The Nigerian music industry has evolved over the years. Patience IVIE OBHAFUOSO in this piece takes a look at some Nigerian musicians, who despite the challenges they were faced with, they made a great impact.
The history of Nigeria music cannot be written without mentioning Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Kuti was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist-cum-musician and composer. He was the pioneer of Afrobeat music, a human rights activist, and political maverick.
He performed a musical style called Afrobeat, which was a complex fusion of Jazz, Funk, Ghanaian/Nigerian High-life, psychedelic rock, and traditional West African chants and rhythms.
He formed the Kalakuta Republic, a commune, recording studio, and a home for many that he later declared independent from the Nigerian state. Fela set up a nightclub in the Empire Hotel, named the Afro-Spot and then the Afrika Shrine, where he performed regularly.
Fela's music became very popular among the Nigerian public and Africans in general. In fact, he made the decision to sing in Pidgin English so that his music could be enjoyed by individuals all over Africa. As popular as Fela's music became in Nigeria and elsewhere, it was also very unpopular with the ruling government, and raids on the Kalakuta Republic were frequent. During 1972, Ginger Baker recorded Stratavarious with Fela and Bobby Gass.
On 3 August 1997, Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, a prominent AIDS activist and former Minister of Health, stunned the nation by announcing his younger brother's death. More than a million people attended Fela's funeral at the site of the old Shrine compound.
Prince Nico Mbarga
Prince Nico Mbarga, is a highlife musician, born to a Nigerian mother and a Cameroonian father in Abakaliki, Nigeria. He was renowned for his hit song 'Sweet Mother'.
He played the xylophone, conga, drums, and electric guitar in school bands and he made his professional debut as a member of a hotel band, the Melody Orchestra, in 1970.
Temporarily relocating to England in 1982, Mbarga became known for his flamboyant, 1970s glam rock-inspired performances. Prince Nico Mbarga died in a motorcycle accident on June 24, 1997.
Christy Uduak Essien-Igbokwe
Christy, also known as Nigeria's Lady of Songs, put Nigeria's name on the world music map with her evergreen 'Seun Rere' track. She was the first female president of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN). Born on 11 November 1960, this singer and actress sang most of her songs in Yoruba which was a language she adopted due to numbers of years she spent in that part of the country.
Christy began her music career in NTA Aba on a programme called Now Sound. She also had the honour of composing and performing what would later be known as her state's anthem of sorts, Akwa-IbomMmi (My Akwa-Ibom) in 1987.
Her awards include Nigerian lady of songs award, Africa music mother award 1984, international special achievement award, Mexico 1983 world song festival award, Los Angeles queen of music international award, association of theatre arts practitioners Lagos 1996 outstanding achievement in female uplifting.
King Sunny Ade
A popular performer of Yoruba jùjú music and a pioneer of modern world music. King Sunny Ade has also been classed as one of the most influential musicians of all time.
His musical sound has evolved from the early days with a career that began with Moses Olaiya's Federal Rhythm Dandies, a highlife band. He left to form The Green Spots in 1967.
When Adé headlined concerts in the United States, The New York Times's Robert Palmer described one of Adé's several concerts in New York in the 1980s as one of the most significant pop music events of the decade. His second album under the cusp of international stardom was Synchro System which attracted many converts of world music and earned him a Grammy nomination in the folk/ethnic music category.
Sunny Ade was the first to introduce the pedal steel guitar to Nigerian pop music and the use of synthesizers, clavinet, vibraphone, tenor guitar into the jùjú music repertoire such as dub and wah-wah guitar licks.
Sunny has collaborated with major artists such as Manu Dibango (WAKAFRIKA) and Stevie Wonder (played harmonica in Aura).
In July 1987, King Sunny Adé was inducted into the Afropop Hall of Fame, at the Brooklyn African Festival U.S.A. He dedicated the award to Michael Jackson.
