MOURNING OKOSUNS AND OLAJOYEGBE
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.