Archive for May, 2008

WHAT DID SONNY OKOSUNS, SAMMY NEEDLE AND STEVE RHODES MEAN TO YOU?

Posted in MUSIC NEWS FROM AFRICA on May 30, 2008 by ayenithegreat

 

 

 

 

Did you know any of these great musicians? what did they mean to you? what will you miss most about them?

Please feel free to leave your comments…

 

 

YET ANOTHER DEATH…

Posted in MUSIC NEWS FROM AFRICA on May 30, 2008 by ayenithegreat

Pa Steve Rhodes at Hip Hop World awards 2008.... one of the last events he attended before he passed on...

 

I Have just confirmed again, that another cherished musician has passed on.

 

Elder Steve Rhodes, a first-class musicologist, jazz musician, broadcaster and performer died yesterday in a London hospital after a surgery. The late musician was reportedly with his daughters when he breathed  his last.

His death brings to four, the number of great talents the industry has lost in the past week.

A father-figure to many if today’s musicians, Rhodes was a thorough gentleman and slefless being who put others first before him and displayed an unrivalled passion for the development of the arts in Nigeria.

 

He was 82.

 

 

 

Plenty reactions have trailed news of his death, and here i serve you the first part of my COMMENTS FROM those who knew him and will sorely miss him

 

WHAT STEVE RHODES MEANT TO US

 phote courtesy The Sun

 

Ali Baba: Pa Steve Rhodes, very thorough, very professional, wise, humble… National icon, music fountain, father, mentor, elder statesman

 

Tosyn Bucknor (daughter of Segun Bucknor): I’m still mourning elder Steve Rhodes. I am so unbelievably sad…

 

Audu Maikori: Man, what’s happening to the industry? I never met him personally, but I saw his performances. I thought he was a gentleman, one of the last of a generation of musicians who did music for the love, for the passion. I think that’s a quality that’s missing in the industry right now. He was very well respected, I think it’s a major loss for the music industry…

 

 

WUNMI OBE:  I’ve been priviledged to know Uncle Steve Rhodes right from the age of 7. it was my sister and I who welcomed he and his family back to Nigeria finally with a bouquet of flowers each on the tarmac as they alighted from the aircraft. Tunde (my husband) and i worked with him for the first time in 1994 wen he coordinated and directed a 10th year memorial concert for my late dad. he had always been a highly principled , efficient, disciplined, no-nonsense professional. He was a strong, uncompromising individual who stayed true to his calling till the very end. These are the very qualities we shall all miss in him….

 

 

 

Tunde Obe; Wunmi and I have known the legendary Steve Rhodes long before we finally met him. The Steve Rhodes voices was one of the most popular groups of the late 70s, 80s through to the 90s. We got to meet and work with the great man in 1994. A concert was being put together to mark the 10th year anniversary of chief Olu Aboderin and Wunmi and I were on the bill to perform. Elder steve Rhodes was the director. Not only did he come to watch our rehearsals (then at jazz ville), he also insisted on perfection, which is almost non existent today. How many of today’s stage directors would go and watch each and every act billed to perform at an event so as to be able to draw up a proper programme of events?  He took things very seriously and could sometimes come across as stern. But just when you start getting uncomfortable around him, he lets you into his softer side. He had a brilliant sense of humour. The industry has indeed lost a consummate professional

 

 

 

 

 

Dare Art Alade: He was like a father to many of us…. He was a strict disciplinarian… he doesn’t take nonsense. He was also close to my father…his death is a rude shock to me. Uncle Rhodes was a man of his and our generation. Upright, overtly talented musically and a pioneer. Nigerians never celebrated him just like many others before him.

 

 

Edi Lawani: I called him Uncle Steve. He was a teacher to a lot of us. I got close to him in the last 10 years, when I worked on projects he was involved in. He was an unrepentant perfectionist. He was incurably positive about the prospects and potentials of arts in Nigeria. A self-effacing team player, he was impatient with incompetence and mediocrity. He had huge dreams which fate has denied fruition. When I approached him with the idea of doing a bio-documentary on him, he suggested endeavours that were to benefit the media industry instead of his ‘ego’. Severally disappointed and Let down, he always kept his focus on the big picture.

