The Igbo Network
Easterners refused to wallow in self-pity after the war; they got back on the horse and rode on. One of the major areas of post-war survival was music. Yes, MUSIC! While Easterners were busy fending off the vandals’ indiscriminate air strikes during the war, social life in those three years was non-existent. Prior to the war, the East had been the lifeline of the Nigerian music industry. Most musicians of note prior to the civil war were from the Eastern Region.
Pre War Musicians: An Inexhasutive List
1) Late Famous Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson, the Kalabari-born highlife King, whose hit included such songs as Hail Biafra, as well as a 1965 song often cited by revisionist historians as evidence that Igbos were ‘gloating’ over the outcome of the Kaduna Nzeogwu led coup. That song was used as an excuse to justify the pogrom that ensued after the murder of Gen Ironsi.
2) Late Israel Nwaoba (alias Njemanze) of the Three Night Wizards fame. It should be pointed out that this pioneer musician died unceremoniously at the hands of Nigerian security agents..
3) Stephen Osita Osadebe who is still going strong today. Osadebe has hits Ọsọndi Owendi, etc.
5) The Asaba-born Eddy Okonta.
6) Late Celestine Ukwu with hits such as Ọnwụwa Bịa Ọdika Ụwa Ejesigo, and Ọnụ na Ekwu na Madu Abụrọ Chukwu and his almost prophetic last release “Ọnwụ ama Eze,” just to mention a few.
There were other
non-Eastern musicians who were heavily influenced by Eastern musical
phenomenon. The likes of the
Victor Uwaifo to some extent with his
9) Tony Gray with hits like my girl
10) Aigbe Liberty (Senior Brother of Felix Liberty of the Sex Bombers fame).
11) Sunny Okosun, though Sunny’s career exploded after the War and after marrying Mbaise’s own daughter Nkechi, which gave rise to Sunny’s hit Chinelo.
There were so many other musicians from the pre-war era whose names have not been mentioned here, as we move on to the subject of this piece –the Music of the East in the post-war era.
With the end of the War, there was what could be describe as an explosion in the music industry in the East. This could be explained as an interplay of the culture of the people, the political, social, and financial environment people found themselves in, as well as the trait of innovation which is strong amonst the people of the region. Easterners had been left destitute by both the war and the punitive Federal government policies that followed the war. So, it could be said that taking to music was only natural in people of whose culture music formed an integral part. Some of the groups started off by entertaining the Federal soldiers and other carpetbaggers who then were the only ones that had money to spend for recreational activities.
Factors that Influenced post-War Music of the East:
1) As people coming out from war, Easterners had to be resourceful in order to survive
The Nigerian soldiers occupying our homeland were the source of
3) The Beatles influence in popular Music
Now let’s look at the groups and the impact of those three factors upon the groups. Note that entertaining Nigerian soldiers after the war gave rise to so many music groups, which later became independent groups.
Chief Among the Groups Were:
1) The Funkees (with now deceased Jake Solo, Harry Mosco Agada, and Sunny Akpan the best Congarist of all time)
2) Actions of Warri: though this group was based in Warri, all their members were Igbo boys, who went searching for livelihood after the war.
3) Spud Nathan and the Wings: The Wings weren’t an army entertaining band per se
With Iyke Peters, and Marshall Udeoru of
5) The Strangers With Bob Miga: Though not an army entertaining band, (Bob Miga’s boys later became One World and Black Children)
6) Lasbry Colon Ojukwu and the Semi Colon of Umuahia: With the hits Slim Fit Maggie and Chi Chi Lovin)
7) Herald 7: ( where Jerry Boyfriend, the Ehime Mbano-born vocalist made his debut with the hit Shooting Star)
Calaber: (With the
Blo Phase 4:
11) The Offege: Made up of Igbo Boys from St. Gregory College Obalande Lagos, With Marvin Ukachi on lead vocal with Hit Wizzie Labo).
Those were the early 1970s groups, many members of these early groups splintered into mid 1970s and late 1970 groups. Then Came the mid to Later 1970 groups, among these later groups were:
1) One World: (With Ani) One world broke away from Strangers
2) Black Children: (who also broke away from Strangers and One World)
3) Genesis: (made up of guys who broke away from Semi Colon)
Heads Funk: of
5) Original Wings: (with Arinze Okpalla, Charlie Duke, Charlie Fleming, Emma Chinaka a.k.a Emma China, Jerry Demua, on Vocals) with hits like Tribute to Spud Nathan, Love was Meant for Two, True Love Counts no Error and many more hits, which would have also made them rich in any other country.
6) Super Wings: (With Mannford Best & Jerry Boyfriend on vocals) with hit again Jonathan Udensi tribute to Spud Nathan.
