No 40: Felix Lebarty – Ifeoma
(1989, “One Life To Live“, Tabansi Records)
Felix Lebarty’s journey into music was definitely ordained. His elder brother – Aigbe, was the practising musician of the family; And all members of the family had no choice but to assist him one way or the other in his music endeavours. The young Felix was not left out. With time, he developed interest in music and began to aspire to make a career of it.
Between 1978 to 1981, Felix Lebarty had already become active in the music scene with a lot of guitar credits in albums of most of the Known Pop Acts – Chukwudi Nwafor’s “Ihu N’Anya”, Emma Ogosi’s “Nobody Knows”, The (4) Apostles‘ “Moving Time”, George Ema’s “Sweeter Than Honey”
The experience of trying to release an album of his own at the beginning, was frustrating for him. His 1st and 2nd efforts didn’t even see the light of day. Same for the 3rd which was released by music giant, EMI, but wasn’t well-publicised. So, it didn’t make the expected impact. He got noticed by new Pop Sensation Kris Okotie & Producer Odion Iruoje who swiftly recruited him to play guitar alongside BLO on Kris Okotie’s debut album “I Need Someone”. They agreed to sign him up as Kris Okotie’s first artist on his newly established label but when the label kept pushing back his 4th effort, Lebarty opted to sign up with Chief Tabansi and get produced by another Iconic 80s Producer Jake Sollo (Nkem Okonkwo) who heard the 4th effort and was interested in it.
Tabansi Records began working on the songs all over; Sollo travelled with the young Lebarty and got the album “Lover Boy” recorded in the UK. The song & album became a nationwide sensation and a star had been born; He had achieved stardom at a very tender age.
At this young age, Lebarty quickly grew accustomed to the name Lover Boy and lived his life by it – living on the fast lane breaking every ladies’ hearts he came across while ending up releasing a song for any lady he fell in love with – “Chichi”, “Ada” & “Ngozi”. He became a Dad for 6 or 7 children from different women and never denied them child support. He released 2 more albums “Bobo” & “Lover Boy ‘83” under the guidance of Jack Sollo to solidify his .
After Jack Sollo’s untimely death in a 1985 motor accident and the world in his pocket, Lebarty got bitten by the American bug in 1986. His reason: “When you are successful, you look for a better channel to develop yourself.” And as far as he was concerned, the USA was the next bus stop in his life. He travelled to USA and got the America-based Holman Sounds to produce the album “African Boy” which would prove to be a total failure. Before long, he was running out of cash. While continuing his music hustles, he took up the odd job of cab driving, later owning a number of cabs.
In 1989, he released his biggest hit ever – about a girl called “Ifeoma” whom in the song he wanted to marry. The song was an anthem and was on the album “One Life To Live” which he produced himself. In 1992, he released a 6th album for Nigeria called “419” which wasn’t received too well. That year, he eventually admitted that his USA dream was just what it was, a dream. He came home, turned his life around and gave his life to Christ. He is now a Pastor and remains strong friends with Pastor Chris Okotie & Chief Tabansi.
culled from With Comb & Razor & Felix Lebarty’s Interview with Oseyiza Oogbodo for the Compass Newspaper
No 39: Olu Maintain ft LKT – Yahoozee
(2006, “Maintain Reloaded”, Reloaded Records)
Olumide Edwards Adegbolu aka Olu Maintain is a Nigerian Afro hip-hop musician. His father, a medical doctor with the Nigerian army, plays the guitar and he encouraged him to take up music. His first demo was done in 1992. He was a member of the hip-hop trio called Maintain (Olu, Tolu & Big Bamo) which had hits like “Alo”, “I Catch Cold” and “Blah”. The group released six albums between 1998 and 2004. Olu Maintain who studied Accounting at The Polytechnic, Ibadan decided to go solo in 2005.
In 2006, he dropped his debut album “Maintain Reloaded” which became very successful. The massive track “Yahooze” was a runaway hit and was well received by the Nigerian public.
