Legends of Nigerian Music (Classical, Juju

Golden names of Nigerian Classical Music
By Uduma Kalu
Fela Sowande

First acknowledged composer and conductor of a symphony in the country. He was born in Oyo in 1905 to an Anglican priest. He travelled to the United Kingdom in 1934 to read Engineering but ended up reading music. He had a fellowship diploma of the Trinity Music College of Music, London and a bachelor of music, London University.
He was appointed organist and choirmaster in West Mission of the Methodist Church at Kingsway Hall. Back in Nigeria, he joined the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation(NBC) as head of music section. He taught at the University of Ibadan. . Died March 1987 at 82. Professor Emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh, and Kent State University, Ohio. His Works include_ Laudamus Te for Organ, Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, for organ, Obangiji, Ka Mura, Oyigiyigi all for organ. He also wrote the African Suite for string orchestra and folk symphony, also for orchestra.

T.K. Ekundayo
He was first Nigerian to study music to a professional level. Ekundayo was trained by his uncle, Rev Johnson before being appointed organist of the St Paul, Breadfruit, Lagos at 18. In 1911, he went to study at the Trinity College Music, London. He returned to become the organist and choirmaster at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos, till he retired in 1962. He laid the music foundation at the cathedral which eventually trained other Nigerian art musicians.
He was the Oratorious of the Herald Mendelsslus’s at both Cathedral Church and Glover Hall, Lagos.
His works include: Emi O gbe Oju mi Soke Wonni, a setting of Ps 121 in Yoruba to music, Samuel Cantata for soloists, chorus and organ, A Choral suite for the Republic of Nigeria, for Soprano, Contralto, tenor and bass soloist, choir and piano.
Israel Oludotun Ransom- Kuti
A Reverend, an organist and Anglican priest that trained a lot of generation of musicians. He was born in 1891 and studied art music but was privileged to study at Fouray Bay, Sierra Leone where he said music was part of the curriculum.
Later he was teacher and principal of Abeokuta Grammar School, Abeokuta.
The reverend experimented with adaptation of traditional musicial idioms for use in the church while he also had his own personal compositions
Some of his works are Sons of Olumo (Omo Olumo), Gloria and Iwe Kiki which was the most evergreen.
He displayed lot of leadership traits that hyped up the musical sector in his days. He replayed the colonial tune of God Save the Queen Anthem, with Lori Oke Petele at Abeokuta Grammar School, a patriotic trait that undermined the influence of colonial masters on the country’s church music.
It is to his credit that music has remained a tradition at the Abeokuta Grammar School. He was also a first piano teacher to his son, Fela.

Ayo Bankole.
He was Nigeria’s foremost art music composer and organist of repute. Born May 1935 and died in very tragic circumstances in November 1976, he had his early music education from his parents. He went to London in 1957 on federal government scholarship to study music at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He rose in London to become organist and choirmaster of the St James-the less in South London. He was the first Nigerian to study music at the Cambridge University where he received the organ scholarship of Clare College.
Prolific composer, excellent in classic, he gave a niche for serious art music. Known for using native idioms in his works Among his great works are: the Three songs for baritone and piano comprising Iya, Ja Itanma to ntan and Kiniun, three part songs for female choir, comprising Orisa bi Kosi, Yungba Yungba and Enikeni to ba gbe ara rega, Toccata and Fugue for organ and the cantata songs for mixed media comprising a narrator, singer and an unusual combination of musical instruments including the Indian Tambura.
Christopher Oyesiku
One of the first generation of schooled musicians in Nigeria, he started his career as a choirboy in the Cathedral Church of Christ. He went on a scholarship to London Music Conservatoire where he specialised in Voice. He became baritone singer of note who competed favourably with his white counterparts, featuring in concerts graced by the Queen of England.
In Nigeria, he joined the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria(FRCN) as director of music and raised good and reputable choir for the corporation.
On retirement in early 80s, he went to the academic and pioneered the establishment of a music department. At the Osun State College of Education. He later joined University of Ibadan as artiste in residence and raised a choir for the university community. He is retired from the university now.
Akin Euba.
Dr Euba is one of Nigerias trained musicians. Born 1935 to a pianist father who gave him early music education, he studied at the Trinity College of Music, London, University of California, Los Angeles. and the University of Legon, Ghana, with a PhD in Ethnomusicology at the University.
He pioneered the establishment of a department at Ife. He has contributed to the development of tradition music just as his research has led him to become a spokesman for traditional music.
Some of his works are Six Yoruba Folk Song arranged for voice and piano, Scenes from traditional life for piano, The wanderers for cello and piano, Olurombi for symphony Orchestra, Igi nla so for piano and Four Yoruba Drums.
For years, he was organist and choirmaster at the St James-the less in South London, which he took over from Bankole. He combines the rhythmic and melodic elements of traditional Yoruba music. Presently, he is lecturing at the University of Pittsburgh, United States.