(Later Esbee Family, With Daniel Anyanwu, Jackie More Anyaora, Bazy Akalonu,
Vin Ikeotuonye, and Nestor Phillip, later
Sweet Unit (later
Rock of Ages): With Wahehe Njoku
9) Friimen of Aba, (with Gbemi Saka on Lead Vocal) with their only Hit freemen.
11) Jerry Boyfriend and the NATO Band: (With his Solo Hit Leave that School Girl and Mommy Owe me Childhood Freedom and Better Make your Peace with God. Though after his band was formed, he could not duplicate that Hit, His Ehime Bus Stop was never a market success. It is also worthy to note that Rock of Ages backed him on his only hits during his solo career.
13) Chris Okotie (Before he went to Church)
14) Jide Obi (Another UNN phenom with his Hit Everybody Talking, Front Page News)
Cloud 7 and
16) Tony Okoroji: (with the Hit Mrs. m na Ori Aku m)
On the High life scene we had many notable names. Highlife after all was said to have originated in the ‘60’s from ‘Igbo blues ‘, and the so called palm wine music. (www.afropop.org/explore/style_info/ID/17/highlife)
Highlife exponents included
1) Late Ikediala of Owerri: (though he was more remembered for the way he died than the hits he made. With hit Nne ji Akịrị na Awọlị. It should be noted that Oriental brothers were Ikediala’s boys.
with Ralph Amarabem, (With The Hit
4) Skylarks: (who broke away from the Peacocks
5) Gentleman Mike Ejiaha
6) God father of Highlife himself, Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe
Ikenga Super Stars
Prince Nico Mbarga: part Igbo part Camerounian who in 1976 recorded such megahits as Sweet Mother which reportedly sold over 13 million copies and Christiana..
BROTHERS INTERNATIONAL BAND
In 1977 after the release of the Murtala Mohammed hit, guitarist Godwin Kabaka Opara left and formed the Kabaka International Guitar Band . He was later to have such hits as Onye Ike kwere Mere Nkeya, Egbula Nwa Onya. and Nwanne Di Namba.
In the early ’80, Warrior and Dan Satch led two factions of Oriental brothers with Sir Warrior forming the (Original) Oriental Brothers, and Dan Satch forming another faction. This was after Decca West Africa sent Ebenezer Obey another Decca star to mediate between warrior and Dan Satch. Like Kabaka before him, Warrior was to have several hits such as. Onye Oma Nmanu, Onye Obula, Ugo Chinyere Akara Aka, Ofe Owerri, Ikemba, ( to Welcome Ojukwu from exile), Agwu Loro Ibeya, and many other hits.
My man Paulson Kalu, the Ohafia-born singer (with His Hit Onye Di Nma na Azu)
8) Abraka (with Azuanuka)
9) Aloy Anyanwu With the State Brothers
10) Ediri Chukwueke and the Olariche of Owerri
We cannot conclude any write up without mention Gospel music, although today in the East, Gospel music has been bastardized, and any fool can now throw up or shout into microphone and call it Gospel music. Before Gospel music was taken over by false preachers. Three people popularized Gospel Music. The three people are Brother Lazarus and brother Emmanuel of Voice of the Cross, and Harcourt White the leprosy patient. Brother Lazarus and brother Emmanuel of Voice of the Cross put Gospel into music and are still going strong today, separating themselves from the pretenders of today. Their most recent release On the Mountain Down the Valley has become a main stay with any Igbo gathering here in US. Harcourt White, the Lepper patient turned singer dished out so many hits before his death? This man took the story of his life struggle and Biafra war experience and turned it into mega hits. My favorite is that one about Biafra war. Where he sang, Akpọi m ndi m na Alụsi ọgụ asị ka ma ọbụ Omume ha ka m kpọrọ Asị. Meaning I don’t hate those we are fighting, rather is their behavior that I hate. Those three people played the real Gospel music different from what is obtainable today.
In any other country all those groups and musicians will be multi millionaires. However in dysfunctional country like Nigeria, many of these guys are today almost destitute living in absolute poverty.
In coming series I am going to write and profile some of these groups in details. There will be a detailed look at the Wings before and after Spud’s death. I will delve into the feud that broke out after Spud’s death between Arinze and Mannford Best. What led to the emergence two factions of wings, the original wings led By Arinze Okpalla and Super Wings led by Mannford Best? I will also look at, fair or not, the insinuation that Mannford may have contributed to Spud’s death that fateful night after that show at UNN.
For some of you who went to high school in the 1970s, stay tuned to read about your favorites groups of that era and relive your carefree days.