Yes. Last night, at the Kasorina Nightclub in Awka, I had my first orgasm in a very long while. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t sex. I simply had an orgasmic pleasure by listening to the music of late highlife king, Dr Sunday Oliver Akanite AKA Oliver De Coque as performed by Eco De Coque.
.I don’t attend night functions, but when I heard he was coming, I decided to attend. I arrived late as the dark bearded young man was already on stage. Even from the car park as I moved to show hall, the sound of Oliver De Coque’s hit, Ana enwe obodo enwe, wafted into my ears, titillating my brain and sending me to a higher realm.
I made myself comfortable on a chair and listened to him, and he was simply good. He moved to another of Oliver’s songs, Ije awele, then to Peoples Club, in which he only offered a snippet that was more like an appetizers for what lay ahead.When the beat for Peoples Club came on and he intoned in a loud voice, PEOPLES CLUB OF NIGERIA EEHHH! Two things became obvious to me. One was that though Oliver was gone, his music remains alive and second was that Peoples Club still remained Oliver’s biggest hit.
How did I know this?
As the beat came on, the entire crowd of fun seekers became ecstatic, and they urged him on. That was actually when I almost attained orgasmic pleasure, but Eco De Coque cut short my enjoyment when he quickly moved over to another hit track, Bili kam bili. That also received a high acceptance, and even though I am not a good dancer, I was compelled to stamp my feet on the ground and nod to the beat. The crowd was overjoyed too, and they danced along, and to me who is a long time fan of Oliver De Coque, the pleasure I was feeling within me was high.
It was while performing that track that Eco displaced most of the skills I had known Oliver De Coque for. Oliver didn’t only have a sonorous voice then, he was a skilled dancer, and had dance steps that could belong to no one else but him. Even shortly before his death at 61, Oliver maintained his dance steps. Besides these two, Oliver was a multi-instrumentalist. During his days, he was known to own the costliest guitars in the entire Africa. He not only bought expensive guitars, he was good at them too; someone even exaggerated that Oliver could speak to a guitar and it would play the beat of his choice. He was a flutist too, a drummer and a very good pianist.
Do you know what? Eco De Coque was good at all the above qualities, except that he lacked the originality of Oliver’s dance steps. As he performed Ana enwe obodo enwe, Eco De Coque further showed his dexterity at the guitar. He suddenly stopped, removed the guitar he was hanging, unhocked the belt, used its head to slap the strings of the guitar, and what came forth was a pleasurable sound that went in sync with the beat of the music.
He didn’t stop. He dropped the guitar on the ground went into the crowd, wowed them with some dancing, returned to the guitar and stepped on it with his foot, and the sound produced too was out of the world. He did it many more times, then picked up the guitar, threw it high into the night, caught it with ease and slapped the strings with his palm to produce a beat. He slapped the strings of the guitar again, this time, with the back of his hand and the sound produced was not only pleasurable but different from the first sound produced by the slap with his palm.
He brought the guitar close to his mouth and started playing it with his teeth, and I guess it was at this point that I actually attained ‘orgasm’.I convinced myself that Oliver was still alive at that point.
My surprise however was at the end of the show when I walked to the young man to tell him I am a great fan of his father and had done several pieces on him since after his death. He surprised me by saying, “No sir, I am not Oliver’s son.”
I have visited Oliver’s home severally since after his death. I usually do that every August, which was the month of his burial, and same month I was transferred to Anambra. During most of my visit, I had spoken to most of his brothers and relatives, but have never been lucky to speak to Eugene De Coque, Oliver’s younger brother who is his look alike, and equally plays good highlife music.One August, I had thought of interviewing Oliver’s son, Chinedu, who is also a highlife musician and goes by the name; Nedu De Coque. All attempt to track down the young man failed as he dodged me for days on end as if my life depended on the interview, and I lost interest.