People will ask how come a song related to scamming should make Nigeria’s Top 50 songs. This was even a huge argument amongst the panel but truth be told the song was the No1 track in Nigeria for the whole of 2006 & 2007 and the better part of 2008 and even had its own dance movement. Heck, even Ex-US Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2008 came up on stage to bust a move with Olu Maintain during the Africa Rising Festival in London.
photo credit: Getty
All we can say is that whether the song is about internet fraudsters (yahoo yahoo boys) and 419, or it is about the perceived lifestyle lived by most Nigerians – the song is still very reflective of Nigeria Today and its historic 50years. We can’t run from the truth – 419 nearly ruined our reputation with other countries (getting harassed @ any airport for holding a green passport). It leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Scamming in any form is very wrong and destroys the image of a Nation. The end doesn’t justify the means (jail awaits those that get caught). Hard work pays.
Olu Maintain however has maintained that the song is about pleasure after pain. Working from Monday to Friday and enjoying from Friday to Sunday. In an interview with BBC, Olu said the song is a satire (???), deriding “yahoo-yahoo” culture, not glorifying it. “The message of the song is that if you want the lifestyle of drink cars and women you have to work hard, hustle means work, not cheat“. The song is an exceptionally catchy track that will make you groove.
He has his own Record label – Reloaded Records and in 2009, he released an album “With All Due Respect, Press Play” by him and his Posse – Kentro World
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Boys dey hustle/Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Gbogbo aye/Champagne, Hennessy, Moet for everybody/ Ewo awon omoge, dem dey shake their body
culled mostly from Olu Maintain’s Myspace Page
No 38: Stephen Osita Osadebe – Osondi Owendi
(1984, “Osondi Owendi”, Polydor [LPs]; Premier Music [CD])
Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe was one of the most prolific bandleaders from the 1950s & 1960s “Golden Age” of Nigerian dance-band highlife who stayed active and constant on the music scene till his death in 2007. He was born in March 1936 in Atani, Ogbaru Local Government Area, Anambra State. He was a chorister in his church as a boy, played in the school band, and was interested in classical music.
“The man who mainly inspired me into singing was the late Nat King Cole, an American,” Chief Osadebe was quoted saying in a 2004 Sun News article. “He sang in English, Spanish, and other languages. I loved his music.”
He entered into full time music in 1958, 1st joining Stephen Amechi’s Empire Rhythm Skies as a vocalist and maracas player. He found national success in 1958 with his recording “Adamma,” a tribute to a beautiful woman. Osadebe went ahead to play with other notable bands of E.C. Arinze, Agu Norris, Eric Onugha, Eddy Okonta, Chuks Nwamama, Zeal Onyia & Charles Iwegbue. In 1960, he took a 2 year music break to study for a Diploma in Trade Unionism in the Soviet Union. Upon completion, Osadebe returned to Nigeria to establish Stephen Osadebe & His Nigerian Sound Makers.
Osili as he is often called was referred to as the Doctor of Hypertension in reference to the perceived healing power of his music. His music played a very important role in Nigeria with his genre of highlife that was infused with sounds of merengue and rumba. Over the course of his 49 years in music, he put out over fifty LPs and numerous 45s and was said to have written over 500 songs; he prided himself on being a composer of music and lyrics. “My own belief is that if you cannot compose your song, you are not worth being a musician,” he said in the same 2004 interview with Sun News. Throughout his decades-long career, Chief Osadebe recorded in English, pidgin English, and Ibo, the language of his ethnic group.
In 1984, Osili dropped “Osondi Owendi” which has been said to be the biggest selling record in the history of his Nigeria (No facts to prove this!). Nowadays a party ain’t a party until the cut comes through a couple of times. His contributions to Nigerian music were priceless; not only did he carry the torch of classic highlife to the very end winning many honours and awards including the PMAN award with his music, his sonorous compositions became evergreen classics loved by millions – “Osita”, “Sisi Kwanangida,” “One Pound”, “Lagos Life”, “Nri Sports di Uso,” “Osondi Owendi,” ” Zik & Mbadiwe” and many, many more.
Chief Osadebe left 5 wives and several children, many of whom live in the United States. His 1st son Obiajulu Emmanuel Osadebe who had stepped into his father’s shoes remixing some of his hit songs to keep the Osadebe legacy alive, sadly died in 2009 at the age of 43 after a brief illness.
In 2009, MC Loph & Flavour did a remake of “Osondi Owendi” which became a hit as well. Check it out here
For the nearest accurate discography of the Commander in Chief Osili.
No 37: Dr Victor Olaiya – Omo Pupa
(1982, “In the Sixties”, Polydor)
Dr Victor Abimbola Olaiya, a native of Ekiti State was born on December 31, 1931 in Calabar, Cross River State, where his parents, Alfred Omolona Olaiya and Bathsheba Owolabi Motajo, had gone to settle. The 20th child of a family of 24, Olaiya speaks Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba fluently.
