find audience in religiously tolerant and moderate people of Southern Nigeria.
Highlife: a genre that originated from Ghana. Because of the easy movement among the four former British colonies of West Africa back then, cultural assimilation soon became a way of life. Specifically, the introduction of highlife music into Yoruba way of life by Ghanaians in early days of colonialism was example of cultural assimilation. Highlife combines certain African elements with western styled music, instruments include jazz horns (tenor horn, British; Alto Horn, U.S.A; Althorn, Germany), a brass-made equipment known for its high pitch sound. Another variety is the cornet.
Highlife uses guitar, early Yoruba highlife musicians were:
• Bobby Benson
• Rex Lawson
• Victor Olaiya
• Fela Anikulapo-Kuti
Afro beat genre is a variety of Highlife music, it combines funk, jazz, and highlife with a chanted vocal. Prominent Afro-beat singer was late F?la Anikulapo-Kuti.