Haruna Ishola the Historian

Haruna Ishola ,Historian

Folorunso Fatai Adisa

A good musician can double as a good historian. For instance, like Ayinla’s “National Census” in 1973, I first learned about the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) as a growing boy from one of Haruna Ishola’s tracks titled “Aiye yio ma fewa,” if I’m not mistaken.

Interestingly, two names of the soldiers mentioned in that track caught my interest the most. The names? They are Hassan Usman Katsina and Major Malumfashi. I think I like the rhythmic pattern of the names alongside the cadential style with which Haruna Ishola rendered them.

As a matter of fact, on that cold night when I was on a bus from Zaria to Katsina for my NYSC camp activities, the moment the driver mentioned he was going to pass through Malumfashi, the aforesaid track replayed in my memory. The names of those places in the North, which I had read about in books on the Civil War, flashed through my mind.

It was only years later, in secondary school, that I understood the gist of that song—that it briefly lauds the 3rd Marine Commandos, the principal actors in the Civil War. Haruna Ishola even mentioned the names of the administrators of each state/region and their places of origin, such as: Brig. Babafemi Ogundipe (Ago Iwoye), Gov. Adebayo (Ekiti), Brig. Mobolaji Johnson, Ogunmudia, David Bamgboye, Gov. Abba Kyari…

Maj. Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Brig. Benjamin Adekunle (Ogbomosho ni won ti bi e), Maj. Gen. Hassan Usman Katsina, Olusegun Obasanjo (Abeokuta), Col. Akinrinde, Col. Ayo Ariyo, Col. Abisoye, Col. Duyile, Col. Mohammed Shuwa, Col. Haruna, Maj. Sanni Bello, Capt. Sunday Ogunrinde, Capt. Sabo Sokoto, Maj. Malumfashi, and Col. Segun Obasanjo. Haruna Ishola was not just an Apala singer. Like Ayinla Omowura, he was current and cosmopolitan.

“Iku onitiju Owo nii’faari iku mu lo mo daro tiiti bi’ansokun ko ti e ka. Asamu lolooki ko ti e gbona lati ile lo, ko wu’ko rara o dari wale l’ariwo ta. Ase bayi ni won n’se ku ko dagbere fun enikan rara. Bi eni l’osajo t’omade ni loju mi k’oseese mo, eniti ku kii’bo ose. Olanrewaju, Alagbara bi Ekun ti lo, Muhanmodu yarasulu bawa ke l’orun…” Simple. Yet descriptive.

Aside from the harmonious rhythm and melodious flow of his music, Haruna Ishola’s golden cadence of poetry is exceptional. Haruna Ishola was profoundly proverbial, with his lyrics deeply laced with proverbs. The soul of his music lies in comparison, and its sole aim is didacticism embroidered with entertainment. Equally, his knowledge of current affairs and his mastery of recalling historical events are vivid, moving, and musical.

Haruna sang effortlessly, with his talent and passion shining through every note. His music, rich in philosophy and unique combinations, was a perfect blend of entertainment and instruction. It was naturally insightful, colorful, and energizing. His songs were also modestly educational, filled with proverbs, culturally rich, and mesmerizingly vibrant. Haruna’s music was sophisticated in every sense.

I think he was my dad’s favorite. And I listened to him, then, than any other music artiste. The pace of his music is reasonably measured. He was prominent too. Of course he was the most traveled of his contemporaries. Before he died, he visited no less than 20 countries.