Haruna Ishola Bello (1919–1983) was a Nigerian musician, and one of the most popular artist in the apala genre.
In the decades leading up to Nigerian independence in 1960, apala music developed when amateur musicians would play to arouse the faithful after the long fast of Ramadan. Born in the town of Ijebu-igbo, Haruna Ishola began recording apala numbers in about 1955, and soon became the most popular artist in the genre, and one of the most respected praise singers in Nigeria. He adapted and stuck to a strong traditionalist approach, citing both Yoruba proverbs and Koranic scripture in his songs, and introducing no Western instruments into his musical lineup.
Ishola would sit when performing, surrounded by two talking drummers, shaker and bell, and a chorus of singers. Also central to his sound was the agidigbo, a hollow lamellophone (thumb piano), both plucked and struck to create a hypnotic ostinato at the center of the apala sound. Amassing an ultra-large repertoire of historic tales, philosophical explorations, and songs of praise, Ishola was known for performing extremely lengthy shows that ranged from four to ten hours long.
Releasing his debut recording, Orimolusi Adeboye: The Oba of Ijebu-Igbo, in 1948, Ishola remained prolific, releasing more than 30 albums in his two-decade career. His album Oroki Social Club, Osogbo, released in 1971, sold more than five million copies between 1971 and 1983. In 1969, Ishola started STAR Records Ltd., in partnership with jùjú music legend I.K. Dairo. This was the first African record label owned by its artists.
Ishola died in 1983, but his large catalog of recordings both on Decca and STAR ensure that he will not soon be forgotten.