Highlife music is a genre of the West African popular music and dance which originated from Ghana in the late 19th century, this genre of music later spread to the Western Nigeria and flourished in both countries in the 1950s and 60s. The term “Highlife” is coined from the social class (Elites) listening to the music at that period.
The Igbo Highlife music was born out from the main Highlife music just there was a creative twist to the blend of music. The genre is basically guitar based music with characteristic blend of horns and vocal rhythms. Igbo highlife are mostly sung in Igbo with the infusion of Pidgin English. Many greats have emerged from this genre of music.
One of the most influential composers and performers of the music is Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe whose career spanned over 40 years. Osadebes discography comprises numerous popular songs including the 1984 hit titled “Osondi Owendi” meaning “one man’s meat is another s poison”. This song launched hi
m at the world stage as the pioneer of the Igbo highlife genre.
Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe
Another wildly successful musician of this genre is Chief Dr Sunday Akanite popularly known as Oliver De Coque who still stands as a prolific innovator as far as contemporary Igbo popular music is concerned blending traditional igbo sounds with others across Africa and notably the Congolese guitar style, among his best hits is “Mbiri ka mbiri” which was an instant success. He recorded more than 73 albums to his credit making him the most popular King of Highlife in Africa, meanwhile, his music band, “The Ogene Sound Super of Africa” dominated the airwaves in the early 80s. Chief DR. Oliver s music paints the picture of affluence enjoyed by the igbos of Nigeria where he calls out different names of wealthy Igbo men and their native titles acknowledging their accomplishments.
Chief Oliver De Coque
Another band that explored the Congolese guitar style and traditional igbo music are THE ORIENTAL BROTHERS. The Oriental Brothers was one of the most successful bands in Nigeria during the 1970s. The original “Oriental Brothers” band was formed by Godwin Kabaka Opara with his brothers Ferdinand Dan Satch Emeka Opara, Christogonous Ezebuiro “Warrior” Obinna along with Nathaniel “Mangala” Ejiogu, Hybrilious Dkwila Alaraibe and Prince Ichita. This group later formed three different bands, while each group has its distinct sound they blended all to suit the original bands passion of infusing the Congolese guitar picking and traditional Igbo Rhythm. The Oriental Brothers played a vital spiritual role of keeping many Igbos sane, they were the pride of the people traumatized by the vicious Biafran war as most of their songs were drawn from war experiences diluted with rich Igbo proverbs.
Dan Satch of the Oriental Brothers. Photo credit:TheNiche
Other early performers in the genre who have made significant contribution to its development includes Bright Chimezie, Celestine Ukwu, Prince Nicole Barga, and Dike Mazili.
Igbo Highlife has experienced some sort of re-emergence with singers like Flavour Nabania, J Martins, Bracket and Wizboyy to mention a few. These generation of singers have seen even more success and their calling for their diverse styles which incorporates a wide range of influences outside the West African music scene.
It is worthy of note that a few rappers and MCs have also used songs of Igbo Highlife to create hip-hop music, muscians like MI Abaga created African Rapper in collaboration with Flavor, also Phyno introductory album “No guts no glory” is also a testament to the fact that the dearth of Igbo Highlife is far from over. Performers like the young and vibrant Umu Obiligbo also shows that Igbo Highlife still exists in the original form.
Source: Wikipedia, Allmusic, Instagram.