Over the few years, the success of hip hop and afropop amongst other synthetic music forms with Western influences has successfully relegated a lot of genres that existed before the saturation of the soundscape into the “local music” background.
A majority of these genres and their artistes still maintain their niche following but it has never been more difficult than ever for them to merge into the changing industry around them where live band sets have been replaced with computer buttons and having an open relationship with fans involve countless social media posts. Nonetheless, these old time niche based genres are an indication of how far Nigerian music has come and consequently it helps with building context around certain sounds they may have inspired.
To give a demonstration of this, we know that everyone familiar with Nigerian music, particularly music from the South Western part of the country knows Fuji music. The sound has evolved over the years with some of its own pioneers still actively pushing for its continued relevance. What many don’t know however is that Fuji music originated from the Arab world’s Mesaharaty culture.
Though the advent of technology has slightly nudged their use in the modern middle east, the Arabian Mesaharaty is role assigned to a drummer in a small village yearly during the month of Ramadan. The Mesaharaty’s duty is to knock on as many doors as possible to wake people up with traditional Ramadan songs for Sahur (the last meal of the day set during the early hours of the morning before the fasting begins at sunrise). All over the Arab world, these local drummers are either accompanied by little children who echo their songs, or make solo runs around a small community.
Coupled with the pre-existence of mosques dedicated to foreigners in 15th century Oyo Empire and the success of Uthman Dan-Fodio’s Jihad in Northern Nigeria, Islam hit Western Nigeria with a full force in the 19th century. With a lot of the borrowed subcultures imported alongside the new system of faith, the Mesaharaty culture also became a part of the brand of Islam introduced to South Western Nigeria.
Thanks to the light hearted content of the songs the new Yoruba Mesaharaty sang, a semblance of today’s Fuji music was soon birthed with the name Ajiwere music which loosely translates as “music for those who wake up with no problems.”
The genre began it’s evolution from here, trading sound arrangements of Alhaji Dauda Epo-Akara, for the inventiveness of Siriku Ayinde Barrister. who also incorporated jazz and afrobeat elements. Though, Fuji music battled with the identity crisis of being a labelled as music solely for Muslims, the infusion of pop by singers like Adewale Ayuba, Ayinde Marshall (Kwam 1), Obesere Omorapala and Wasiu Alabi Pasuma gave the genre a wider, more mainstream audience.
Fuji music lives on today as part of an imported Arabian sub culture we have come to own as ours and even today, the genre continues to inspire a considerable number of successful artists in songwriting, adlibs, and delivery.
Fun fact: Barrister officially dubbed the genre “Fuji” music after seeing a poster of Japan’s Mount Fuji at the airport during one of his tours of Europe in the 1970s