Monday, November 2, 2009

Gospel highlife is a music genre which has become very popular in Nigeria and some parts of West Africa. Gospel highlife is simply gospel lyrics backed by highlife rhythm. Since the early 1990s the popularity of highlife music has continued to dwindle. The taste of music lovers in Nigeria is shifting to gospel music. Some brilliant musicians have seen this gap and are currently filling it. Some recording artistes have recreated and transformed highlife music which hitherto carried a social message and most times praise singing of prominent and rich people in the society to gospel music.
Felix Ndukwe and Jude Ezeji brazed the trail and successfully replaced original highlife message with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ while still maintaining the highlife rhythm. Voice Of The Cross,a popular gospel duet in Nigeria in the early 1990s released an album which they recorded in the United States of America and specifically titled it ''Gospel Highlife-Voice Of The Cross In USA'' This album made waves in Nigeria and spread to some parts of West Africa like a wild fire.
Many other musicians switched over to gospel highlife,even Late Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe a highlife maestro in Nigeria did an exclusive gospel album titled 'Jesus Bu Onye Ndu' in 2001. Numerous other artistes are currently making contributions to the growing gospel highlife music.These include Gozie Okeke, Paul Nwokocha, Osita Muolokwu and Mach Philips.
Some artistes have gone the extra mile of remixing popular old school highlife songs and substituting the original lyrics with newly composed gospel lyrics.
Gospel highlife has come to stay in Nigeria and West Africa.

Emeka E.Okeke

Friday, September 4, 2009

MANU DIBANGO(Originator of Makossa Music)

Manu Dibango was born in Douala,Cameroun in 1934 to a devout chiristian parents who did not want him to be involved with music other than church music. At age 15 his parents sent him to study in France to become either a lawyer or a doctor,which were the most sought after professions as at then.
However,contrary to his parents expectations and wishes he did a four years classical piano course and also learned the saxophone for two years before he launched out to play music professionally. He started in Rennes,east of France,from where he went to Brussels in Belgium to play music at clubs.
At the dawn of the Zairean independence in 1961,Manu Dibango left Brussels for Zaire where he continued his music career and did some records with top musicians at that time,such as the group called African Jazz led by the late Kabasele.
It was Manu's two years sojourn in Zaire that really brought him to limelight in the whole of Africa and parts of Europe,especially France and Belgium. The numerous singles he recorded together with the African Jazz were released in Belgium through a record company called Decca,and that really gave him the opportunity of being heard all over Africa.
When Manu Dibango went back to Paris he continued to experiment with the Congo music and recorded some albums with some Congolese musicians with whom he played when he was in Zaire. These albums were very successful. Then came the biggest achievement of Manu in the music world,the development of the Makossa Music.
According to Manu Dibango as quoted by the African Music No. 20 March/April 1984 Edition "Makossa started in Cameroun little by little,with two or three influences with the Nigerian highlife,because we are very close,and also with Central African music,which you can call Congo music. So the melting,the melange,of that made makossa come and develop its own way.
Perhaps one of the most popular Manu Dibango's albums is the 'Soul Makossa' released in 1972,which according to him was the first international African hit which made him travel a lot. He spent two years in New York playing with good musicians he had always dreamed to meet,like Tony Williams,Buster Williams,Frank West,The Brecker Brothers(African Music No. 20, March/April 1984 Edition).
In 1983 Manu released another chart-buster album 'Waka Juju' which increased his popularity not only in Africa but in the major cities of America and Europe. There is no doubt that this highly energetic and skillful saxophonist and singer whose trade mark is clean shaved and shinning head has done Africa proud in the world of music as the originator of makossa music.

Emeka E. Okeke.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Michael Jackson, the world undisputed king of pop music was born to Joseph and Katherine Jackson on 29th August,1958 in Gary, Indiana,USA. He was a child prodigy who was recruited into the Jackson family band at the age of 5 by his father as a singer and a dancer. He became a millionaire at age 12 and at 17 he was a leader of the most popular black pop group in history, the Jackson 5,which was made up of himself and his four senior brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine and Marlon. The Jackson 5 as a professional musical group was nurtured and brought to limelight by Detroit based Motown Records led by Bery Gordy.