Sam Ojukwu

Prolific composer of Choral music in Nigeria today., he was pioneer student of music UNN. He authored the University Anthem in use till today. Now a reader at the Alvan Ikoku College of Education, Owerri where has been there for the past two decades., his works are over 200.

Joshua Uzoigwe

He is a second generation of classical musicians in Nigeria. After initial training in Nigeria, he studied Music at the Guildhall of Music, London where he got GGSM diploma. At the Queens University, Belfast, under John Blacking, he got M.A and PhD in ethnomusicology.
Now assistant professor of Music, Uyo, senior lecturer at the dept of music OAU, his is said to be the most talented among his peers. He is cited in Contemporary Composers edited by Brian Morten and Pamela Collins, Chicago and London James Press, 1992. Works: Four Igbo Songs for Voice, Piano and Maracas, Siren Limits (A poem by Christopher Okigbo) for unaccompanied choir, oja for flute Lustra variations for symphony Orchestra.

Emeka Nwokedi
Well known Choir trainer in Nigeria. He is Director at MUSON School of Music where he conducts music choir. He studied Music at the UNN. Today he has positioned himself at the mainstream of art music in Nigeria. Instructor at the Nigerian Army of Music, Ojo, Lagos, he is also a broadcaster with the Voice of Nigeria and radio Nigeria a choir master in various churches in Lagos, director and conductor of City Choral, Lagos, and music consultant to Orpheus Company Ltd.

Ayo Bankole Jnr.

A second generation of art musicians in the country, he got his training from his father, Ayo Bankole Snr. He studied Music at the University Lagos. In he 1986, won the first prize in a piano competition sponsored by the MUSON and French Cultural Centre, Lagos. He was awarded scholarship to study in France and attached to the Conservatoire of Music of the University of Picardy, Amiens. He has been in the vanguard of the propagation of art music in the last decade.
He is also involved in Classical music and popular music. Ayo is at home with jazz and Afro beat. His band Asha, is a pacesetter in music scene. But he is also involved in advertisement. He composed the music of the Eko Bank advertisement on television and the theme song for the aborted Nigeria 95 World Cup.

Wilberforce Echezona

Born in August 18, 1926, to the family of late Sam Nwakezie Echezona of Uruoga, Nkwelle-Ogidi, Anambra State, he inherited music from his father. Acquired formal training. Obtained associate of the Royal College of Music and Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music. He Possessed GTCT in 1950.
He aslo pioneered the first music department at the UNN, and remained the Head of Department until his death. He bred a set of musicians at Nsukka that today makes it occupy the apex of Nigerias art music. Some of students include Sam Ojukwu, Felix Nwauba, Lazarus Ekwueme and Meki Nzewi.

He had a PhD in musicology with interest in African music and instrument. Echezona invented the popular Ogenephone, the melodic idiophonic instrument common to the eastern Nigeria. It is painful that he died working on bottlephone, another experiment.
Folksongs he arranged are Egwuobi, Obu Ije Ozim, Akwa Eke and Centenary Song.

Felix Emeka Nwauba.

Epitome of hard work in Nigerian art music scene, Nwauba was born on December 23, 1936, at Isioji Village in Nkpologwu Aguata, LGA, Anambra State. He studied music privately and most of the time on his own to pass grade viii, final grade of the Trinity College of Music, London. It was unsuccessfu for him to further his education. So did it through correspondence. He obtained M.Ed., from the Buffalo University in 1977 and established the Music Deptarment of Alvan Ikoku College of Education. Some of his works are- Gozie Jehovah, Mkpuruobi, Onu Uzu Oma and The Case of Biafra.

Adam Fiberessime.
Great exponent of art music in Nigeria, he studied at the Trinity College of Music, London. Even as a black student, he was expert as in dance music. This led to his stint as a pianist for Ambrose Campbell.
Back in Nigeria, he was head of Music Department at Voice of Nigeria. He loves classical music. But he also promoted traditional music.
His works included- Fantasia Origin for Orchestra, Orukoro, an Opera for Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra, Opu Jaja for Soloists, Chorus and orchestra.

