Ayo Bankole Nigeria Composer and organist

Ayo Bankole (17 May 1935 – 6 November 1976) was a composer and organist from the Yoruba ethnic group in southwest Nigeria.


Ayo Bankole was born in Jos, Nigeria, into a musical family: his father, Theophilus Abiodun Bankole was an organist and Choirmaster at St. Luke’s Anglican Church in Jos. His mother was a music instructor for several years at Queen’s School, Ede, Osun State, a Federal government high school.

As a young man Ayo Bankole studied in London at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he met the young drama student and poet Brian Edward Hurst. Bankole set one of Hurst’s poems to music and this was performed as a choral composition at the Guildhall School in 1960. The poem was titled “Children of the Sun.” Hurst also took a photograph of the Nigerian composer standing outside the Guildhall School. Ayo also studied at Clare College, Cambridge. Bankole received a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship to study ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles.


Bankole returned to Nigeria in 1966 and was appointed Senior Producer in Music at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, Lagos, where he worked until 1969, after which he was appointed lecturer in music at the School of African and Asian Studies, University of Lagos.

He worked as music educator, composer, choral conductor, performer and musicologist with independent choral groups, including the Choir of Angels (students from three prominent high schools in Lagos: Reagan Memorial, Lagos Anglican Girls Grammar School, and the Methodist Girls High School), Lagos University Musical Society, Nigerian National Musico-Cultural Society, and the Chapel of the Healing Cross Choir, all in Lagos. He wrote a great deal of Christian liturgical music in the Yoruba language, and his compositions show elements of both traditional Nigerian music and Western classical music. He also composed theme songs for some Nigerian television drama series.


In 1976, aged 41, Bankole was brutally murdered with his wife in Lagos by a half-brother. A kind and humanitarian man, he is much missed by the Nigerian musical community.

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