Michael Jackson endowed with a soprano voice started his solo career at the age of 13 with the release of his first solo album 'Got To Be There' by Motown Records in 1971. This solo effort won him a Grammy for the vocalist of the year. Five other solo albums (Ben; Music And Me; Forever; Michael; and The Best Of Michael Jackson) followed in quick succession until 1975, when he quit the Motown Records. By this time he had already reached his first peak in his music career, becoming a super star performer, but the world was yet to see his best.

Michael took a solo break for four years during which he continued to work and record with his brothers now called The Jacksons under a new label Epic, which was a division of CBS Records. The group got two hit albums 'The Jacksons' in 1976 and 'Destiny' in 1978, which sold more than 2 million copies in the United States.

Michael Jackson re-launched his solo career in 1979 with the release of his first solo album'Off The Wall' for Epic label. This album produced by Quincy Jones sold more than 8 million copies and set a new record in the music industry by yeilding Four Top 10 singles(Don't Stop'Til You Get Enough; Rock With You; Off The Wall; and She's Out Of My Life).

Michael again collaborated with his brothers and they released another group album 'Triumph' for Epic label in 1980, the first to be produced by the brothers themselves, and it sold more than 2 million copies. The hit singles in the album included 'Can You Feel It'; 'Lovely One'; and 'Heartbreak Hotel'.

Then came the monster hit album 'Thriller' which thrilled the world! This album released in 1982 was also produced by Quicy Jones, and virtually all the nine cuts of the album were hits that stood on their own(Wanna Be Startin' Something; Baby Be Mine; The Girl Is Mine; Thriller; Beat It; Billie Jean; Human Nature;Pretty Young Thing P.Y.T; and The Lady In My Life). Today 'Thriller' is still the best selling album in the world, having sold more than 50 million copies and is likely to remain the best for many decades to come since people now get their music from the internet!

The 'Thriller' album also yielded three highly successful and commercial videos, which set a new pace in the music industry. 'Beat It' and 'Billie Jean' both directed by Bob Giraldi, and 'Thriller' which was a 14-minute mini-movie was directed by Jon Landis and was choreographed by Broadway dance star Michael Peters. The 'Thriller' mini-movie had a budget of more than $1million. By this time Michael Jackson had reached his second and highest musical peak and had become the undisputable 'King of Pop' by all standards. He had become a superstar par excellence, beaten all known records in pop music history and set new ones.

To be continued!

Emeka E. Okeke

Monday, June 8, 2009


'He who sings well prays twice' said St. Augustine many centuries ago. Music ia a universal language which cut across age, sex, race and nationality. Sing a lullaby to a crying baby and watch how he would stop crying, then start smiling at you and soon falls asleep. Mothers can attest to this fact.

Good music played and sung from the heart moves God, the creator of the whole universe! Read 2 Chronicles, chapter 5 verses 12 to 14 of the holy bible and see the power of music. There lies the proof that good music offered in praise to God brings down God's glory.

If music moves God and man, it is then a very efficient way of communication between the two. Therefore the word of God set in musical form will go a long way in touching people's heart, even more than the verbal preaching. Preach the word of God to a downcast man, he may or may not be disposed to listen to you, but set the same message into beautiful music and play it to the hearing of the same man and you will be surprised to see him consciously or unconsciously savouring the tune by nodding or stamping of the feet or even by singing along! What a wonderful way of bringing a downcast soul to God.

A jailer was saved and converted with his household because his prisoners, Paul and Silas, prayed and sang praises to God whose glory came down and shook the foundations of the prison and liberated the prisoners(read Acts 15:25-34).

Perhaps you may have wondered why churches and crusade organizers spend so much money on musical groups such as choirs,bands and orchestra. It is because they understand that the best way to reach human soul is through music. Incidentally, that is also the best way to reach God. If this is so, then Gospel music is an inevitable medium to spread the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ as he has commanded us to do in the bible(Matthew 28:19-20).

Are you a gospel musician, singer or gospel artist? Be encouraged because you are doing a wonderful work of an evangelist. Are you in any way involved in the promotion of gospel music? Do not despair because you are already a part of that Great Commission or rather the Supreme Commission as Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke of Christ For All Nations use to call it.

Remain blessed in Christ Jesus!

