Highlife is one of the most popular genres of music in Nigeria. Early highlife performers in the commercial western states of Nigeria enjoyed the benefits of living in urban, central hubs of art and entertainment. The frenzy of excited fans and the curiosity of foreigners guaranteed that men like Fela Kuti and Sunny Okposo became well-known all over the nation.
In the East, however, highlife musicians and their listeners tend to be more laid back. The musicians are more concerned with using music to address social and moral issues and to celebrate reputable men. Good music is acknowledged when it is played at maximum volume on street corners and in large markets, or at lavish parties and important occasions.
Picture this scene. As the sun sets and another warm August day comes to an end in a suburban, middle-class neighbourhood somewhere on the Lekki Peninsula, a red Toyota Corolla makes its way through the winding, cobbled streets of the quiet residential community. It plays Ubanese by Chief Emeka Morocco Maduka at the highest possible volume of its small stereo. Extremely loud and completely unapologetic. The fact of who or what is playing is completely unknown to me at the time but I’m struck by what I’ve heard. I run upstairs to my father’s room to ask, “What music was playing in the car that sped past?” A smile breaks out on my father’s face as he answers, “Emeka Morocco.”
The track Ubanese is one of Maduka’s most popular songs, and the elaborate, languorous sound of Chief Emeka Morocco serenading his listeners in Igbo is not easy to forget. Unfortunately, whatever information you are likely to find about the life of ‘Eze Egwu Ekpili’ (King of Ekpili Music) will mostly come to you through word of mouth. Though his songs may be found online, the life and musical career of the King of Ekpili Music is poorly documented and difficult to trace on the internet. However, among Easterners home and abroad, Maduka’s music is greatly celebrated.
The songs of Chief Emeka Morocco Maduka are often moral lessons or stories of prominent men in Igbo society. Ubanese, in particular, tells the story and praise of Alphonsus Obi Igbeke, an Anambra indigene now popularly known as Ubanese, who studied abroad and earned a PhD in Engineering before returning to Onitsha to go into business; Igbeke went on to become a billionaire. Another notable song by Emeka Morocco is Ochuba Aku which he says he composed to “advise people not to rush to be wealthy or be too money conscious because we will all in one way or the other leave this world.” There’s also Tribute to Ojukwu, a record Maduka released after the death of Chief Ojukwu to salute the life and accomplishments of the great leader.
Chief Emeka Morocco Maduka was born in 1944. He is based in Awka, Anambra State. There he is content to stay even though many highlife musicians choose to migrate to places like Lagos. He has released more than 72 albums in the South East. He is a revered singer and performer and is often invited by his fans to play at private events in foreign countries. Other tracks worthy of note include Amuru Onye N’Ego, Nke Onye Metalu, Ozogidigbam, Uwa Ekwe Nmeta, Oma Nma, Eze Udene, and Olu Oma Nwelugwo.
Orient Daily News
The Nigerian Voice
Featured Image Source: Adadike.blogspot