 

 

Gbenga Adeyinka: He was a fantastic man. I interviewed Opa Williams last year. He said there were only 18 people in the hall, and the man told him he would play for all of them… when I started one of the people that encouraged me to go on was pa Steve Rhodes…. He told me, a lot of people would like to discourage you. But just go on…. He was a generally nice man…. Just like Okosuns, he would come for every of my show…. Pay for himself and his family…..

 

TY BELLO: I have photographed him severally, interviewed him… I am working on a book… i know him very well.. he was one of my father’s mentors… same with Sonny Okosuns… their deaths are sad and unfortunate. A lot of young upcoming acts never even met him, they don’t even know the story…. he told me of how he started at WNTV…. all the excitement… we didn’t get to learn from their experience….we’re living now and making the same mistakes… did you know he managed Fela Kuti during Koola Lobitos… he had another girl-group he was managing….

 

Ayo Animashaun: We need to celebrate his life. He lived a very decent life, and was an inspiration to many of us. I remember that he attended Hip hop world awards this year and we felt very humbled to have him identify with us.

 

Azeezat : I’ve known him since the early 80s. He’s very thorough when it comes to music; especially classical music. We will miss his wealth of experience the most

 

Weird MC: I met him a couple of times, he saw my performance for governor Fashola at the MUSON centre last year. He was very much about the preservation of the quality of music. A true practitioner, he was so full of encouraging words. I’m deeply shocked. My condolence to his family and the whole music industry. …

FEEL FREE TO ADD YOUR OWN COMMENTS PLEASE…

SAMMY NEEDLE IS DEAD!

Posted in MUSIC NEWS FROM AFRICA on May 29, 2008 by ayenithegreat

another one of us... gone

 

THE Nigerian music industry has lost its third member in one week.

Even while Sonny Okosuns body is still lying in the mortuary, with practitioners weeping and wailing, another calamity has befallen the community of music-makers

Sammie Needle, a singer, producer and label owner died early this morning at an undisclosed hospital in Lagos.

 

Needle, who has been running his label SNRC (Sammy Nedle Rhythm and culture) for over a decade, had been ill since last week, and was taking treatment as an out-patient from a hospital close to his home in Ogba, Lagos. A source close to him told me family members are unsure of the exact diagnosis, but that the singer found it difficult to urinate or excrete.

 

‘He was rushed to the hospital again this morning’, the source said.

 

It is uncertain where he died exactly, but my source quoted Bluecross hospital, in Ogba, as one of the clinics the late singer received treatment.

 

No family member could confirm the sad incident as i write. Sammy’s widow Murna, a broadcaster who once worked with NTA, was, understandably,  not picking her calls, while Sammy’s mobile phone hs been switched off. The deceased’s aged parents reside in Edo state; but it is uncertain if they have heard the news of thier son’s death.

 

Needle’s death, coming at a time when the industry is still mourning the passing of veteran practitioners like Sonny Okosuns and Jossy Olajoyegbe, has thrown the entire industry into confusion, with many expressing deep concern and fear. The whole industry, usually full of pomp, glamour and fanfare, has been enveloped in sorrow and most practitioners have remained inconsolable.

 

 

Needle’s former partner Eddy Remedy was shocked to hear about the death. ‘Someone just told me now. It’s a sad thing. I’m performing somewhere now. I’ll head for his house once I leave here’, he told us on phone on Thursday. Eddy lived with Sammy for a while in 2007 after his marriage with KSB packed up. Eddy’s new album was to be released by Needle’s SNRC before they parted ways under controversial circumstances.