Friday, June 5, 2009


There was an influx of western popular music genres such as rock, rhthym and blues, funk, soul, country and disco into Nigeria in the 1960s. These musical styles appealed to the youth and the young musicians started to create their own music along these European and American pop styles. The result of this musical adventure was the development of a fusion called Afro Pop, which became a commercial success because of the variety of sound and dancable tunes it offered the Nigerian music lovers.
Bongos Ikwue brazed the trail with his band 'The Groovies' and churned out some hits in the early 1970s such as 'I'm Still Searching' 'What's Gonna Be Is Gonna Be', 'Amen' and 'Cock Crow At Dawn' which was originally a sound track for Nigerian Television Authority's popular soap 'Cock Crow At Dawn'.
Bunny Mark, a bubbling young artiste stormed the Nigerian music scene with his hit track 'My Sweetie' in an album released on Tabansi Record label, which sold platinum in the mid 1970s. Other artistes such as Tony Gray and William Onyeabor also made great impact in the pop scene about this time. Some groups such as 'The Funkies', 'The Doves', 'Blo', and 'Cloud 7' all recorded hit afro pop albums in the 1970s.
In 1978 Chris Okotie, a university undergraduate took the Nigerian pop scene by a storm with his chart buster 'I Need Someone'. This album with its up-tempo beats was produced by Odion Iruoje and released on Phonodisc Record label, it was very successful in the market. Some other young artistes followed suit with this up-tempo style of afro pop and also made some hits, notable amongs them was Jide Obi who was Chris' roomate at the university. Jide Obi's two albums 'Kill Me With Love' and 'Front Page News' which were released on Tabansi Record label were national hits.
Other young artistes continued to experiment on afro pop and in 1981 Felix Liberty came up with a super hit album titled 'Lover Boy' which was produced by the late ace producer Jake Solo and released on Tabansi Record label. Chris Mba another afro pop star released his hit album 'Baby Don't Cry' on Rogers All Stars Record. Dizzy k. Falola,was another afro pop star who set the Nigerian dance halls aglow with his super hit 'Baby Kilode' released on EMI Record label in early 1980s.
There were also some female afro pop stars whose hit songs made great impact in the 1970s and 1980s pop scene in Nigeria.These include Christie Essien Igbokwe with a many hit songs including'Seun Rere', Oby Ifordu, Onyeka Onwenu with a super hit 'One Love', Oby Onyioha with a hit song 'Break It'. Stella Monye and Laurine Okotie also did some hit albums. Charlie Boy, Mike Okri, Alex O and the late Tina Onwudiwe also made some impacts in the Nigerian pop scene especially in the late 1980s.
To be continued.

Emeka E. Okeke

Monday, May 25, 2009

Gospel Music In Nigeria.

Gospel music as it is played and recorded today in Nigeria cannot be called a particular music genre because it cut across different musical styles. The only unifying thing is the lyrics,which is based on the bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ. In other words,we have highlife gospel,Afro gospel,Juju gospel,Reggae gospel,Jazz gospel etc.
The origin of commercial gospel music recording in Nigeria could be traced to the city of Aba in the south eastern Nigeria,where numerous gospel artistes and bands were recording and selling their records by themselves. Some of these records were hits, but because of the unprofessional way they were packaged the artistes were not popular but their songs were known and sung in the churches. This problem of poor identification of the gospel artistes still persists today, especially in Aba/Onitsha axis of the country.
By the mid 1970s some singing groups such as the Agape Band and the Voice Of The Cross became very popular at the national level. The Voice Of The Cross album 'Satan Is In Trouble' released on Polygram Records label was a commercial success. In the mid 1980s there were some gospel artistes that recorded hit albums,these included Patty Obasi and Laurine Okotie.
In 1992, a former liberation singer Sonny Okosun stormed the Nigerian music scene with a gospel album titled 'Songs Of Praise' and followed up with another one titled 'Songs Of Praise II'. These albums relased on Ivory Music label were commercial successes and their highly dancable tunes and catchy choruses appealed to the Nigerian music lovers irrespective of their religious inclinations and affliations. This style of gospel music became so popular that countless number of artistes jumped into gospel music and with the proliferation of churches in the country there is currently a boom in the gospel music industry in Nigeria.