Sam Akpabot

A leading crusader for new African traditional music in Nigeria, he spent years researching into African traditional music. He taught traditional music in Nigeria and broad. He also broadcast programmes on radio, designed to educate the general public about the elements of indigenous music culture. Akpabot maintained columns in newspapers for the promotion of cultural music for years.
Some of his works were Suite Nigeria for Symphony, Ofala Festival for wing symphony and orchestra and Nigerian instruments, tone Poem, Nigeria, for wind orchestra and African Instruments, Verba Christy, an opera Cantata, Jaja of Opopo, an opera.
Born October 3, 1952, Akpabot attended the Royal School of Music, London and the University of Chicago. He was Senior Music Producer for FRCN, Visiting Professor of Music and African Studies, Michigan State University, USA, Fellow, Trinity College of Music, London, Associate, Royal College of Music, London
James Adekunle

Born October 22 1930, he studied music at Guildhall School of Music, London, and graduated in 1962. Since then, he has been organist and choirmaster at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Ebute Ero, Lagos.
Ex Deputy director of Federal Ministry of Education, he was founding member MUSON School of Music. He designed the curriculum and nurtured it. The school is now a breeding ground for young musicians. The school has about the best music library in the country. It boasts of books on music education, history, scores, video, CD, tapes of works performed by renowned artistes all over the world.
Laz Ekwueme

Reputed as the first professor of music in Nigeria, he studied in London for BA in Music degree of the University of Durham and MA of the Royal College of Music, London. He obtained PhD in Theory of Music. A distinguished composer who professionally performed in England and US as singer, conductor, actor and broadcaste, he returned to the country in 1974 and joined the University of Lagos as lecturer.
His choir, Laz Chorale, established in 1974, became a pacesetter in and around Lagos. He pioneered the idea of private choirs to satisfy the yearnings of most numerous enthusiasts. His works inlude Dance of the black witches, for Quintet, Flow Gently, sweet Niger, for string orchestra, Four Spirituals for choir, Acapella Psalm 23 for Contralto and chamber orchestra, Nigerian rhapsody for strings, two Igbo Introit for choir.
Ekwueme also studied in Germany at the University of Manchester, Guildhall of Music, and is a Licentiate of Music College, London and director, Nigerian National Choir for FESTAC`77.

Emeka Nzewi
Born October 21, 1938 in Nmuezu, Nnewi, Anambra state, Meki, pioneer student of Music University of Nigeria Nsukka, joined the NBC in 1965. He studied iun London, and at the Queens University, Belfast for a PhD in Ethnomusicology.
Some of his areworks- Ogbunigwe (an opera), 1965; A Drop of Honey, (a musical) 1969: The love of Finger (musical drama) 1968; Death and the Dance Spirits (Symphonic Poem) 1966.

Adebanke Ademola.

Egba Princess, he got trained at the Royal Academy of Music, Maryland, London. A Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music, versatile pianist and singer, staff of FRCN for years. She was music producer with the corporation. 54 years old musicologist, she is faculty member of MUSON School of Music.

Francesca Yetunde

MUSON Trustee, she studied to sing as a child. She is a member of the School Choir of the Holy Child College and the Musical Society University of Ibadan. She won first prize in soprano solo at the Nigerian Festival of Arts in the early 50s. One of the artistes that participated in the Great Britain/Nigerian Association in London in 1992., she is a member, Steve Rhodes Voices.

Femi Akinkugbe

University of Ibadan graduate with BA in Linguistics in 1983, Femi has a PhD in the same course specialising in Comparative Phonology. She has an interest in music and has exhibited singing talents as a student at the UI. She sang for years with the University chapel Choir and Music Circle. She has been MUSON artiste since 1987.

Dupe Akinola

One of the rare young talents in Nigeria, she was born into an Anglican family and she started singing at seven. She is in love with wide range soprano and won she her membership of numerous choral groups as a soloist.
Now, member of Laz Ekwueme Choral Group, FRCN Choir, Steve Rhodes and De Clique, she is studying Electrical Engineering at the University of Lagos. But she home with popular gospel music in Nigeria, fusing classical music studies with popular music in her album, Ba yanu. She also performed at various concerts in Africa and America and MUSON concerts.