 

Before his death, Needle himself was working on a new album – his first in years. The album project was reportedly being overseen by his label and Atunda records. One of the tracks on the album, as he told me a few months back, was a tribute song to the late Stella Obasanjo, wife of Nigeria’s former head of state who died in 2006. Titled ‘iya wa ti lo’ the song pays tribute to Stella, who died during a tummy-tuck operation. Sammy’s album project was also being supported by Onari Duke, former first lady of Cross rivers state. The late singer was particularly close to the Dukes, and during their tenure as the state’s first family, Sammy and his band performed for them severally – even though he was originally from Edo state.

Born Samuel Odeh, he was a rare vocalist and performer who impressed critics early and established a name for himself when many of his contemporaries were still struggling. He formed his company SNRC in the mid-nineties, got an office in Oshopey Plaza (on Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos) and recruited a first-class team to nurture his career and business. He got his big break when he performed for the Abachas at one of their son’s wedding.

 

But his career soon nose-dived after his music failed to gain commercial acceptance, and one of his most brilliant associates Soji Dehinde left him. Soji Dehinde himself died few years later.

Sammy stayed underground for many years, battling a fading image, a failing career and facing an uncertain future. But he was no quitter and he told all who cared to listen that he was going to bounce back.

It was only recently that he started putting pieces of his career together, setting up an elaborate studio in his home, and beginning to romance the mainstream again. Few months back, he got another mini spot in the limelight when he got a slot to perform at the burial of the father of ThisDay chairman Nduka Obaigbena. Soon, he was buying a new SUV and romancing the press again.

 

Married for several years, to Murna Odeh, Sammy batteld hard to save his marriage from crumbling. And it is to the couple’s credit that, in spite of many potholes and pitfalls, their union was standing until he breathed his last. His wife was reportedly by his bedside when he gave up the ghost. Unfortunately, the couple had no child of their own. Murna suffered a miscarriage a few years back, and it is uncertain if she was ever pregnant again after that.

 

 

DEAD MEN WALKING

Posted in MUSIC NEWS FROM AFRICA on May 28, 2008 by ayenithegreat

dead but alive

 

OKAY, so I confess: I’m a facebook addict. With each passing day, I am finding it more and more impossible to detach myself from the networking site that’s holding millions of Nigerian youth (and, surprisingly, adults too!) hostage. And when I say I’m an addict, I mean to say ‘amateur addict’. I’m wise enough to know that there are the likes of Tosyn Bucknor, Noble Igwe, Kemi Adetiba and others before me, who have taken to facebooking as an auxiliary profession.

 

So it was, that on Sunday, morning, after looking for every excuse possible for not going to church, I logged in to facebook. My favourite past-time these days is randomly checking friends’ status updates, viewing profile pics and maybe leaving a few comments. So last Sunday, after checking what my ‘friends’ were up to, I changed my own status update from ‘Ayeni is impressed by D’Banj and Don Jazzy’s business acumen’ to ‘Ayeni is going to have a ball and a groove at Encomium’s white gig.

 

I was in the mood to relax and have a jolly good time. Then as I was still contemplating what to wear, I saw a friend’s status: ‘R.I.P. Sonny Okosuns’. As a reporter, that set my adrenalin pumping, and all thoughts of a ball immediately vamoosed from my mind. I checked a few other status updates, searched through Google and made a few phone calls. Then the truth hit me: the ailing musician, who had been battling with cancer of the colon, had eventually given up.

 

 

I’m getting really familiar with death. Before now, I was so naive and stupid cos I thought life was long and fun and even more fun. But seeing my mom die in 2004, it suddenly dawned on me that life, this life, is on long process of getting tired. Life is all about living and dying, then living again. But mom was at least over 50. I thought I had wizened up after she died so suddenly four years ago. But now, in 2008 (and we’re just five months gone!) I’ve lost at least five people that I know directly.

Don’t worry, I wont mention any names, so I don’t make anyone start crying all over again. But what I’ve learnt this year, from the death of so many young people around me (ages from 30 – 49) is that, no matter what we think, we’re all on a death row, waiting for our turns – and it doesn’t matter whether we’re ready or not. We all think we matter, that our opinions count, that people can’t talk to us anyhow; atimes, we even think we’re more important than some less fortunate folks around us; whereas in reality, we’re nothing but walking corpses. Have you ever been around a corpse before?