When I met Eco De Coque last night, I had though he was Nedu De Coque (Oliver’s son) but he said no. After recovering from the shock of the news that he was not Oliver’s son, I asked him; “Do Oliver’s Children and brother know you perform this well?” He laughed and said they did.Indeed, even if Eco De Coque isn’t a biological child of Oliver De Coque, his children and brother have no sleep to loss because Oliver had too many works that even if more people sprang up to sing his songs, they will have enough to last them a lifetime, even if they choose not to produce theirs.
Now my short submission:
Several years past, I have written about Oliver and the need to further propagate the culture of Igbo land, one of which I believe the highlife music was now a part of. I had even advocated that to keep the memory of great highlife musicians alive, concerts could be held to promote their music, while secular musicians can be invited to sing their music.
I had also advocated sponsorship of such event by either corporate organizations that have Igbo interest, or even state governments around the Igbo speaking states. Nigeria Breweries, makers of Life beer have done well in this regard by hosting the highlife fest which has spanned years. In the last edition of the Highlife fest in Onitsha, one of the judges, Onyeka Onwenu had lamented the dying culture of highlife music, and called on other corporate organizations to join Nigeria breweries in propagating highlife. For me, support from the Igbo Speaking states of Nigeria will help to keep highlife alive. I had also called on past and present governors of Anambra State to seize the opportunity of a booming music industry in Nigeria to:
1 – Imortalise people like Oliver by setting up music schools to teach youngsters how to make quality music. Flavour is today a world class star with infusions of highlife genre in his numerous collections, all by dint of his own hard work.
Numerous Nigeria artists abound whose only claim to popularity is their ability to hold the microphone, and the youthful energy to prance around the stage. But in Oliver, Igbo land had a musician who did not only encourage you to work hard, but taught you great lessons laced with Igbo proverbs. Setting up a music school in his name would ensure the continuity of the highlife music which has become a part of the identity of the Igbo man.
2 – This will lift most youths off crime and catapult them to stardom. Flavour has been a good ally of the current state government, and a source said that for each performance he put up in Anambra, his bank account swells by at least N10million.
Who says that more Flavours cannot be groomed with a music school like ‘Oliver De Coque School of Music, Anambra’? Who said that Anambra cannot export more Oliver De Coques to the world? Who said that Anambra will not attract tourists and hard currency if once every year it holds Highlife concert, where known stars jettison their own music to sing a track of Oliver’s music each?I am not a musician, I am not a show promoter, I may not be able to do it, but the Anambra State government has the ministry of Youth and Creative Economy that can handle this.
Years back, A Nigerian studying in Canada called me after he read one of my pieces on Oliver De Coque on the internet. He had academic work that was based on indigenous African music, he choose highlife as a case study and made Oliver De Coque his focus. From Nigeria here, I was able to gather materials and interviews to support his work, all at a fee.
Afterwards, he asked if we could organize something in Oliver’s memory, but I was frank enough to tell him I was not into show business and didn’t know how to go about it.Many years ago too, after a long interview with one of Oliver’s younger brother, Gaius, he told me how some Chinese came all the way from China to Oliver’s home in Ezinnifite, Nnewi South Local Government of Anambra State because they were understudying him and his kind of music, and after a long chat they sought to know where Oliver was buried, and behold his remains was lying ‘carelessly’ in a grave in front of his mansion, without as little as a pavement, or any form of beautification, rather, some rags and used cloths were discarded right on the grave, which had long become mere earth. Gaius told me the Chinese people were shocked, and at this point he pointed to me and said, “that place there is where the remains of the world renown king of highlife music, Oliver De Coque is, can you imagine?” and he broke in to tears.Will Oliver’s remains continue to lie there ‘carelessly’.
Will Ndi Igbo not do something to immortalize a great man that revolutionalised the history of highlife? If Igbos would not, will his home state government forget him like that? If they do, what happens to the big Igbo/Nnewi names, and their children, who Oliver sang about in eulogy and made very popular? Just too many questions, but Kachifoo.
Eleke, an Anambra based journalist, he can be reached through [email protected]