Joyce Adewunmi

One of the first Nigerians to study voice and dance, she is currently, Voice and Dance lecturer at the at the Department of Music, Uyo. She studied in USA and OAU with best graduating student.

influencing our musical culture today, among them, Emmanuel Tetteh Mensah, Bobby Benson, Victor Olaiya, Haruna Isola, Mamman Shatta, Rex Jun Lawson, Victor Uwaifo, Eddy Okonta, Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. The list is really long.
Copyright protection can only be sought for materials that recommend themselves to the public, especially, in chart terms. But it is a very well known fact that no genuine hits have come out of the Nigerian scene for years. And yet to be fed on western musical materials, but this trend can be reversed with a genuinely devised cultural policy.
Video chips of inconceivable theatrical variety are presently assaulting the airwaves – in the name of promotions, but the most effective avenue is radio. This was the tool that Decca West Africa used to introduce Ghanaian highlife to Nigeria in the early 50s. Their formula was a concerted airplay of the music of the Tempos Band led by E.T. Mensah. Bobby Benson was the first to be influenced, then Victor Olaiya, followed by a whole new generation of musicians. All the veterans whose names have remained indelible in the Nigerian music scene came to prominence through airplay.
But then it was through the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, which devised various programmes for promoting the various idioms of our musical culture. This can still be done today because as the adage says, “What
Big Boys of the Fuji Music

Dele Abiodun
Born on 30 March 1948, in the Edo State, Nigeria. Resisting his parents’ plans for a career in medicine, “Admiral” Dele Abiodun used his school fees to enrol at the Young Pioneers College in Accra, Ghana. Here he immersed himself in highlife music, playing bass in several bands, before returning to Nigeria in 1969 and basing himself in Lagos.
He founded his own band, Sweet Abby And The Tophitters, who played Ghanaian-style highlife and then a tough and idiosyncratic fusion of juju and afrobeat that Abiodun dubbed adawa (translated as “independent being”). The new style immediately attracted a large audience throughout Nigeria, and Abiodun has adhered to it, with occasional modifications, throughout his career. His first album, Kino Mo Ko Soke Yi, was released in 1971. Eschewing the established juju practice of releasing four or five albums a year, Abiodun chose to release just one album a year, free of the sponsorship of local dignitaries and politicians. As a result, he has never achieved the super stardom of his peers King Sunny Ade or Ebenezer Obey, but has built up a loyal following and maintained substantial record sales throughout the ensuing decades. He toured the UK for the first time in 1974. In 1984, Abiodun refined the Adawa sound to include western elements such as electroclaps and drum machines, while also deepening the African base of his music with an expanded drum and percussion section. The new approach was introduced with 1984’s It’s Time For Juju Music and came to maturity with the following year’s Confrontation. He has continued performing throughout the 90s. While Confrontation remains his most compelling album to date, 1989’s Current Champion is also an essential set in any representative juju collection.

King Sunny Ade
Born Sunday Adeniyi on 1 September 1946 in Oshogbo, Osun state, Nigeria. When Ade dropped out of school in 1963 in order to play with semi-professional Lagos juju bands, his parents – from the royal family of Ondo – were horrified. In Nigeria, as in much of Africa, music was regarded by “respectable” people as a very low-caste occupation. Ade’s subsequent national and international success should have mollified such parental disapproval, for his star rose fast and high. By 1964, he was lead guitarist in Moses Olaiya’s highly regarded band, the Rhythm Dandies and by 1966, after a short spell with another major bandleader, Tunde Nightingale, he had formed his own outfit, the Green Spots, playing a speedy but relaxed style of juju characterized by tight vocal harmonies and deliciously melodic guitar work. The band’s name was a cheeky riposte to seminal juju stylist I.K. Dairo, whose Blue Spots had ruled the juju roost since the early 50s. Ade’s luck continued with his first release, Challenge Cup, a song about a local football championship that became a national hit in 1967. The same year, Ade released his first album, Alanu Loluwa.
The late 60s and early 70s saw Ade and his renamed African Beats go from success to success. By 1975, he felt sufficiently powerful and financially secure to set up his own label, Sunny Alade Records, now a major independent in Nigeria that issues all Ade’s domestic releases. The mid-70s also saw him open his own juju nightclub in Lagos, the Ariya, the African Beats’ home venue when not on tour. By the end of the decade he was one of the ruling triumvirate of juju music – alongside Ebenezer Obey and Dele Abiodun – releasing some six albums per year, and selling around 200,000 copies of each release. This achievement was countered by the fact that a substantial proportion of these sales were of bootlegged pressings.
By the early 80s, African music was finding a growing audience in the UK, where a number of the more adventurous labels were looking around for African artists to put under contract. In 1982, Island Records signed Ade for Europe and North America (promoting him as “the African Bob Marley’).
His first album under the arrangement was Juju Music, an across-the-board critical success that charted in the USA. Ade’s UK breakthrough came with a triumphant concert he and the African Beats gave at London’s Lyceum Ballroom in January 1983. Without exception, the music press hailed Ade as an emergent international star. He played regularly to a hugely enthusiastic, multi-ethnic audience, proving that – in a live context at any rate – juju’s use of Yoruba rather than English-language lyrics was no barrier to overseas acceptance.
The audience size and composition was in marked contrast to Ade’s previous UK concerts. In 1975, he had made a three-month tour of the country, playing almost exclusively to expatriate Nigerian audiences at specially organized cultural evenings in municipal halls and community centres.

