10 November 2012

Nigeria: Iconic Osadebe Dead, but Songs Live On

Nigeria"s iconic musician and guitarist whose lovable songs are ever green with his hand on the strings that makes a special sound making you shiver with enthusiasm and wanting to listen more to the song, late Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe born March, 1936 but frequently referred to as just Osadebe, was an Igbo Nigerian Highlife musician from Atani.

His career spanned over 40 years, and he is one of the best known Igbo highlife musicians.

His most popular hit was the 1984 "Osondi Owendi" (Igbo: One man's meat is another man's poison.), establishing him as a leader in the highlife genre being the most popular record ever in Nigeria. That same song is what made the late MC Loph as he remixed it even going home with an award.

He came from a line of singers and dancers in Igboland. His genre, Highlife encompassed Igbo musical elements. Along with this, calypso, samba, bolero, rumba, jazz and waltz were also present in Osadebe's musical style. It was in his high school years in Onitsha, a major commercial city near Atani, that Osadebe grew interested in music.

Osadebe started his career performing at nightclubs in Lagos in the southwestern region of Nigeria. He gradually worked his way up to releasing his first album in 1958. In his career Osadebe went on to write over 500 songs; half of these songs were released commercially. He had been a part of The Empire Rhythm Orchestra, led by E. C. Arinze in which he had learned much of his music skills.

As he became better established, Osadebe's style matured to include social commentary, similar to, but not as confrontational as Fela Kuti. Personal trials and tribulations was usually the main topic of his commentaries. Osadebe often extended his tracks for his audiences enjoyment, allowing room for 'people on the dance floor' to indulge in the songs.

Following the Nigerian Civil War in the late 60's, the massive exodus of the eastern peoples of Nigeria (especially the Igbo) out of western Nigeria had caused the death of the Highlife's prominence in the then capital, Lagos. During the war and after the war Osadebe maintained his scheduled live performances.

Jùjú music and later Afrobeat took precedence in Lagos, and in the 70's James Brown and various other music forms became popular in the city. In this same decade Osadebe's career had reached its zenith. After turning 50 in 1986 Osadebe started to give priority to fatherhood and gave more of his time to his son Obiora and his other children from his wives. One of Osita Osadebe's last revered albums is "Kedu America".

Osita Osadebe died in St. Mary's Hospital Waterbury, Connecticut on 11 May 2007 after suffering from severe respiratory difficulties.

The foundation laid by this great icon ushered people like Sunny Naji, Flavour, J Martins and others.

Though dead, but his songs will continue to live and speak for him. That is why late Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe is our icon of the week.

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