Highlife Compilations: 'Egwu Agba Ochie' (Oldies But Goodies) 2

Highlife or palwine music has been around for ages even before they were put on tape. It started from storytelling to improvisation as local kinsmen were entertained during cultural festivities way back as legend indicates, probably the late 1700s. There are no datas to comfirm these dates but oral interpretations passed on from that era to present makes it a tangible source. I have not particularly digged in deeply to retrieve these datas, but I'm quite sure they can be reliable.

But anyway, part 2 and concluding part of this compilation is kind of interesting because of the artists involved and how they shaped the highlife era of the 'Eastside' back in the day.

Much is known about the legend and I need not write more. Stephen Osita Osadebe, without a doubt, is the king of highlife for one particular reason: Longevity. And without a doubt, Osadebe is one of true highlife vocalists coming of age through the 60s to achieve the incendiary prowess of 'Eastside' highlife vocal hero with his moving, powerful lyrics that shattered the walls of sleep whenever his vibes jams. For decades Osadebe assembled the best in highlife grooming the likes of Ali Chukwuma, Vincent Okoroego and the rest who followed his path transforming highlife into dance music as it echoed in jam sessions, local conventions and parties.

The track here in this compilation Egwu Ogolo, was a jam that took place in Berlin, Germany which was shadowed by a huge Nigerian audience during his European tour. Egwu Ogolo is my best.

African Rhythm Messengers, a group of old school ensemble played gigs in Northern and Southern California for a while. Led by Babatunde Garaya and featuring Friday Jumbo on congas, Tunde Williams on trumpet and Danjuma Adamu on lead and rhythm guitars, the band without question performed to the true meaning of its name. A combination of salsa, soukous and highlife makes this particular album a masterpiece taking a look at the mixes and extractions from sounds of the past. The track here Onye Ga Agba Egwu from the album "Bottom Belle" is a song originally released by Onyeka Onwenu in the 80s. I had watched Onyeka perform a duo with Kris Okotie at Lloyd Nite Club in Maryland, Lagos. It was a burning sensation as both performers kissed before exiting the stage.

Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson was a phenomenon. Not knowing much about him until I began to study his music and adoring his style of play, I don't think there is any musician of the day that has equalled his pattern of composition and arrangement. But the fact of the matter is that, not much has been written about this artist who took highlife to a whole new level. The track from this classic, Oko, had been recorded by many after the musician's death. Musically, Lawson goes deep into his Kalabari dialect to send a message of a variety of socialisation that pops up the high spirit of his listeners and audience. Lawson showed that the melody was his beacon and he never lost that focus showing his skills. Brilliant stuff!


1. Anam Ele Chi -- Oriental Brothers International Band
2. Unzulu Onye Ige Gbupi -- Nkengas In London
3. Aki Special -- Prince Nico Mbarga & Rocafil Jazz
4. Egwu Ogolo -- Stephen Osita Osadebe
5. Onye Ga Agba Egwu -- African Rhythm Messengers
6. Oko -- Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson

Labels: Highlife Compilations, Egwu Agba Ochie, Palmwine Music, Oldies but Goodies


Anonymous said…
Unfortunately they don't make this kind of stuff anymore. Respect!
Comb & Razor said…
"Onye Ga Agba Egwu"!

oh my god, thank you so much for reminding me of the title of that song! i've spent the past year racking my brain for it! (and hunting for that Berkley Jones-produced album... it seems like i can find all Onyeka's albums except for that one!)

it's certainly true that there is not enough written about Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson... for an artist who enjoyed such a massive stature as he did, today he is almost obscure!

there's no reliable information about him out there... in fact, i can't even find a consensus on when he died! (some reports say 1970, during the war... others say it was 1976! all i know if that as late as 1981, there were still posters advertising his upcoming shows on some walls in Calabar!)
Ambrose Ehirim said…
I appreciate the fact that you guys delved into promoting the African musical heritage by keeping us informed with all that vibes in blogosphere reminiscing the pop culture and classics that came along with the demographics of the day. John B's "Likembe," "Matsuli Music," "Voodoo Funk," "Ntwiga's Blog" and especially that 'Comb & Razor' is blowing up my mind.

On the other note, there shouldn't be anything stopping you from digging further in terms of research to keep us posted regarding most of our beloved and lost artists whose data are hard to find. Just like Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson whose upbeat and big band ensemble reminds one of the swing and be-bop era. I'm not sure, I think Lawson died on a road accident after the civil war. What's Onyeka Onwenu up to now? Any clue?

Keep up the good work, man! I'm a fan of yours.
Anonymous said…

I would love to download the music of your blog but unfortunately i did not manage. Could tell me what is the secret.
Thank you for all

Nicolas Moncadas

Ambrose Ehirim said…

I'm probably an internet handicap but I would soon figure out what you asked for. I love the stuff you got going out there at your page.
Anonymous said…
Osadebe was just buried today and I hope his legacy continues.

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