The critical success of Juju Music was matched by the 1983 follow-up, Synchro System, which also made encouraging UK and further US chart entries. Both albums were produced by the young Frenchman Martin Meissonnier, who must share much of the credit for Ade’s, and juju’s, international breakthrough. A third Island album, 1984’s Aura, which included a guest appearance by Stevie Wonder, was also well received, but the label – who were clearly banking on major chart success in the short term rather than career development – refused to renew Ade’s contract.
The same year was also marred by dissension among the African Beats. Following successful tours of the USA and Japan, they demanded substantial increases in salary. Ade, who was in fact losing money on his international touring owing to the large number of musicians he was carrying and the limited audience capacity of the venues he was playing, was unwilling to meet these demands, and the African Beats were dissolved.
Returning to Lagos, he formed a new band, Golden Mercury, and now records and performs almost exclusively in Nigeria. While the abatement of his international activities is regretted by juju music fans in the West, Ade continues to record outstanding albums that are readily obtainable at specialist record stores. Another international release was then recorded for Dutch label Provogue Records in 1989 ( Rykodisc Records in the USA). Ade’s collaboration with Onyeka Onwenu, Wait For Me, provoked a good deal of intrigue. The album included a song titled Choices, and it later emerged that the collection had been funded by the USAID Office of Population as part of a million family planning project. Some African-Americans slammed Onyeka and Ade as “accomplices to an attack on African cultural traditions and religious beliefs”.
This contrasted with Ade’s more usual advice about the promotion of the population (by this time he himself had 12 children). Reports followed of his death in 1991 after an onstage collapse in Lagos, but these were unfounded. He travelled instead to London to recuperate, but his once mighty reputation was clearly in danger of losing its lustre. He returned to form in 1995 with E Dide, promoting the album outside Nigeria. In his homeland he retains a huge following, with each release selling at least 200,000 copies. He runs, among other things, a record label, a film company, a nightclub and a charity foundation.

I.K. Dairo
Isaiah Kehinda Dairo was born in 1930, at Offa, Kwara State, Nigeria, and he died on 7 February 1996, at Eton-Alaiye, near Akure, Nigeria. The “Father Of Juju Music’, bandleader, composer and accordionist Isaiah Kehinde Dairo established the stylistic framework which fellow Nigerians Ebenezer Obey, King Sunny Ade , Dele Abiodun , Segun Adewale and others would develop in the 70s and 80s. After leaving school, Dairo worked in a variety of casual occupations while teaching himself to make and play drums. Inspired by the proto-juju experiments of Tunde Nightingale, he formed his first band in 1947, working semi-professionally in and around Ibadan. In 1957, he became a full time bandleader, moving to the capital, Lagos, and forming the 10-piece Morning Star Orchestra.
At this time he changed forever the direction of juju music by adding new elements such as electric guitar, made available to him by the advances of technology. These were paired with the harmonies of the local Cherubim and Seraphim Church to dramatic effect. He was awarded an MBE for his achievements in 1963
.In the early 60s, signed to Decca Records and renaming his band the Blue Spots, Dairo became the most successful recording artist in Nigeria, a position he retained until the emergence of younger performers like Obey, Ade and Abiodun – and Afrobeat originator Fela Anikulapo Kuti – in the mid-70s.
Despite the rise of this new generation of performers, however, Dairo remained a major artist in Nigeria throughout the 70s and continued to be active, both on stage and on record. Between 1965 and 1985 he released over 45 albums, a record even by the prolific standards of the Nigerian music scene. However, he entered semi-retirement in the early 80s to manage clubs and a hotel in Lagos, before joining the ministry. He made a comeback in 1990 with a re-formed Blue Spots band for I Remember, and was welcomed with open arms by juju enthusiasts. He died in 1996 following complications from diabetes and hypertension.