His father was a church organist while his mother was a folk singer. It was little wonder he took to music at a tender age, while equally pursuing his education. Young Olaiya had his first feel of playing music at the African School, Onitsha, where he was exposed to playing such instruments like the B- Flat Clarinet and the French Horn before eventually graduating to the trumpet
He moved to Las Gidi on completion of his secondary education and took to full time music. He played for bands of Bobby Benson & Sammy Akpabot. In 1954, a young Victor left the popular Bobby Benson Jam Session Orchestra, where he was leader and trumpeter of the second band, to start his own band, Cool Cats Orchestra with ABC Cole (Late); he made his debut that same year. He formed his own band Victor Olaiya & The All Stars Orchestra in 1956. After that there was no stopping Olaiya from blowing his trumpet to stardom.
Olaiya was tagged the “Evil Genius of Highlife” at the Havannah Musical Festival, University of Ibadan after holding the audience spellbound for hours with his magical performance. His band gained national recognition when it was selected to play at the state ball, which highlighted major activities of her Royal majesty – Queen Elizabeth of England visit to Nigeria in 1956. He got conferred with an honorary PhD in African Music in Czechoslovakia during the 1st International Jazz festival in Prague. His band was the sole band to play during the 1st ever Miss Nigeria competition and the October 1st 1960 independence ceremony as well as in 1963 when Nigerian became a republic.
Olaiya also served his country as he rose to the rank of a lieutenant colonel (honorary) in the Nigerian Army when his band was commissioned to play at the various war fronts, during the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-70. He was also drafted to perform for the troops on the United Nations mission to Congo (now Zaire) crisis.
He also released a collaboration album with Highlife King – E. T. Mensah of Ghana. Apart from hitting top music chat with series of his album releases, Olaiya was also engaged in the thriving business of importation and distribution of musical instruments and accessories, which spans the entire West African sub-region. He equally established the ultra-modern Stadium Hotel in Surulere, which today provides an outlet for a good number of Nigerian artistes to showcase their acts just as it has provided the popular acclaimed highlife evil genius a convenient venue to thrill his teaming fans with regular weekend gigs.
A talented sports man and lover of pets, Olaiya was in 1990 conferred with the fellowship of the Institute of Administrative Management of Nigeria and another PhD (honorary) by the City University of Los Angeles, California, USA. He was former president of the Nigerian Union of Musicians (NUM) and still played his highlife gigs to thrill at his Stadium Hotel complex.
His popular songs are “Omo Pupa”, “Iye Jemila”, “Ilu Le”, “Baby Juwo” and “Trumpet Highlife”. “Omo Pupa” was done in late 50s and be found on his “In the Sixties” LP release by Polydor in 1982.
Dr. Victor Olaiya is a legend thanks to his music career and is regarded as one of Nigeria’s greatest musicians. His music made massive waves in the past and is pretty much grooving the present, and promises to have an important role in the future.
Both the drummer Tony Allen and Legend Fela Kuti played with Olaiya and went on to achieve individual success. Kola Ogunkoya played in the All Stars Band from 1986 to 1987 and went on to have a highly successful career with his own Afrobeat band. At 78, the celebrated highlife maestro still pulls the crowd at his periodic live performances.
No 36: Evi Edna Ogholi – Happy Birthday
(1989, “Happy Birthday”, Polydor Nigeria)
Evi-Edna Ogholi, an indigene of Isoko Local Government, Delta State grew up and schooled in Port Harcourt where her father was an Anglican Church Reverend. She got a job as an actress with NTA Port-Harcourt after finishing her secondary school.
In 1985, she decided to pursue music professionally and got registered with PMAN (Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria). She also played her demo for Producer Emma Ogosi who was also the PMAN Secretary-General @ the time. He became her Manager and secured a deal for her with Polydor Nigeria where she dropped her 1989 debut album and hit song “Happy Birthday”. She was Emma Ogosi would later become her husband and then ex-husband.
The reggae infused “Happy Birthday” with its cheesy but very creative lines ‘Silver or gold have I not/So I give my token gifts/They call this one thing, call this cheap/But I know you will appreciate’ became the most popular birthday song in Nigeria. It pushed Stevie Wonder’s into retirement and a party wasn’t complete if the track didn’t get played repeatedly. Children & Adults alike rocked to the song.
