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Meet Ogbogu Okonji, the Anioma King of Traditional-highlife Music From Nigeria

Mention “Ibusa” to the other communities of Anioma and what readily comes to the mind is “Music” It was in recognition of this that the Great Azikiwe of Africa during one of his famous campaigns in the town described the people of the town as the “Congo of Africa” in early 1970s pleasantly stunned by the overwhelming degree of musical groups from the town that came all out to welcome him to the town.

The name Ogbogu Okonji has gained currency among the Anioma and the Southeast. Ogbogu is a traditional musician from Ibusa in Delta State and the leader of “Ogbogu Okonji and His Anioma International band” with innumerable number of albums to his credit. At least I could count up to thirty of albums and still counting. Ogbogu is one musician who has donje the Igbo race proud with his kind of traditional-High music known as “Ekobe-Highlife. Ogbogu is to the Anioma what Sunny Ade is to the Yoruba. This is how best he can be described or understood. He is indeed a name that musically alerts his people.

Early life/Musical career
Okonji was born and raised in Ibusa, Delta State to Ibusa parents and started exhibiting musical ambition quite early in life at a period in time, music was condemnably regarded as a profession for the never-do-well set of persons in the Nigerian society. As a child, he was noticeably admired by adults who would gather to watch him converge other children and sing while others supply him with rhythm by clapping. Mention was also made of how such on-lookers would soon find themselves dancing.

He grew up within the Anioma environment which bestowed him with the understanding of Enuani dialect of Igbo, a known speaker of Ukwuani language, which becomes reflective in his songs. Once, he was described as a master of proverbs which are considered as his stronghold. His smattering knowledge of Ukuani language has become an advantage to him as his music has come to be generally accepted in Anioma land.

Ogbogu began his musical career in 1978 releasing series of albums with other groups of musicians in what the Ibusa people call “Out” (Music group) notably with Agility Okonji both however gained fame when in their album they pleaded with the then senior Diokpa of Ibusa to use his good-offices and electrify the town, like Majak Fashek who magically sang “Send Down the Rain” and the heavens opened, there was light in Ibusa in 1979. This great musician retired from Customs and Excise to pursue a professional musical career outstandingly pouring in successful albums upon into the market.

This gave the musicians fame and Ogbogu’s image automatically shot up. Agility Okonji would thereafter become the lead vocalist of Out Mbonsi Onyenwu Obulunjoa under the patronage of Senator Nosike Ikpo and Madam Queen Ebubedike releasing albums such as “Nkwuka Special” “Idaibo” “Olinzele Special” “Ogodinma” “Otukpokpolikpo” and the greatest hit of the group was “Nkwuka Special”

The early years of Ogbogu in music woulod also see him singing with his first cousin; Etiti Okonji as both would form a music group anjd released series of albums prominently charging Anioma traditional music lovers with a number of good hits using traditional musical instruments such as “Uboma,” “Isaka” (Maracas) “Akpele” (native flute) “Ushe” and others alike. This group would fold up after, both leaders of the group decided to finally go their separate ways. Shortly he would form the present band, “Ogbogu Okonji and His Anioma Brothers International Band”

Style of music
Ogbogu’s kind of music is far from being strange to the people but his ability to effectively shift to the use of modern musical instruments finely rendering his tunes in the traditional pattern of the people has attracted so much interest to his music causing it to become very lively and pleasant to the ears. He is known to sing praises of Business tycoons like other musicians of his caliber. The members of his Band cuts across the entire Anioma region, with his leadership in supplying the vocals with the rendition individual and group backups in what is known “Akpatanu” (Proverb recitations)

Ifechukwude Okocha and Joe Okocha were known to have played this role currently being played by Onochie. Joe Okafor, an indifene of Asaba in Delta State left the group to pursue solo performances and has recently released an album titled “Eje-Ana”. Ogbogu Okonji is nicknamed “OGB” or “The Message Man” because of the belief that his music conveys messages. OGB’s music reflects and to a large extent tends to correct ills and evils in the Anioma society ij what has been described as a societal radicalism.

OGB has really carried the traditional music of Ibusa, Anioma and Igbo afar, giving it preservation and currency with regards to the culture of people. Going by this legacy, it is still strange that Ibusa, Anioma and the Igbo society have not in appreciation of this honoured him with chieftaincy title(s)

We the youth of Anioma expectedly await this development hoping that this music entertainer be addressed as a “Chief” because “Egwu naso nwa Ogalanya, egwu naso nwa Ogbei” (Ogbogu Okonji) OGB carry on!

By Emeka Esogbue 


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