It has no say about what it’ll wear, what vehicle it’ll ride in, where it’ll be buried, who will attend or who will not. They sprayed perfume in my mother’s eyes. She did not even blink. They forgot to bury her with her favourite glasses, she did not complain. I did not even attend her burial, cos I was lying half-dead on the hospital bed. Guess what? She didn’t come to look for me! Why, you ask? Corpses don’t blink; they never complain; and they don’t look for people.

 

I think it will help, if we all begin to see ourselves as corpses. Or at least, corpse-to-be. It’ll help in our relationship with God. It’ll help in our dealings with man, and it’ll help us realise that we’re not here on earth to stay forever. We’re here to wait for the time when we die. For some, the complete transformation from man to corpse may take 4 years (like my little sister Wemimo); for others, it may take 32 years (like my friend’s wife Olayinka) or 37 years (like my late friend Tunmise). For some, it may take 49 years (like Howie T’s brother Rotimi), for others, 59 years (like Olufela Kuti), or 61 years (like Sonny Okosuns). Whatever the case, it pays the corpse to be prepared for the journey. For, if you live your life thinking you might die the next minute, there are great chances you’ll try to live right.

 

Unfortunately, most times, the corpses are not prepared for the journey. And the rest of us corpses-to-be are never prepared either. Take Okosuns. When I first wrote in 2006 that the man had a ‘strange ailment’ and needed help, he rebuked me and told all that cared to listen he was ‘okay’. That was the song he sang until he breathed his last. I remember how he fiercely tore down two of his journalist friends for writing that his condition was deteriorating, and that he was in need of help. Let’s not blame Okosuns. I don’t think he was living in self-denial, for, if that was the case, he would not have been seeking for treatment across continents. I think he was just not ready to die. Oh yes, he was an evangelist. But didn’t 2face sing that ‘nobody wan die/ but them wan go heaven. Ask me, am I ready to die now? Hell no! But, foolish me. If God says the transformation will happen today, pray, do I have a say?

 

Just like Tunmise and Olayinka and my mother and Fela and many others,  Okosuns was not ready to die. But the rest of us corpses-to-be, what do we do to help them live? We seldom do little. Most times, we even do nothing! That’s why it hurt me and made me cry deeply when I discovered that the minister of Culture had paid a visit to Okosuns house; that the governors of Lagos and Ogun had issued statements condoling the family and extolling Okosuns’ virtues. The PMAN presidents Tee Mac and Dele Abiodun) were even close to tears when the talked about the ‘fallen hero’. I wept.

 

Here was a man that was sick for at least two years. A man who had stopped earning regular income for a while. A man that used his talent to serve his country, influence younger acts, and helped erase apartheid in South Africa . Yet apart from the MON he was decorated with, the government, the people and even his own musicians’ union abandoned him to his own fate. In one of his last interviews, he told of how he was bitter that the government would make you a ‘member of the order of the Niger’, yet, care less whether you had food on your table or not. In his last days, Okosuns needed help. Even if he did not say it, it showed. Look at the man, I always thought he was way over 70. He had emaciated seriously, he had wrinkles all over and looked like he was 10 years older than his age. The man had done his bit for his people. Yet we all ignored him when we could have done a lot to make his life easier.

 

 

Even when it was made public that he had been diagnosed of cancer, what did we do? We looked the other way. It was an Indian that helped Oksouns get treatment in India . It was his children that took care of him in the US .

 

And now, he passes on and we’re giving him a ‘state burial’. What does a state burial, or eulogies, or tears matter to a corpse? And guess what, it’s all hypocrisy and propaganda. All these people issuing statements and weeping and signing the condolence registers – they don’t really care about Okosuns. The government promising a man state burial – ask them, what did they do for him when he was alive? Oh, they gave him MON? What’s MON without EY?!

