Trumpeter, bandleader, E.C. Arinze was one of Nigeria's leading Highlife music pioneers whose early efforts inspired and paved the way for countless others. His professionalism and versatility as a musician ensured he was the national bandleader of choice called upon to entertain visiting foreign dignitaries. Equally adept at playing a Waltz, Native Blues or Highlife, his swan song “Nike Nike” has since become a classic among the nations marching bands till this day. His career as well as Highlife music's popularity waned following the bloody Biafra civil war (1967- 1970) which claimed over a million lives and which sent all the nations Igbo's back to their homelands in the eastern part of Nigeria.
MARY AFI USUAH
Name checked by Ellington, toured with the likes of legendary rock group, Led Zeppelin and Aretha Franklin as well as a graduate of one of the most prestigious Italian music conservatory’s in Rome. Opera trained, Mary Afi Usuah was on the cusp of superstardom in Europe when she forsook all to serve country and flag in Nigeria during the early 1970′s. Super versatile and chic, she effortlessly blended indigenous efik folk melodies with jazz and pop music and was a source of pride and inspiration to countless other singers who came in her wake.
Enthralling, regal and surreal are a few words that come to mind in the presence of the dynamic singing duo, The Lijadu Sisters. Taiwo and Kehinde Lijadu were among the very first female entertainers one saw on Nigerian television in the early 1970’s. Their infectious brand of Afro pop blended traditional folk songs with Jazz, pop and reggae music and can be heard on cuntless classics such as "Orere Elejigbo" and "Danger". Touring all over Europe with Ginger Baker as part of his super group, SALT, brought them worldwide attention in the early 1970’s.
THE EVIL GENIUS
As one of Highlife music's brightest stars, Victor Olaiya's influence was wide and far flung. His biggest break came when he was selected to headline the inaugural ball celebrating Nigeria's independence from the British in October 1960. The ball which was attended by a plethora of world leaders and foreign dignitaries was memorable for a number of reasons chief among them being the chorus of dissent that rang out loud and clear from his musical peers who didn't think him worthy of such an honor and not to mention his family's outrage at being kept completely in the dark about his burgeoning musical career in the first place.
Paulson Kalu’s golden pipes sure demand rapt attention. A soulful troubadour and witty philosopher, Kalu got his start backing Osita Osadebe who was quick to spot his burgeoning talents and encouraged a solo career. His candid take on the take on the poor man’s demise in the face of the rich man’s excess on his debut classic, "Okwudili", rings ever so true in the world we live in today.
SIR VICTOR UWAIFO
Singer, songwriter, multi instrumentalist, sculpturer, painter, inventor, athlete, self proclaimed genius, Victor Uwaifo, was the first African musicians to be awarded a gold disc for his 1965 hit ‘Joromi’. According to him, a childhood, seaside encounter with a mermaid spurned his followup hit, ‘Guitar Boy’. A restless musical Enigma whose sound drew heavily upon the folky rhythms and melodies of his Edo roots, Uwaifo’s music ruled Nigeria’s airwaves throughout the late 1960′s and well into the 1970′s. His dazzling showmanship and stage performances continue to win him fans and accolades globally.
Multi instrumentalist Joni Haastrup formed Mononono in 1971 with his friend and bassist Baba Ken Okulolo, guitarist Jimmy Adams and percussionists Candido Obajimi and Friday Jumbo. Growing up in a royal household in Nigeria, Haastrup began his musical journey performing in his brother's band Sneakers and cut his teeth covering soul music covers in Victor Olaiya's All Stars band. Joni Haastrop also replaced keyboardist Steve Winwood as part of the seminal jazz-rock fusion supergroup, Airforce then led by legendary drummer, Ginger Baker. The success of the collaboration led to further shows with Baker as part of the SALT project before he returned to Nigeria to set up Monomono. Their stone cold classic debut, "Give The Beggar A Chance", fused psychedelic rock and funk music with traditional Yoruba rhythms and percussions.
THE CHIEF COMMANDER
Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey began his early musical career singing in Adeolu Akinsanya’s Rio Lindo Orchestra as well as a memorable stint with Agidigbo maestro, Fatai “Rolling Dollar”, to eventual superstardom in the 70′s.
His reign as Juju music superstar coincided with Nigeria’s period of flush decadence during the oil boom years and no high brow party in the nation was complete without a performance by either of the then leading Juju music superstars, the chief commander himself or his contemporary, King Sunny Ade.