Confrontation. He has continued performing throughout the 90s. While Confrontation remains his most compelling album to date, 1989’s Current Champion is also an essential set in any representative juju collection.

Ebenezer Obey
He was born 27 August 1942, at Abeokuta, Ogun state, Nigeria. Obey’s earliest musical experiences were as a member of the local church choir while a child in Abeokuta – his parents, both devout Christians, were also members. In 1955, he joined the local band Ifelode Mambo, which despite its name was actually a juju outfit, playing guitar and thumb piano. He also played briefly with Fatayi Rolling Dollar and the Federal Rhythm Brothers Orchestra before moving to Lagos in 1963 and forming his own juju band, the International Brothers, in 1964. Under Obey’s leadership, the International Brothers forged a highly individual style of juju. Abandoning the percussion and single-guitar style developed by I.K. Dairo, Obey added two more frontline guitars and electric bass, speeded up the tempo and simplified the beat. The formula struck an immediate chord with Nigerian juju fans. Obey enjoyed his first hit, Omo Lam”, in 1965, followed by even greater success the following year with Olo Mi Gbo Temi. By the early 70s, Obey was rivalling King Sunny Ade in album output and sales, achieving major local hits with In London, On The Town , Board Members and Aiye Wa A Toro. In 1971, he renamed his band the Inter-Reformers and retitled his style miliki system (essentially a shrewd marketing move, for the music continued in the same juju style he had introduced with the International Brothers, heavier and faster than that played by most of his peers). In 1972, he opened his Lagos nightclub, the Miliki Spot, and for the next two or three years reigned as the city’s pre-eminent juju bandleader. By the mid-70s, however, Obey was beginning to be threatened by the younger Ade. Juju fans split into two camps: those who followed the Master Guitarist Ade, and those who favoured the sweetness of Obey’s vocals and the philosophical nature of his lyrics. It was with their lyrics, above all, that the two men identified themselves. Ade’s reflected his belief in traditional Yoruba religion, while Obey, always the perfect Christian gentleman, preached the orthodox values of love, the family and peace in the household. He also took on the role of Government spokesman, explaining the switch to the right-hand side that took place on Nigeria’s roads in 1972, and the need to follow more recent campaigns, such as Operation Feed Yourself in 1976 (with Operation Feed The Nation ), or the austerity measures that followed the end of Nigeria’s oil-based boom in the early 80s. While Obey never achieved the international profile of Ade, he actually preceded the latter in the attempt. In 1980, he licensed six albums to the London-based OTI label (including Current Affairs and What God Has Joined Together ). Lacking the promotional and financial muscle of a larger label like Island Records, with whom Ade signed in 1982, OTI were unable to sell Obey outside the expatriate Nigerian market and a small number of white enthusiasts. In 1983 he tried again, signing to Virgin Records, and releasing the adventurous funk and highlife -infused Je Ka Jo. Grossly under-promoted, the album failed to convince expatriate Nigerians or make any impact on the growing white audience for juju. A similar fate befell the Virgin follow-up, Greatest Hits. A third attempt, with yet another label, the specialist independent Stern’s Records, produced Solution. It too failed to reap a sufficient audience. Ever resilient, Obey next set his sights on the US market, touring there to great acclaim – but with little effect on record sales – in 1985 and 1986. He continues, however, to be a popular recording and performing artist at home in Nigeria, despite the subsequent rise of yo-pop and the young man Segun Adewale.