Emeka E. Okeke

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Reggae music was imported to Nigeria from Jamica. It has its roots in the ska music genre of the Caribbean Islands. By early 1970s Jamican reggae music and its associated rastafari ideology started to flood the Nigerian shores via the recordings of Bob Marley and the Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh, Max Romeo, U-Roy, Black Uhuru, Eric Donalson, Soya Spence and others.
These Jamican artistes were philosophical in their lyrics and their messages range from the emancipation of the black race, love, to man inhumanity to man,especially the apartheid system then practised in South Africa. This endeared them to the hearts of Nigerian music lovers.
The influence of reggae music became so enormous that some Nigerian artistes started to record reggae albums. Sonny Okosun's hit album 'Fire In Soweto' which was a collaboration with a Jamican musician Eddy Grant was released by EMI Records in the mid 1970s. This album was so successful that it opened the gate for Nigerian artistes to rush into reggae music.
By the early 1980s, Tera Kota's album 'Lamentation For Sodom' released on Twilight Records label became a big hit and won him an award in far away United States Of America. A reggae group called 'SWEAT' came up with a hit album 'Taxi Driver' which was actually a reggae version of Bobby Benson's highlife hit song.
Evi Edna Ogholi then came up with a debut titled 'My Kind O f Music' and it was a smash hit. Orits Wilikki's albums 'Coleman Revolutionaire' and 'Conqueror' were all hits. Another group called 'MANDATORS' also recorded two hit albums 'Crisis' and 'Rat Race' all released on Polygram Records. Ras Kimono's two albums released on Polygram Records were big hits.
However, the biggest Nigerian reggae hit came in 1987 when Tabansi Records released Majek Fashek's album 'Prisoner Of Conscience' which included a smash hit track 'Send Down The Rain'. This song became a sort of national anthem in Nigeria then and brought great fame and fortune to this ex-Jastix Band guitarist.
There were other reggae artistes who made some impact in the 1980s though they had only few recordings to thier credits, these include Andy Shoreman, Isaac Black, Oby Nwankwo and Alex Zito.
By early 1990s, root reggae started to give way for a new reggae style called ragga. Daniel Wilson brazed the trail with his hit album 'Mr. Raggamuffin' released on Ivory Music label. Bkacky followed suit with his debut album 'About Time' released on Premier Music label and it was a hit. A score of other artistes followed suit and by mid 1990s Daddy Showkey and Baba Frayo both of who grew up in a Lagos slum called Ajegunle brought new innovations into the Nigerian reggae music by adding some Nigerian cultural rhthym to it.
The efforts of Baba Frayo and Daddy Showkey yielded good fruit as 'Denge Pose' an album by Baba Frayo released on Ifinity Merchant label became a super hit and a slang used in most cities of Nigeria. On the other hand, Daddy Showkey's second album 'My Name' released on Felin Records label was very successful and the hit track 'Diana' became a household song in both urban and rural areas of Nigeria.
To be continued later.

Emeka E. Okeke

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Monday, April 6, 2009

10 Secrets To Good Song Writing.

1. Decide what purpose you want to fulfil by the songs you intend to write. e.g. Is it for commercial purposes via professional recording? Or is it for religious and cultural purposes?

2. Seek for inspirations from other people's works. e.g. from song books and recorded music.

3. Learn the rules of song writing: Different types of music have different styles e.g. gospel songs are based on the teachings of the holy bible.

4. Be sure you know the difference between a verse and a chorus. e.g. a chorus should be memorable to catch the fancy your listeners.

5. Arrange your songs properly so that everything when heard once will show a clear sequence.

6. Be original and avoid copying other people's songs. Once you copy from others your listeners would know.

7. Listen regularly to the FM radio stations in your locality to hear the current styles of music.

8. Seek for advice from the professionals such as music producers,choirmasters,sound engineers and professional song writers.

9. Don't just be satisfied with your first or second drafts but cancel and rewrite many times to get a good result. The hit songs you hear on radio took the song writers several weeks to get the final drafts.

10.Collaborate with other song writers, that is, find a partner who has skills in the areas you don't have and join with him/her to write some songs.

Good Luck.

Emeka E. Okeke