Victor Uwaifo’s best-known song, 'Guitar Boy' and 'Mami-water' were huge hits in 1966. He was a member of Bobby Benson's Highlife band and made history in Nigeria, when he won the first Golden record in Nigeria, West Africa and Africa for his song Joromi in 1996. Victor, who has a total of 12 golden records to date, has traveled to many countries.
His song Joromi has legendary status among his fans and his performances are characterised by his ability to play the guitar with both his feet and also his tongue. In appreciation of his talents and contributions to Nigeria, he was given a National Honours Merit in 1983.
Uwaifo is the Chairman of Joromi Organisation, a multi-track recording and television studio in Benin City. He runs and manages an art gallery and the Victor Uwaifo Hall of Fame. He is also a lecturer at the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Benin.
Sonny Okosun was one of Nigeria’s leading musicians from the late 1970s to mid '80s. His first band, The Postmen, was formed in Enugu in 1965; he later formed a new band, Ozziddi.
His song, Fire in Soweto, became a major international hit. He featured in the anti-apartheid album Sun City, and his song Highlife was the soundtrack of 1986 film Something Wild. In the late 80s he continued his career as a gospel musician under the name Evangelist Sonny Okosun.
He died at 61 of colon cancer on 24 May 2008. His musical styles included reggae, highlife, Afro-funk and gospel among others.
Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe
Osita Osadebe, often referred to as just Osadebe, was an Igbo Nigerian Highlife musician from Atani. His career spanned over 40 years, and was one of the best known Igbo highlife musicians. His most popular hit was the 1984 Osondi Owendi (Igbo: One man's meat is another man's poison.), establishing him as a leader in the highlife genre being the most popular ever in Nigeria.
Osadebe started his career performing at nightclubs in Lagos. He gradually worked his way up to releasing his first album in 1958. In his career, he wrote over 500 songs; half of these songs were released commercially.
He died in St. Mary's Hospital Waterbury, Connecticut on 11 May 2007 after suffering from severe respiratory difficulties.
Oliver de-Coque is a well known name in the Nigerian music circle. Many believed he was not a Nigerian owing to his popular name which has a French leaning.
Oliver de Coque was a prolific guitarist who popularised the "Ogene" dance inspiring style of Nigerian highlife, and recorded no fewer than 73 albums in his lifetime. Some of his major hits include "BiriKa Mbiri, and "Identity" remixed in a hip-hop style by his son Safin De Coque.
The music legend was born in Otukpo, Benue State, Nigeria, on the 6th of June 1942.
In 1967, he founded and headed the Groovies band, which became extremely popular in the 1970’s through to the 80’s. Many love him for his soulful, folksy songs, the most popular of which includes 'Cockcrow At Dawn', 'Still Searching', Amen, 'Otachikpokpo' and a host of others. His dedication to music was obvious due to the high quality of the albums he churned out.
Apart from the raw beauty of his finely honed voice, another thing that set him apart is his dedication to the promotion of Africa and African values by the continuous use of his native Idoma language in his songs.
After several years of absence from the music scene, he is set to release a new album with remakes and remixes of his old classics as well as some new songs.
The legend, who is nicknamed the "Chief Commander", is a Nigerian jùjú musician.
Obey, whose full name is Ebenezer Remilekun Aremu Olasupo Obey-Fabiyi, was born in Idogo, Ogun State, Nigeria of Egba–Yoruba ethnic background.
He began his professional career in the mid-1950s after tutelage under Fatai Rolling-Dollar's band; he formed a band called
The International Brothers in 1964, playing highlife–jùjú fusion. Obey began experimenting with Yoruba percussion style and expanding on the band by adding more drum kits, guitars and talking drums. Obey's musical strengths lie in weaving intricate Yoruba axioms into dance-floor compositions.
Obey, however, is renowned for Christian spiritual themes in his music and has since the early-1990s retired into Nigerian gospel music ministry.