Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Monday, September 17, 2007
The Ikenga Super Stars of Africa, led by Victor Okoroego, weigh in here with a funky slice of Ikwokilikwo. The Ikengas were born in 1973 as "The Nkengas" when they split from bandleader Osita Osadebe, in the process hijacking the master tape that became the legendary Nkengas in London (Orbitone OTO 06, 1973). This was but a prelude, though, to the group's massive hit, 1975's Ikenga in Africa (Rogers All Stars ASALP 2).*
The band continued kickin' it at least until 1984, when its output seemed to trickle out with the rather weak War Against Indiscipline (Rogers All Stars RASLPS 065). In the meantime the Ikengas established themselves as one of the most beloved Nigerian groups of all time, not only in their homeland but across Africa and in Europe as well. African music fans were delighted when a collection of Ikenga recordings, Great Hits Vol. 1 (Rogers All Stars RASCD 018), was finally issued on CD a couple of years ago.
Side 1 of this LP, Late Celestine Ukwu Special (Roger All Stars ASALPS 12, 1977), pays tribute to the great highlife musician Celestine Ukwu, who died in 1977 in an auto accident. It opens with the refrain "ariri," meaning "grief" and continues, "...we go about our lives but we don't know how close death is... Life is pleasurable but death spoils everything... The death that took Celestine Ukwu did something terrible to us." "Ego di Nogwu" on Side 2 is actually mis-spelled. It should be "Ego di Nugwo" ("There's Never Enough Money"). The refrain repeated throughout the song, "Ego siri ike, ego di nugwo," means roughly "Money is hard to get, there's never enough money." The song continues in that vein, stating approximately, "I'm not going to steal for money, I'm not going to kill for money... Make sure your hands are clean."
Neither of these tunes is on Great Hits Vol. 1. Enjoy! And once again thanks to my wife Priscilla for interpreting the lyrics.
Ikenga Super Stars of Africa - Late Celestine Ukwu Special
Ikenga Super Stars of Africa - Ego di Nogwu
* Which you can download here. And in case you were wondering, Ikwokilikwo (or Ikwokirikwo) refers to a fast-paced form of highlife popularized by Oliver de Coque and Godwin Kabaka Opara (of the Oriental Brothers and later Kabaka Guitar Band) in addition to the Ikengas. A product of the confluence of Congo music, benga from East Africa and the Igbo cultural renaissance that took place following the Biafra war, Ikwokilikwo was quite the rage in Nigeria in the late '70s. A discography of the Ikenga Super Stars is available here.