Segun Adewale
Born in . November 1956 at Oshogbo, Osun State, Nigeria, by the mid-80s, Nigeria’s juju music had been dominated for over a decade by just three bandleaders – King Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey and Dele Abiodun. Though by nature conservative in its taste, the juju audience was nonetheless ready for a fresh sound to enliven the music. At the same time, the western African music audience, naturally less traditionalist than its counterpart in Nigeria, and, almost by definition, possessed of a huge appetite for novel sounds and sensations, were looking for new performers to discover and enjoy. Enter Segun Adewale and his Superstars, stepping into both breaches with their yo-pop style, a more brash and aggressive derivative of the music of Ade, Obey and Abiodun. Born into a Yoruba royal family (yo-pop is Adewale’s shorthand for Yoruba pop), Adewale successfully overcame parental pressure for him to become a doctor or lawyer, and on leaving school immediately joined juju godfather I.K. Dairo’s band in Lagos. He then joined Chief S.L. Atolagbe’s Holy Rainbow before forming the Superstars in 1973. The band released Kogbodopa Finna-Finna, before breaking up in early 1974. Towards the end of that year, Adewale joined Prince Adekunle’s Western Brothers Band as co-leader with Sir Shina Peters. He remained with the band until 1977, when he and Peters left, taking six other members with them, to form Shina Adewale And The Superstars International. Peters left in 1979, and in 1980 Adewale put together his second 20-strong Superstars line-up. Initially playing a style closely allied to that of Ade, Adewale’s yo-pop emerged as a distinctive and genuinely new sound on the 1982 album Endurance (the Superstars’ fifth album). Elements of funk, reggae and highlife were blended into the juju foundation, while the band crashed into their music with an aggressive abandon unusual among modern juju exponents. Adewale subtitled yo-pop “kick and start music” and it was this emotional intensity and speedy drive, more than the eclectic range of styles represented in the band’s music, that gave yopop its unique character – and, especially for Western audiences, its instant appeal. In 1984, the band’s eighth Nigerian album, Play For Me (which featured a smattering of English lyrics), was released in the UK by specialist record label Stern’s Records, and they played a triumphant one-off promotional gig at London’s Venue club. A second Stern’s album, Ojo Je, a compilation of material already available in Nigeria, was released in 1985, and the Superstars returned to the UK to play three acclaimed concerts at the Edinburgh International Festival. Having burned extremely brightly in Nigeria and the UK between 1983 and 1986, Adewale’s star faded somewhat in the late 80s. In Nigeria, the initial impact created by yo-pop’s brash urgency failed to engender sustained interest, while juju itself began to lose ground to the closely related, but more roots-orientated fuji style. In the UK, the African music audience also moved on. Nevertheless, the Superstars’ late 80s albums remain every bit as exciting as the earlier, more commercially successful, Endurance, Play For Me or Ojo Je. However, in 1989 the lack of an international breakthrough engendered a break-up in the Superstars’ ranks, and by 1990’s Cash And Carry Adewale was launching opportunistic attacks on fuji music as the self-appointed defender of juju.



35 Responses to “Legends of Nigerian Music (Classical, Juju”

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  3. Akinduro ayoade Says:

    Truly nigerian,our long standing tradition in western/african art music with popular musicians shows that we have come a long way indeed.keep it up

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  5. Harry Says:

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  16. yemi ojagbamila Says:

    kehinde okusanya celebrated his 70 birthday in january, i wonder why is name is not included.

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  20. mordecai Says:

    He as remain the only Nigerian pianist and organist who compose Yoruba lyrics songs as a descant in modern hymns,he also hold a Fellow in music.why omitting his name.i mean Kehinde Okusanya

  21. Uduma Kalu Says:


    A Curious Case of Highlife Piracy
    blog | May 23, 2012 – 5:34am | By Obiwu

    ‘Ozo Wu Iwem’ (‘Another Is My Anger’) was easily the angriest song ever recorded in the history of Nigerian music. It was bitter; it spat brine and brimstone and much worse. It invoked the Amadioha god of retribution on the enemy who stole a song in order to pass it off as his own. The aggrieved victims of the grand larceny were Dan Satch Opara and Dr. Sir Warrior of the Oriental Brothers International Band of Owerri. The culprit was Aloy Anyanwu, a renegade former member of the band, who broke away in 1978 to form a rival musical group that he called State Brothers International Band.

    Aloy Anyanwu had his public disgrace coming, since his crime of blatant piracy against the Oriental Brothers was not the first time he had been linked to such extreme perfidy. He was a founding member of the vastly known Ikenga Supersters of Africa, a breakaway group that had infamously “hijacked” their leader, Stephen Osita Osadebe’s master tape, and which it had proceeded to release as its own in its earlier incarnation as Nkenga in London (1973). Following the successful performance of the Ikenga Supersters at the FESTAC ’77 African Festivals in Lagos, Anyanwu jumped ship to join the Oriental Brothers band. There was no doubt that Warrior and Dan Satch needed Anyanwu’s expertise at the guitar. As a master-guitarist, Anyanwu was often compared with Kabaka whose departure from the Orientals had left a huge void.

    Unfortunately, his fitting in must have been taken for granted since, unlike Kabaka, Anyanwu hailed from the same Mbaise as Dan Satch and Warrior. That was the group’s undoing. Within one year of his joining the Orientals, Aloy Anyanwu was gone again. He proved to be multi-gifted as a fast finger both at playing the guitar and at stealing other people’s songs. He was a repeat offender, having stolen once from Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe and His Nigeria Sound Makers International and again from the Oriental Brothers. He was like the misguided frog that assumed, as the Orientals sang in another song, that jumping around from the bush to the road was how to be a king.

