The first time I heard Terry Apala I had just been drafted to serve Nigeria. We were at the NYSC orientation camp in Lagos. It was a damp night, I do not remember what day because days often morphed into each other at the NYSC camps; same military drill, us Otondos in white tees, white shorts and jungle boots.
The event was tagged Camp Blast. I was making an effort to be there. The last words of my friend before I left the house had been, “have fun, make friends.”
Camp Blast was Nigerian music as usual. I occasionally raised my head from my phone to listen to some of the artists. First time I did that was for Splash. Splash baaa-by! I was a fan from way back, her voice, rapping in Igbo, the confidence she exuded converted me. Her time was sullied by the DJ as the sound system went off.
The next time I looked up at the stage was for Ruggedy Baba. More popular artists came on and it was the usual lyrics: shake ya booty, girl I love you die, my sweet tomatoes. I was tweeting as if I was excited, taking shots of the artists and posting on twitter with lots of exclamation marks, for example, “it’s Cynthia Morgan baby!!!!!” But I was sitting on a white plastic chair, crossed-legged, in a sea of youths dressed in white, adrenaline levels hitting the sky, shouting at the top of their voices. I was trying to post a tweet when something changed, a new artist came on. The voice stretched its hands towards me and lifted my head up. I tapped the leg of the girl standing on the seat next to me.
‘Who is that?’ I asked
‘What?’ She replied, looking down at me
‘ Who is singing?’
‘I didn’t hear his name’ she shouted back.
I listened some more… Then I climbed on my seat like every other person.
Terry Apala. He was high as fuck, wearing only ripped jeans, his bare chest, and hair mashed up together, locked. I hadn’t heard a word he was singing but I was drowning in his voice. He hit low notes and stayed on them fluidly. When his time was up, I joined in the grinning, cheering and clapping. WOW. Then I tweeted. Who is Terry Apala?
Terry Alexander Ejeh aka Terry Apala is the future of Apala music in Nigeria. Originally from Ozoro in Delta state, he was raised in Ajegunle and grew up listening to Haruna Ishola and other Apala music legends which shaped the artist he is becoming.
My curiosity led me to Youtube, there I found some singles. First one was Modernize, where he introduced himself and his music. Bragging here and there, calling out Nigerians to dance away their sorrows.
verse 1 of Modernize goes like this:
For you wey dey ronu
Dance away your sorrow
If you no get bata, make you go borrow
We go rock am today today, no be tomorrow
after the menu menu se gbo, a ma ya photo
it’s high time we dance afro musiki
Come inside the shrine,
baby gather ma rocki
This one wey dey Africa se you dey hear me
My fellow Nigerians are really feeling me shogbo
Me I no care where you come from
put on your bata make you boogie down,
smiles on your face, make you no frown
African melody can never run down
And the hook goes
I modernize Apala music to hip hop ooo, yeah yeah ,
for Africa dem dey hear am, all over Naija there dey hear am.
He explained his craft, the mixture of Apala music with Hip hop with his unique and different voice. Throughout Modernize he bragged about his song being heard all over Nigeria, mocking those with fake Versace who did not want to dance to his songs. Inviting those who have not heard him to listen to his modernised apala music mixed with hip hop, heard all over Africa and Naija, in Lagos, from the mainland to the Island.
Next song I discovered is Jangolova. Jangolova is a love song. Terry was crooning to some girl:
I want to know what it takes to be your lover
if you really want me, come closer,
I go buy you many Ankara
so you go do shakara.
Terry Apala dey call you,
I go marry you,
I go take care of you,
I no care what they say about you honey be my lover,
I want you and I to do jangolova.
Champagne showers should have been the regular ”we are drinking Moet with fine girls” Nigerian song but Terry will make you listen to anything with that low husky voice spiced with apala flavour. I should add that the video is rated 18 and this is Terry’s finest work in my opinion.
Another important feature of his music is the poetry in his songs, the rhythm and rhyme. The first time I listened to Champagne Showers that was all I could hear, and how he fits so many bars in one verse, fluidly. In Mo Popular he bragged about this certain ability, 16 bars in one verse e no easy.
If there is a song with Terry Apala in it I don’t quite like, it’s his feature on the classic Jimmy Jatt and Flavour’s Turn up, even then, Terry stayed on the lowest note for almost 30 seconds effortlessly. The blend of his voice and Flavour’s did not quite synchronise. I imagine songs with Burna boy, Black magic, or Brymo, will be magic.
The bar for his debut album ‘Apala on the beat’ is already set so high. I hope he scales through. His sound is fresh, unique and very welcome. The timing is near perfect.