King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal Credit: courtesy the artist

Ayinde Barrister is known as the pioneer of Nigerian fuji music, but it’s King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal who has spread the percussion-rich style globally—after working with Barrister as backup singer between 1975 and 1978 he emerged as a bandleader himself. Though the densely percolating form first erupted in the mid-60s, it would be three decades before the music of the Islamic population of the country’s Yoruba people ascended to pop dominance. Like juju, the style popularized by King Sunny Adé, fuji was originally built upon an embarrassment of pulsing polyrhythms shaped on kit drums, congas, bells, shakers, and talking drums, without much else beyond hectoring call-and-response singing. Over time fuji adherents have embraced keyboards, horns, and guitars, and Marshal—who’s also known as K1 de Ultimate—is no exception; his music’s pulsing groove and chanted vocals are well suited to assimilate all kinds of outside sources, and he allows it to absorb contemporary influences such as trap as well. I still have vivid memories of a King Sunny Adé performance at the Vic in 2005 when his group performed as it would at home in Lagos, as opposed to the heavily edited shows it usually played in the West; its loads of praise songs sung in Yoruba left the much of the audience perplexed about what was happening. Marshal operates exclusively in that format, appealing to the Nigerian expat community. Though non-Nigerian audiences may not understand a good chunk of what his nimble band is putting down, that’s no reason to bypass this orgy of rhythm and soulful testifying, which connects to its listeners through feeling and groove.   v