    It was not certain that ‘Ozo Wu Iwem’ alluded to the earlier copyright violation. John Beadle loosely translates the title as ‘This is My Annoyance’, thereby playing down the seething rage that was expressed in the possessive “Iwem”. It was clear, however, that even such a subaltern, tropical culture as highlife music viewed the infringement of intellectual property with the same angst as the high culture of the academia. “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord. And I will repay.” The song bristled in blood-red letters with venom and violence. Warrior reputedly had the loudest voice in all of Nigerian music. ‘Ozo Wu Iwem’, however, showed a side of the legendary group that Nigerians could never have imagined. It was the side that sternly warned that the world was governed by, in fact revolved around, boundaries, rules, and reprisals. It was drawn in the sand, as Americans say, as a line of which the old western cowboy must guard with blazing guns and the pain of death.

    According to John Beadle and Toshiya Endo, the Oriental Brothers obtained an injunction from the Owerri Chief Magistrate’s Court to stop Aloy Anyanwu “from using their work.” But not even the victory of the law could assuage the hurt of inordinate plagiarism. In ‘Ozo Wu Iwem’, the Oriental Brothers did not just throw rotten tomatoes at Aloy Anyanwu’s face and body, they threw the kitchen sink and the pigsty at him. The song took recourse in the Igbo tradition of “igba mbe,” in which the thief or the rapist was publicly humiliated by being forced to dance naked while the taunting tykes spat, drummed, and sang to his divestiture along the open road all the way to the marketplace.

    ‘Ozo Wu Iwem’ adopted the repetitious and declamatory structure of curse poetry. Warrior presented the band’s case in first person pronoun: “I composed my song. A criminal stole it and played it to others and claimed he had learned music from me. Another is my anger. No one should plead with me, or try to pacify me. Another is my anger… Music has driven me mad. Music has driven me mad. That is my anger.” He declaimed his oppressed condition by citing the proverbial chick that said it did not expect to be released from its trap, but it had to cry so the world would hear its voice. He taunted that “Aloy” had become a fish-pinching mouse, a friendly but withering affliction. He asked of Anyanwu: “He who killed his medicine man, are his poisoners dead?” He called malediction on Anyanwu: “What you have done to me, God will do it to you… God the Father, whoever cheats his kin, may it not be well with him. Amen.”

    As if mimicking the Hellenic Archilochus, Dan Satch and Warrior prided themselves almost as godlike master-artists “who train musicians”. In their fury, they called down curses even on such former Oriental band members as Akwilla and Ichita, though the two had left to found their own group a full year before Anyanwu’s gross malfeasance. Their immediate crime, however, was playing backup for Aloy Anyanwu’s 1978 ironically titled debut album, ‘Nwanne Ka’ (‘Kinship is Greater’). Like almost every song of the Oriental Brothers, ‘Ozo Wu Iwem’ was an instant mega hit. It was on the obverse side of the song after which the LP was named. ‘Onye Egbula Onye Agbata Obi Ya’ (‘No One Should Kill His Neighbor’) was both a direct opposite of the tempestuous Side ‘B’ and a song of love and peace.

    1978 was the least productive year in the first two decades (1970s through 1980s) of the original Oriental Brothers’ career as a group, since it was the only year that it produced only one LP. Yet the album was one whose ambiguity baffled and confounded, even as it tickled and elated teaming fans. More importantly, it left permanent prints as a historic landmark in the culture wars and the copyright law. In pop culture, it was also the first and last public prosecution of intellectual piracy on the Nigerian national stage.

  22. Olusakin Taiwo Kayode Says:

    Very good article… superb

  23. Nesta Says:

    Highlife music, truly NIGERIAN music. it is undiluted, no computer drums, pure music!

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  25. Prof Okey Nwofor Says:

    Of all that are listed, I am lucky to have met Sam Ojukwu. He is great indeed, no doubt one of the greatest composers of African classics.alive. Good work by the compiler

  26. Ezeogu Chukwudi Cassidy Says:

    Very informative indeed. Please feed me with information on Jude Nnam. Thanks

  27. Ayorinde jerry Says:

    I must commend d magnanious efforts of dis site to feed us with history and evolution of music legends in Nigeria. I’m so happy to see a gud number of yorubas among these music legends in Nigeria. Is laz ekwueme d only professor of music ingeria?

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  31. Jane adaku Says:

    How can I get the piece by Sam Ojukwu titled, Jehovah emeworo anti ihe ukwu

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