 

 

 Once all this is over, everyone goes back to their normal lives, waiting for the next corpse to take the trip before reality dawns on us again. It’s business as usual. It’s 11 years after Fela’s death. What has anyone done since then? From Ikeja local government where he lived and performed, to Ogun state where he was from, to the entire country he served with his music. What has anyone done? Nothing!

 

Please take a close look at all the corpses-to-be around you. I mean all, including those you think are too young to die. Are you presently doing all you should and can do for them? Instead of waiting until they leave before you start saying how good and kind and great they were; before you start giving all you have to make sure they get a ‘befitting burial’; before you start regretting the things you could have done; why not take time to do those things now?

 

Our friends and parents and spouses and children; our leaders and followers; they all deserve more than we’re giving them. Okosuns deserved more. Just like Victor Olaiya and Orlando Julius and Steve Rhodes and Tunde Kuboye and Benson Idonije and Tony Allen. Will we wait for them to take the trip and then start weeping and wailing (and promising them state burials) and writing looooong articles in their honour.

 

Or will we do the little we can now, to make sure they have a jolly good time, while waiting on death row?

MOURNING OKOSUNS AND OLAJOYEGBE

Posted in MUSIC NEWS FROM AFRICA on May 26, 2008 by ayenithegreat

dead . but. alive.

 

The entire music industry in Nigeria has been thrown into mourning again.

 

just a few days after industry heavyweights gathered to bury Howie T’s elder brother, who died last monday, news filterered in that veteran singer-performer Sonny Okosuns, who had been down with Cancer of the colon for a while, had passed on.

Okosuns reportedly died in a private hispital called Howard in  Washington DC.

 

Okosuns was first reported to be ill in 2006, when i broke the story in my Column (Notes & Tones, in Encomium Weekly). the cause of his illness and the exact diagnosis was largely unknown, until he granted an interview last year where he said he was down with Cancer of The colon.

 

 

 

Also called Cororectal cancer, cancer of the colon is characterised by cancerous growths in the colon, rectum and appendix. According to Wikipedia, it casues about 655, 000 deaths every year

 

 

Anxiety mounted over Okosuns health in 2006, when observers noticed singer-evangelist was growing dangerously lean, coughing incessantly and generally weak. But Okosuns insisted he was fine, strong and only ageing.

 

When he came public with his condition, the cancer was already advanced. It is uncertain if he was aware, at the early stages, that he had cancer. A source close to the family says he was being treated for ‘something else’ for a while until it was discovered he had cancer.

 

 

Last year, Okosuns began looking for treatment abroad, both in India and the US where he has family members.

 

 

But when articles in Nigeria’s Vanguard newspapers, and later Independent, raised an alarm over his deteoriating health and called on Nigerians and the government to come to his aid; Okosuns fired back, saying he was OK, and even ministering in the US.

So it was a massive shock to the media, his fans and followers when the news came in that he had passed on.

 

 

He reportedly died in the early hours of Sunday May 25, 2008, few days after attending one of his daughters’ graduation ceremony. There are unconfirmed reports he was placed on life support, before he slipped into a coma.

 

 

Okosuns was born on January 1, 1947 in Benin City, Nigeria. he caught the music bug very early in life, and at 17, had formed his first band – The post men. He also served briefly as a member of Victor Uwaifo’s band.

 

 

 He soon discovered a niche for himself, when he found a comfortable brew of Highlife and 70s western pop which he called ‘ozziddi’. he would be known and adressed as ‘ozziddi’ king for the rest of his career even though, in later albums, he had stopped playing by the rules of his ‘ozziddi genre’.

 

 

For most of today’s youngsters, Okosuns will be mostly remembered as the Nigerian musician who ‘fought’ against aparthied in South Africa. His anti-aparthied songs of the eigthies were like swords, cutting deep into the skin of the Colonialists who reluctantly left the country in 1989. Okosuns contribution the the end of aparthied was recognised world-over, even though he was ‘not invited’ to perform at the independence ceremonies.

