Born on 28 April 1935 in Lagos, Nigeria, Akin Euba studied composition with Arnold Cooke at the Trinity College of Music, London, obtaining the diplomas of fellow of the Trinity College London (Composition) and fellow of the Trinity College London (Piano). He was awarded a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in 1962. He received B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he studied with Mantle Hood, Charles Seeger, J. H. Kwabena Nketia, Klaus Wachsmann, and Roy Travis. He held a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from the University of Ghana, Legon (1974). While at Legon, Euba's doctoral work was supervised by Professor Nketia, and his dissertation is entitled "Dundun Music of the Yoruba".
Euba was professor and director of the Centre for Cultural Studies at the University of Lagos, and also served as a senior research fellow at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in Nigeria. He served as head of music at the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation for five years. He was a research scholar and artist in residence at IWALEWA House, the African studies center of the University of Bayreuth in Germany between 1986 and 1992. He was the Andrew Mellon Professor of Music at the University of Pittsburgh between 1993 and 2011 and until his death, was the Andrew W. Mellon Professor, Emeritus in music; the founder and director of the Centre for Intercultural Music Arts, London (founded in 1989), and director emeritus of the Centre for Intercultural Musicology at Churchill College, University of Cambridge.
Euba's scholarly interests included the musicology and ethnomusicology of modern interculturalism. He organized regular symposia on music in Africa and the Diaspora at Churchill College, Cambridge as well as the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. These events featured such notable composers and scholars as J. H. Kwabena Nketia and Halim El-Dabh. With his Elekoto Ensemble, he brought together musicians from Nigeria, China, India, Germany, Malta, and the United States.
His compositions involve a synthesis of African traditional material (often from his own ethnic group, the Yoruba people) and contemporary classical music. His most ambitious composition is the opera Chaka: An Opera in Two Chants (1970), which blends West African percussion and atenteben flutes with twelve-tone technique.
Euba died on 14 April 2020, two weeks short of his 85th birthday.