Top 5 Igbo Highlife Musicians Of All Time

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Top 5 Igbo Highlife Musicians Of All Time

See the top 5 Igbo highlife musicians of all time,this are the people that set the part for today’s highlife genre.

The Igbo highlife music is not just a music genre, it is
a part of Igbo culture. This very unique Igbo sound has
moved from the southeast to the global stage. In April
2021, for instance, Google dedicated a doodle to one
of the legends of Igbo highlife music in Africa, Oliver
De Coque. The reach of this general is astounding.
Igbo highlife music is a contemporary musical genre
that combines highlife and Igbo traditional music. It
first started in the then Eastern Region of Nigeria, in
the 1950s. The genre is primarily guitar-based music,
with a rare characteristic blend of horns and vocal
rhythms. Igbo highlife lyrics are sung mostly in Igbo
with an occasional infusion of Pidgin English
Over time, the Igbo highlife scene has seen the
coming and goings of legends who whipped up the
crowds when they struck their cords. Some of these
legends are responsible for taking highlife to the world
and keeping it there long after they are gone. Here are
the top five Igbo highlife musicians of all time in no
particular order of influence.

1. Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe

Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe

Nicknamed “the Doctor of Hypertension” Osadebe
was known for his song’s hypnotic and mesmerizing
abilities, which were considered by people as a healing
balm to the troubled soul.
Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe is considered the
leading pioneer of Igbo highlife music to date, during
his music career which spanned over 40 years, he
composed more than 500 songs.
His diversification in the style of music made him
stand out, so much that some refer to him as the
father of Igbo highlife. In order to grip percussion,
guitars and wind instruments dominated his music. On
occasions, he integrated saxophone solos into his
songs. He also fused rhythms such as merengue and
rumba into his music.
Osadebe was the first to incorporate “criticism” in his
song starting with his famous album “Osondi Owendi”,
his album “Kedu America” is considered his best.
Osadebe had a lot of firsts in the Igbo highlife music
scene, hence, he drew outstanding attention and
awards. Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe is truly the Elder
Statesman of Highlife.

2. Oliver De Coque

Oliver De Coque

Oliver De Coque was one of the most famous
musicians and highlife bands in Africa. And it is not
just “was”; he is still famous, more than ten years
since his passing away. The impact of his songs is
such that some even doubt if he is dead, his songs are
always evergreen, a pure art.
De Coque was one of the musicians whose talents
were limitless churning out albums after albums, all of
them a classic, before death he had about 70 albums
posthumously more albums were released which sums
up to 93 albums, that is what legends are made of.
De Coque was known for infusing the modern West
African highlife genre with a Congolese-influenced
guitar style and the energetic dance elements of Igbo
music he grew up with, crafting a unique musical style
called Ogene. Before his debut album in 1977
“Messiah Messiah”, his solo in 1946 was making
waves already, De Coque’s music only grew in
popularity at home and abroad.
Five Facts You Need To Know About Oliver De Coque
One thing about De Coque was his flamboyant lifestyle
which flowed through his music style too.
The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi crowned him
the King of Highlife due to his consistency. He was
that strong and respected in other cultures. He was
given an Igbo title as the Ikemba.
The University of New Orleans awarded him an
honorary doctorate in music in recognition of his feats
in the industry.
On April 14th, a Google doodle was showcased in his
honor to mark his posthumous 74th birthday.

3. Bright Chimezie

To stand out in your music career is one thing, to

create an entire music style is a whole new level, and
Bright Chimezie did that. And more.
He fused traditional Nigerian music, Igbo highlife with
chanted vocals to birth Zigima sounds. This sound
drew more attention to Igbo highlife, setting a new
pace. His peak was the 1980s and up to the 1990s.
His music style became known as Zigima sounds, with
several highlife musicians today following his cue.
Bright Chimezie critiqued social issues, presenting
them in a fun engaging way. His album ‘Respect
Africa’ cemented his spot on the highlife scene, in the
album he made jest of social ills. His legwork was
legendary it earned him a nickname ‘Duke of Africa’
with the way he moved whilst chanting.

4. Dr. Sir Warrior

Dr. Sir Warrior

Christogonus Ezebuiro Obinna alias Dr. Sir Warrior was
a force on the highlife scene for more than two
Dr. Sir Warrior started performing at a very young age,
at 16, he had already gained popularity. He attained
fame for his voice and performance of Èsè music until
his demise in 1999.

He entered the center stage when he joined the
Oriental Brothers International Band, he was their
leader till they splintered and micro-groups were
created. They performed both in Nigeria and
internationally when they were still together.
The revolution of high life music in Igboland
Combining his Unique Igbo vocals, skillful playing of
guitar, and solid chorus, Warrior was in a league of his
own. He is one of the most influential highlife
musicians of all time.

5. Celestine Ukwu


He was described as a ‘Prolific and outstanding
composer’ by one of Nigeria’s top music critics,
Benson Idonije.
Celestine Ukwu was best known for his hit songs “Enu
Ije”, “Igede” and “Money Palava”. His songs have been
featured on a world music compilation.
A writer once wrote that his discography “gave food
for thought to its listeners”. We agree.



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