Monday, July 22, 2024
YORUBA BALLAD’S GONE

YORUBA BALLAD’S GONE

– Foremost Yoruba bard, Ọláńrewajú Adépọ̀jù, bids fans goodbye at 83

By Jaiyeola Ajasa

Ọláńrewajú Adépọ̀jù (also known as ’Lanrewaju Adepoju,) was a Yorùbá poet, writer, intellectual, and religious leader from Nigeria. He was born in a village called Abà Òkè Pupa in Ọ̀yọ́ State, Nigeria, in 1940. An autodidact, he taught himself how to read and write in Yorùbá and English. But his time spent with the griots (West African poets and storytellers) of his childhood gave him a vast knowledge of the Yorùbá verbal arts and culture that informed his mature work. He worked in a newspaper house as a proofreader, before becoming a poet, and published a collection of poems titled, “Ìrònú Akéwì” in 1972; as well as a novelist, publishing “Ládépò Ọmọ Àdánwò” in 1975. The novel was later made into a movie in 2005.

However, it was as a poet that his talent first emerged and it earned him a spot on the air at the Western Nigerian Broadcasting Service. He was employed to perform poetry at dawn in a segment called “Ìjíǹjí Akéwì” (the poet’s morning-song.) He was one of the many poets of his generation, who worked at that station. He later resigned (due to copyright demands by the station on his original work) to become an independent poet and record producer, publishing his spoken Yorùbá poetry directly to the public, through record plates (vinyl), cassettes, and later CDs. He estimates he has released almost a hundred spoken-word ewì albums.

Adépọ̀jù was known primarily for his politically-charged poetry. He was, at different times, a poetic conscience for the Yorùbá-speaking nation, a scourge on politicians, an advocate for the masses, and a religious leader, whose poems often took on proselytizing characteristics. Eventually, he became a spokesperson for the politicians and administrators whose positions he supported. He was detained by military administrators for some of his activism. His insistent political positions lost him some of his supporters, but the talent behind his voice and words was never questioned. He was one of the most notable exponents of the Ewì spoken-word poetry in Yorùbá, and one of the most influential voices in the genre.

IMAGE: The iconic Ọláńrewajú Adépọ̀jù.

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TALES BY MOONLIGHT YEARS

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