Before the turn of 20th Century, Nigeria was blessed with a number of people who improved on the sounds and vibes that preceeded their careers and left us with innovations that we cannot forget. eelive.ng brings you the second part of a recall of the lives and times of these geniuses.
CHIEF STEPHEN OSITA OSADEBE
Born in March 1936, Osita Osadebe is a Nigerian Highlife musician from Atani, Anambra state. He comes from a lineage of singers and dancers in Igboland. But it wasn’t until his high school years in Onitsha, a major commercial city near Atani, that he got drawn to music.
Osadebe’s genre encompassed Igbo and traditional musical elements. He also incorporated calypso, samba, bolero, rumba, jazz and waltz into his style, birthing a unique sound.
His singing career started in Lagos nightclubs, performing as a part of The Empire Rhythm Orchestra, led by EC Arinze. He would also go on to have stints with Stephen Amache Band and the Central Dance Band, before setting up his own group, Sound Makers, circa 1964.
As he became more established as a strong musician, Osadebe’s lyrics began to include social commentary akin to Fela Kuti’s, but a lot less confrontational. His commentary often bordered on everyday struggles and personal trials.
Despite the Nigerian Civil War of the late 1960s and the resultant decline of Highlife in Lagos, Osadebe’s prominence never waned.
With a career spanning over 40 years, Osadebe is regarded as one of the best highlife musicians of all time. His best-known hit was the 1984 single, ‘Osondi Owendi’, which remains one of Nigeria’s most popular records ever.
After turning 50 in 1986, Osadebe started to give priority to fatherhood and devoted more of his time to his family. One of his last albums is ‘Kedu America’, which was released in December 1994.
A prolific composer, Osadebe is believed to have written and recorded over 500 songs. He died in May 2007.
Till present day, Haruna Ishola Bello, who was born in 1919, remains the most popular artist in the Apala genre. Apala music was birthed by amateur musicians who played to arouse the Muslim faithful during Ramadan.
In 1948, Ishola released his first album, ‘Late Oba Adeboye (The Orimolusi Of Ijebu Igbo)’, which turned out to be a commercial flop but he went on to gain a reputation as the most sought-after entertainer by the Nigerian elite, largely due to his extensive touring.
Following the death of Oba Adeboye in 1955, the 1948 album was re-released and enjoyed a much-improved reception. As a ripple effect, he soon became one of the most respected praise singers in Nigeria.
In developing his songs, Ishola employed a strict traditionalist approach, citing both Yoruba proverbs and Koranic scripture, as well as making sure there were no Western instruments in his musical line-up.
Before the end of 1950s, he introduced Shekere into his music and recorded a song in 1960 under Decca records titled ‘Punctuality is the soul of Business’. In 1962, he recorded his first LP, which had two sides and five songs on each side.
By 1969, Ishola launched STAR Records in partnership with Jùjú music legend I.K. Dairo. It was the first African record label owned by artistes on its roster. In 1971, he released his highest selling album, Oroki Social Club, on Decca Records.
The titular track from the album which sold over five million copies was an ode to the prestigious nightclub in the city of Osogbo, where Ishola and his group often performed four to 10 hours long concerts to sold-out audiences.
Ishola was one of the first Nigerian musicians to tour abroad, performing in the United Kingdom, Sweden, France, West Germany, and Italy. Although he died in 1983, his large catalogue of recordings on Decca and STAR have kept his legacy alive.
Andy Frankel, who produced Apala Messenger (IndigiDisc 2001), a retrospective of Ishola’s work, lived in Nigeria during the 1980s. He wrote in the CD liner notes that Haruna Ishola’s voice was so powerful that his praise-singing could kill its intended recipient if not delivered with restraint.
SIKIRU OLOLADE AYINDE BALOGUN (BARRISTER)
Sikiru Ololade Ayinde Balogun, born in February 1948, is better known by his stage name; Ayinde Barrister. The Yoruba singer-songwriter and performer is regarded as the pioneer of Fuji music.
He was born to the family of Salawu Balogun of Ibadan. His father was a butcher while his mother was a trader. He had his early education at Muslim Mission School and Model School, Mushin, Lagos, before proceeding to Yaba Polytechnic for his tertiary education.
At a young age, he became an Ajiwere singer and he continued playing music in between various jobs. He worked as a typist for Nigerian Breweries and was later enlisted as a clerk in the Nigerian Army during the civil war.
In 1965, he left the army to become a full-time musician and started a large band of 34 percussionists and vocalists called the Supreme Fuji Commanders.
In 1966, Ayinde Barrister released his first LP record, after which he put out records under African Songs Ltd before starting his own label, Siky-Oluyole Records. Among the LPs released under African songs is Bisimilahi and Ile Aiye Dun Pupo/Love In Tokyo (India Sound).
By the early 1980s, Ayinde Barrister and Fuji music had become accepted by all religions in the country. He went on to record various albums including Iwa (1982), Nigeria (1983), Fuji Garbage (1988) and New Fuji Garbage (1993) under his imprint.
Ayinde Barrister had a couple of successful shows in London in 1990 and 1993 performing what later became known as the Fuji Garbage sound.
Despite his bitter supremacy feud with Kollington Ayinla, he remained the most decorated and revered Fuji musician before his demise in December 2010. Barrister released over 70 studio albums over the course of his illustrious career.
Read the first part of this series here