2010 IN RETROSPECT
A shining light dimmed on the Nigerian highlife scene with the exit of Maliki Showman, a veteran saxophonist, singer and composer who has been in the forefront of a highlife revival initiative in the country. An active member of the now rested Great Highlife Party and in fact, the star of the show, he was knocked down by a vehicle in 2010 and died afterwards from injuries sustained from the accident. He was famous for his dynamic stage performance and popular for his composition of Bolanle. He was the king of the Joge beat, a highlife variant with roots deep in the culture of Etsako people of Edo state.
Also in 2010, the king of palm wine highlife, Raphael Amarabem died. A prolific song writer and palm wine guitar stylist, he wrote Jolly Papa for Rex Jim Lawson and as leader of Pea Cocks, he created such hits as Tambola Mama and Eddy Quansah, signature tune of the popular television soap Masquerade which ran for many years.
Don Bruce, the king of soul music went to meet his ancestors. A prolific singer, he was initially influenced by Soul Brother number one himself, James Brown before eventually settling into his own. Unfortunately, all three musicians died unsung and unmourned.
But perhaps the most painful death in the year, and the one that attracted profound public interest was that of Ayinde Barrister, the man widely recognised as the creator of Fuji music. His death attracted public attention because of his kind of music, a modern day African musical genre, a social type that is still in the process of fusing and evolving. But let us celebrate the living.
Our indigenous forms were not patronised during the year, but Ebenezer Obey and Sunny Ade came out of semi-retirement to prove that they are indeed the two authentic masters of juju music.
Perhaps the most active highlife music exponent in 2010 was Fatai Rollin Dollar who has successfully sustained his career since he bounced back. His Ã”kere si numba wa, his return-to-the-scene hit is still popular.
Victor Olaiya, the evil genius of highlife who clocked 80 on December 31, was relevant during the year. His All stars Band is still waxing strong. Adewale Ayuba, the modern fuji exponent extended his popularity beyond this country with tours to Europe and America.
However, the event that brought soccour to the scene during the year was Festival'50 mounted by the Evergreen Musical Company to mark 50years of Nigeria's independence. A salute to highlife and our indigenous musical forms, the event celebrated Nigerian and Ghanaian highlife heroes whom it gave awards of varying degrees.
It is hoped that the All Stars Band, the all-embracing outfit being coordinated by Afimiluyi Bambo will take the bull by the horns this year in terms of promoting vintage highlife.
It must be born in mind however that while pursing this highlife revival agenda, highlife can never come back in the same old, vintage form. That would be turning the hands of the clock backwards. But its promotion can continue to serve as a source of knowledge and inspiration to this generation of listeners and musicians.