Okosuns was also a great songwriter, producer and a protege toseveral artistes. He reportedly discOvered Stella Monye (although thier relationship would later take a sour turn, after he got her impregnated during a recording trip to the UK. Monye had her first child, a daughter named Ebony for Okosuns) and was responsible for Onyeka Onwenu’s Debut album.

 

Following a career low in the late 80s and a ‘calling’ to become an evangelist, Okosuns set foot on the path of gospel music, changed his title to ‘evangelist’ and began churning out a series of gospel albums which soon re-established – albeit briefly- his career as a recording artiste.

 

He had almost 40 albums to his credit, and was reportedly in the precess of putting another album together for Premier music before his illness.

 

During his life, Okosuns also got very involved in politics, supporting (and often campaigning for) the late M.K.O. Abiola and Nigeria’s former president Olusegun Obasanjo.

 

Meanwhile, Okosuns death is coming at a tmie when the indistry is yet to get over the passage of Jossy Olajoyegbe, a veteran music promoter who greatly influenced the careers of a lot of musicians in the 50s through the 70s, and is believed to have owned popular recording studio AVI. 

 

 

Olajoyegbe may have not been active in recent years, but his son Diran Olajoyegbe is carrying on the torch. Diran, CEO at Nova Records, is a music executive who runs a label, a publishing company and one of the country’s best recording studios -Eko Reel Mix. Diran is married to gospel singer Olufunmi.  

 

 

NOMORELOSS AND PHOENIX TO WALK DOWN THE AISLE

Posted in MUSIC NEWS FROM AFRICA on May 23, 2008 by ayenithegreat

 

Multi-talented entertainer Nomoreloss and fiancée Phoenix child will be joined in holy matrimony in a matter of weeks.

 

The couple, whose relationship I reported exclusively earlier this year, are, according to very reliable sources, warming up to tie the knots on june 24.

 

Recently, there had been speculations that the pair had broken up, following unresolved differences, but those close to them maintained the affair was headed for the altar.

 

And last week, it became public knowledge, that they were putting finishing touches to wedding plans.

 

 

Although they are planning a quiet wedding, sources say the wedding may turn out an extravaganza – no thanks to their individual friends and followers: Nomoreloss (real names Muyiwa Osinuga) is a decade-old entertainer, who is deeply involved in comedy, music and productions; his wife-to-be Phoenix (Adeola Ogunrinola) is a sweet-voiced on-air personality with Silverbird’s Rhythm 93.7FM.

 

 

 

But for now, sources are divided on the real date for the wedding. While an informant who’s close to Nomoreloss says the wedding is billed for June 24, another source insists the couple will exchange vows on June 7.

 

Phoenix Child was not immediately available for comments, but she told facebook friends on Wednesday ‘Okay, Okay, I’ll grow my hair and wear a dress’. The young broadcaster carries low locks. Her fiancé Nomoreloss only cut off his own dreadlocks few weeks back.

 

In a chat with AyeniTheGreat yesterday, Nomoreloss says ‘I don’t want o comment. It’s not my call. You know this is a family thing, and I don’t particularly like reading about my private life. I’m a very private person’

 

 

 

 

ARA DELIVERS BABY BOY IN MIAMI

Posted in MUSIC NEWS FROM AFRICA on May 19, 2008 by ayenithegreat

Aralola Olamuyiwa, the drummer-girl we all fondly call Ara has finally put to bed.

 

A very impeccable source disclosed to me, very early today, that the former Atunda act delivered her first baby in a private hospital in Miami, Florida.

 

Ara relocated temporarily to the US, from her base in Iceland, when her EDD was near.

 

 

She was there for a few weeks before her hubby, a Lagos prince, joined her.

 

The yet-to-debut performer and her man reportedly called family and friends in LAgos to give them the god news, shortly after she came out of labour.

 

It is uncertain when the couple will return to Iceland, but Ara is expected to resume work on her music career which has been on hold since she ended her contract with Atunda entertainment.

 

‘i’ll be back in Nigeria before the end of the year’, she told me shortly before leaving Iceland for Miami.

 

She is expected to officially tie the knots with her fiance, later this year.