She became widely celebrated in the male dominated Reggae genre and was dubbed the Queen of Nigerian Reggae with brilliant guitar play over her songs. Evi-Edna often sang softly and romantically in Isoko language and often Non-Nigerians dubbed her songs as the Lovers Rock genre. Even though her contract with Polydor didn’t get renewed due to claims that her album wasn’t successful enough, she would go on to drop 2 more albums “On The Move” and “Peace In the World” on Premier Nigeria in the early 90s and re-establish her prominence throughout West Africa.
A national tour of Nigeria followed, sponsored by the Pepsi soft drink company and she also headlined a lot of other shows by Benson & Hedges and Star. Her songs were always laced with positive messages and in some cases very educative like “Look Before You Cross”. Her other hits were “Jealousy”, “Ririovara (Dry Your Tears)”, “Ujiro” and “Oghene Me”
Her marriage with Emma hit the rocks and she was said to have travelled to Cote d’Ivore. She now lives in France and little is known about what she’s up to.
culled mostly from The Sun Newspaper
No 35: Oliver De Coque & His Expo 76′ – Identity
(1980, “Identity”, Olumo)
Born April 14, 1947, Nigerian Guitar King Chief Oliver Sunday Akanite aka Oliver de Coque was one of Africa’s most prolific recording artists.
He came from Ezinifite, Nnewi South LGA, Anambra State, Playing music since the age of 11, he got his musical break in 1965 at the age of 17 playing ekpili, a form of Igbo traditional music.
Taught to play the guitar by Piccolo, the great Zairean guitarist and much inspired by the Congolese soukous, he became a star by his late teens. He got a job playing with a Lagos group – Sunny Agaga & his Lucky Star Band in 1970 after the Biafran war. Shortly after he engaged with Jacob Oluwole & his Friendly Unity Band, and was featured on their hit “Agbasisi.” De Coque’s stint with this group was also short-lived, and in 1973 he joined Sule Agboola & his Moonlight Star Band.
Attracting international attention with a London performance in 1973, he played on Prince Nico Mbarga‘s album “Sweet Mother” four years later. Oliver De Coque emerged as a solo artist in 1976, when his LP “Messiah Messiah” was released. A series of classic recordings followed, most notably “Identity” in 1980, and a series of records in honor of the People’s Club of Nigeria.
His great inspiration was to combine highlife, Congolese-style guitar work and the propulsive energy of traditional Igbo music. His called his dance inspiring style – Ogene, after the Igbo double headed bell. Oliver De Coque has recorded no fewer than 73 albums in his homeland and had other hits as “Biri Ka Mbiri,” “Ana Enwe,” “Naukwa Mmwanwu”.
His guitar play on the massive hit “Identity” is pure magic. Oliver sings that he prays to God every morning and evening and he always does his best and trusts in God. His father told him to sing his music with honesty and his mother advised him to respect his elders, furthermore he says that he always “cuts his coat according to his size” (this West African expression means that he lives within his means). He sings that sometimes he wears a suit & tie like a “boyoyo” (a man about town), sometimes he wears traditional clothing like “Chief Obi” (a village elder). He sings that he has a beard, that’s his nature, and that music is his talent – that’s his identity.
De Coque passed away of a heart attack on June 20, 2008. Nigerian highlife music, on life support for the last twenty years, has sustained a mortal blow. It’s doubtful that anybody, or anything, can take his place. Coque who was often backed by his brother Eugene & His Igede International Band has ably carried on the “Ogene” tradition with his updated “Igede” sound
Two of De Coque’s sons have also recently entered the musical field. Oliver Sunday Akanite Jr. released his first album – “Onye Juru Ase” in early 2004, while Darlington Akanite hopes to make his mark in the burgeoning Nigerian hip-hop field. PS …I also think his album covers were awesome.
culled mostly from Likembe
No 34: Mike Okri – Time Na Money
(1988, “Concert Fever”, CBS Records (Nigeria))
Mike Okri is a renowned Nigerian Artist of international acclaim. When this versatile, no-fuss-no-fad crooner made his chart buster debut titled “Concert Fever” in 1988, it was a great phenomenon that ushered spice and change into the Nigerian Music Industry and was hailed as a new sound. With hit tracks like “Omoge” and “Time Na Money” he warmed his way into the hearts of millions of music lovers.
