This Day (Lagos)

18 February 2013

Nigeria: Celebrating a Highlife Icon...

Chris Ajilo, a giant among the dwindling number of Nigerian highlife musicians, was honoured in a rare show that attracted his kindred souls. Vanessa Obioha was there.

Not so many are privileged to age gracefully, Pa Chris Ajilo seems to be one of those lucky ones as he dazzled in style in his 56th anniversary in music and launching of his autobiography book and special edition album ,which took place at Airport Hotel, Lagos recently.

The 83-year-old musician is one of the renowned musicians in the history of highlife music in Nigeria. He was also a protégé of the prominent Bobby Benson.

The event was well attended by vintage artistes as well as distinguished personalities such as Dele Ojo, King Sunny Ade, Orlando Julius, Beautiful Nubia, former governor of Ogun State, Aremo Segun Osoba, Yinka Davies among others who came out to celebrate with the highlife icon in glamour and style. Even the clouds joined in the celebration as it showered its blessings on this fateful day.

Pa Ajilo is known for his undying devotion to Lagos State, which had won him awards of excellence in the state. This is evident in his popular song "Eko O Gba Gbere" which was a national anthem for most Nigerians back in the days and was not influenced by the Ghanaian approach of highlife music. He performed the single to the delight of his guests who rocked to the evergreen tunes. Other performances at the event were Beautiful Nubia and the Root Renaissance Band, Dele Ojo, King Sunny Ade and Lady Julie.

The Ijebu-Ijesa indigene is known for his laudable role during the demise of Philips records which almost led to the destruction of the works of many artistes. Through his help, that pitfall was salvaged and led to the emergence of Premier Music.

Still looking hale and hearty, Christopher Isola Ajilo received great accolades from Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi, Aremo Segun Osoba among others for his notable roles and impact in the music industry.

His autobiography book titled Reminiscences of a Pioneer Musicologist, which was published by Dele Ogunyemi details the life of the highlife icon who studied music in London before returning to Nigeria.

No doubt, his joy knew no bounds as he played his same old saxophone at the event, thrilling his audience with some of his evergreen tunes.

"I feel great," he said in a brief interview. Well, he also looked great. He is indeed blessed by God to have aged so gracefully. With a friendly and compassionate disposition, Pa Ajilo stated that his passion for music would never die. However, he opined that the music industry needs development. "We need development in music. As a musician, you have to inculcate the habit of discipline. That's what music teaches you to do. You have to know the theory, practical and functional part of music. You have to know the rules of music. Nowadays, people break these rules and get away with it. This ought not to be so."

Femi Esho, CEO, Evergreen Music Industry and host of the event commended the distinguished guests for honouring the invitation as well as celebrating one of Nigeria's best musician. He however urged the government to play a role in reviving the heritage sector of the music industry. He emphasised that it was important these artistes are celebrated while alive and not in their afterlife. He made a clarion call to federal parastatals and agencies to give the industry its full support in carrying out this mission.

The guests were treated to a night of entertainment and refreshment to mark the legacy of one of the best things that has happened in the Nigeria music industry.

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