No fewer than 20 Nigerian and Ghanaian music giants will be on parade at the Golden Tunes Concert at the Lagos City Hall, Lagos on October 16 to commemorate Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary and revive highlife music. Assistant Editor (Arts) Ozolua Uhakheme reports.
Fifty years ago, veteran musician and highlife maestro, Dr. Victor Abimbola Olaiya, was among top artistes who performed at the Independence Day banquet at Race Course, Lagos. He was specially chosen by the then prime minister, the late Alhaji Tafawa Balewa to be part of that memorable event. On October 16, 2010, he will be re-enacting that sterling performance he put up 50 years ago at the ultra modern Lagos City Hall, Lagos, which is few meters away from venue of 1960 banquet.
This time Olaiya will not be performing along with the 1960 All-Star Band, a coalition of bands, but with other established veterans like Orlando Julius, S.F Olowokere, Dele Ojo, Ebenezer Obey, Alaba Pedro, Fatai Rolling Dollar and two Ghanaians, C.K Mann and Stan Plange. And the setting is the golden tunes concert organised by the Evergreen Music Company as part of the Festival 50: Musical memories of yesteryears activities to commemorate Nigeria’s 50th independence anniversary. The event is being sponsored by MTN Nigeria Communication, Lagos State government, Ondo State government and Total Health Trust.
Chairman of Evergreen Music Company, Mr. Femi Esho said the festival is being organised to rejuvenate the nation’s music culture, recognise and appreciate music maestros, both living and the dead as well as to establish an Evergreen Music Foundation to champion the advocacy for preserving works of artistes. He disclosed that the festival would involve symposium, exhibition, concert/award night and foundation launch. The symposium, which has as theme, Walking the tunes through the year, will hold on September 29 at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos and will feature practitioners in the industry like teachers of African arts and culture as well as young aspiring musicians. Also, the exhibition will feature works of the vintage artistes alongside their paraphernalia and relics that will be collected from the archives of the maestros being honoured.
For the concert, Esho said: “What we are trying to do is re-enact the memories of the event of 1960. During the golden tunes concert, living legends like Victor Olaiya will be onstage along with other revered veterans like SF Olowokere, Orlando Julius, Dele Ojo, Tunde Osofisan, Alaba Pedro, David Bull, Idowu Animashaun among others who are yet to confirm their availability…In the course of the concert, not less than 30 veterans will receive life time achievement awards n various categories like founding father awards, golden voice of independence award, most outstanding instrumentalists award.” Esho added that the Evergreen Music Foundation would be launched during the event.
On why celebrating at 50, he explained: “A 50 year-old man in Nigeria that witnessed the Agekoya crises in the ld Western Region, the Civil war, the Ali must go of the 70s, the Maitasini uprising in the North, the SAP riots of the late 80s and the June 12 crises of 1993 and is alive hale and hearty today will agree that there is indeed a cause for celebration.” Justifying the rationale for the choice of highlife music as a genre, he said over 80 highlife maestros are known to have performed across the country but that today, less than 20 of them are alive and only 10 are known to actively play music.
“In terms of reign of the genre of music, you can hardly find more than three recreation spots where the vintage music is still enjoyed by patrons of musical bands. We feel that the situation portends a great danger for our indigenous contribution to the world of music, something that has the potential of being a major income earner for the country if properly harnessed,” the chairman added.