This Singer, Songwriter, Producer, Novelist, Humanitarian was first ever to be signed to CBS Records (Nigeria) (now Sony Music). Sony Music in collaboration with Benson & Hedges Music (now defunct) released his second award winning album “Rhumba Dance’’ in 1990. With a third mind-blowing album, “Cracks” two years later, this velvet voice crooner made his mark as one of Africa’s brightest Stars.
He’s won for himself over the years Awards in different categories and at different times in both the Nigerian Music Awards (NMA) and Fame Music Awards (FMA) respectively, including the Pan-African Music Awards in Ghana.
His music a profound beautiful piece of spiritual art on canvas. A unique Afro-western blend. Its strong poetry heals and uplifts the human spirit. His didactic spiritual lyrics richly backed by heavy percussive rhythm and soul – a style Mike Okri calls Afro-Mystic-Soul
Mike Okri is living presently in California, the United States of America, about to begin a new phase in his musical career. Although he’s recorded a self-titled album “Rhythmysticals” with Global Village Records, a Los Angeles based Independent Record Label, he’s now presently working on his new gospel album.
No 33: Funmi Adams – Nigeria My Beloved Country
(1989 (?), “All We Need Is Love”, Supra)
Not much information nor images could be found on her! Anyone who knows about her should please send the details to email@example.com. Shame cos, she rocked our world in the eighties holding her head high while singing the liberated songs of the New Woman- She was different and fresh. She even caused a massive sensation in uniquely adapting a Hausa folktale – Labarin Gizo da Koki (Story of the Gizo the Spider and his wife) – to modern music – “Ahayye Yaro”.
Her heart felt song “Nigeria My Beloved Country” still brings goose bumps. The video was shot with school children from different schools. Let’s enjoy it as we look towards the future of Nigeria.
Nigeria, my beloved country / Working together is the key / Nigeria, my beloved country / Her future is you and me
No 32: Oritz Wiliki – Heart Of Stone
(199?, “Heart Of Stone”, Premier Music)
Delta State-born music maestro Oritsebemigho Pupa Wiliki aka Oritz Wiliki worked with great artists like Majek Fashek, Ras Kimono, Mandators, Alex O, Black 7 before dazing Nigeria with his prophetic debut album “Tribulation” in 1989. Since then there hasn’t been a dull moment in his career, as he has not only released eight other successful albums, but has also worked his way into being one of Nigeria’s most visible reggae artistes. A genre he believes Hip-Hop & Dancehall are offshoots from.
Grand Pupa, the self -acclaimed Koleman revolutionaire who is a staunch member of the Baptist church, started singing in the church choir when he was only eight years old, “and from then I knew I was going to be a musician.” His dad Reverend J. I Wiliki who was a missionary and a very good instrumentalist – who thrived on the organ and accordion – encouraged him and his siblings until his death.
He was one of the few artistes that stayed back in Nigeria to face the challenges in the music industry, while his contemporaries scampered abroad for greener pastures.
In the mid nineties, he dropped one of the most creative Nigerian videos ever for “Heart of Stone” and People were mesmerized. This track stood out from his other songs and even other songs on the airwaves because it infused Rap with Reggae, the result a smash hit which still gets my head bopping till this day.
He went on self imposed sabbatical over fifteen years and dropped an album in 2008 called the “Double Shark Attack”
He is still very active in the music industry and I believe his music will be evergreen.
No 31: Harry Mosco – Sugar Cane Baby
(1982, “Sugar Cane Baby”, Samba)
Harry Mosco Agada was the leader of The Funkees, one of the foremost rock bands in post-civil war Nigeria. He and the band travelled to London in 1973, where they released two hit albums but broke up by 1977.
He released his debut LP Country Boy (Mr. Funkees) on Tabansi in 1978. Mosco spent the next 5 years in London producing and recording albums (“Peace & Harmony”, “Step On/Sexy Dancer”, “Sugar Cane Baby”) with variety of Nigerian and British musicians
He returned to Nigeria in 1983, and after releasing theHeartbreak LP, he pretty much hung up his guitar and dedicated himself to running a label and a still-popular recording studio, both bearing his name.
The calypso influenced smash hit “Sugar Cane Baby” is still a party favourite. His son Chike Nosa Agada aka Chykay is definitely following his dad’s footsteps as a talented R&B singer & a good songwriter.
culled mostly from With Comb & Razor
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