Illustration by Ayo Arogunmati
Terry Apala, did you play around with the sound of your voice at a young age to discover your ability?
I started experimenting with my voice around the age of nine by mimicking voices of performers like Musiliu Ishola. In church, I would change the rhythm and tempo of songs by turning them into Apala sounds. People started noticing and as I matured, I got better at performing Apala music.
Where were you when you realized you could combine Apala music with Hip Hop?
Prior to making the hit song Champagne Shower, I created a few songs that were on a different wave, but last year one of my friends brought up the idea that I should attempt to mix the two genres.
And you listened to him?
Yes - it was a good idea, so I reached out to my producer and asked him to provide a trap beat. I ended up making my first hit song Champagne Shower, which has received a tight reception and more acceptance than I expected.
Some people have criticized the name Afrobeats to describe Nigerian pop music, are you fine with the name Fuji Trap to describe your music?
I don’t have any problem with the name because my objective is to “funkify” Apala music by mixing it with Hip Hop. Apala is an older version of Fuji music and is not for young people. I want to keep that classic feel to the genre and make it more accessible by also incorporating the English language.
There is a small number of Apala performers, are you worried about the mainstream acceptance?
No I am not worried much. Many Nigerians think you have to use the English language or make songs that is less traditional, however, the true African sound is the best. The white mainstream that performers want to attract prefer and appreciate the music when it is traditional. Personally, I am happy doing Apala music and I see that more artists are taking my approach to making music.
Has there been any criticism of your use of Apala music by other performers in the genre?
The only man doing Apala music is Musiliu Ishola. He lives in Ijebu. He and I work together and as he is getting older, he understands that the genre could die if it is not left in the hands of someone younger. He has made me a protégé of his and he works with me in order that I continue the genre. So, what I have done with Apala music has been received well.
What is your creative process?
There is nothing I do that is very special. When I want to record, I go to the studio to work with a producer to complete the beat sequence. Following the session, I take the beat home for a 3-week period in which I work on finding the right rhythm. I rarely freestyle on records because I have to master the beat before heading back to the studio to complete the song.
Fuji music involves the use of a band, how important is having your own band?
Organizing my own band is very important. I don’t think I can achieve the level of success I want without that support as a performer. The plan for me is to cover my bases with regards to vocalists, instrumentalists and production of my music.
How are you framing your first album?
I don’t have much expectation for the record sales of the album, but my plan is to use it as a way to teach the industry about making music that is uniquely your voice. I look at artists like Burna Boy and Asa, artists that have their own voice, as very unique within the Nigerian music industry. My plan is to make sure my album reflects my singular voice and does not conform to the industry standard.