23 Jun 2021

Nigeria

Classic 70's Highlife LP.

Joe Black
''I am from Togo living in Europe, 40 y. old. I do not understand any word from all the music of Oriental Brothers International Band. But my soul and spirit are used to fall deep in ecstasy and tears each time I am listening to. I don't know why, but it is so. There is something spiritual in the performances of this group. Big up for this Band. May African Ancestors bless them.''

Ferdinand (Dan-Satch) Opara


The story of Oriental Brothers band, by Dan-Satch

March 22, 2015 | https://www.thenicheng.com/

A few years after the Nigeria-Biafra war, the Igbo almost lost their identity. But out of the blues came a rag-tag highlife musical group known as Oriental Brothers International that tried to restore that identity. Assistant Editor (North), CHUKS EHIRIM, traced the leader and founder of that group, Ferdinand (Dan-Satch) Opara, to his village in Ogwuama Nguru, in Aboh Mbaise, Imo State, where he got him to tell the story of the band.

How did the Oriental Brothers International Band start?
I think I have gotten tired of telling this story. What gets me angry mostly is, if I continue to talk about how we formed the Oriental Brothers band, how we made Ndigbo proud and gave them identity, especially after the Nigerian civil war, does anybody remember us? You have to come to my house. You have seen where I live. You know how long we were in active musical industry or how long we played music, do we have anything to show for our labour? Is there anything the government has done for us? We brought out the name of Owerri; in one of our songs, we said: “We have come back to Owerri land, to put it in proper shape.” We also did another song in which we advised every Igbo person to come back, so that collectively we could put Igbo land in proper shape. Yet in this Igbo land, all those who are rich are enjoying their wealth themselves alone. Right from the start, after the end of the civil war, when we suffered a great deal before we were able to get a recording contract, till today, does anybody look in our way?

If there is any big national event in the country, the government will invite big time Yoruba musicians and pay them millions of naira. Nobody remembers us. They are perhaps waiting for when all of us are dead and then they will start saying: Here are the legends of the Oriental Brothers International Band.

That is why we are here; to know how you are feeling.
Well, I am tired of talking. We have been talking, but nobody remembers us. Nobody deems it fit to say, since we engage some other bands in functions and pay them N3 million, N4 million, or N5 million, let us get this Oriental Brothers Band to play. If the federal government engages us the way they have been engaging others, we will get some money and I will renovate my house. You can see that this house I am living in is collapsing. So why do you want me to be talking every time of how we formed the band. Is there any of them who does not know? Does the president not know of the band?

The president knows about Oriental Brothers; how, immediately after the civil war, we started the band, moving about suffering, till we came out with the first record and that record made everybody happy. No government in Nigeria has ever remembered us or given us money. They gave ‘Udorji’ (so much money, as entitlement) to the civil servants in the mid-70s, for which we did the song, ‘Iheoma’ (lee nu mu, lee motor cycle). They shared their money, and did not give us any.

What we are now witnessing is that different people are playing our songs. All the musicians in Imo and Anambra states are playing Oriental Brothers brand of music. There is no censorship. What type of government is this? What do you want me to say? Don’t they know that we are Oriental Brothers? I am the founder of Oriental Brothers, Dan-Satch Emeka Opara. Other members of my band, those who are still alive, are still around. Ichita and Warrior are now late. We are still playing. We are still playing with members of the group. But nobody is controlling the piracy business.

The piracy law says that nobody should be playing any other person’s number, even in public (until a given period after the person’s death). But provided money is involved, if you hire a musician now to play for you, he will play Oliver de Coque, Oriental, Osadebe, Jimmy Cliff and what have you. That is not the way. Our Nigerian government is not controlling anything for us.

Your band members were young men when the war ended. How did you actually start?
I don’t have to be elaborate in explaining it because if we have to go into details, it will be too lengthy. I am Chief Ferdinand Dan-Satch Chukwuemeka Opara, the founder of Oriental Brothers International Band. I founded the band with my four other brothers. But before then, just immediately after the Nigeria- Biafra civil war, I went back to (auto) mechanic work. There was a band that was formed that time, Eastern Mysteries, led by one Obiako, and John Ikediala (my brother) was their vocalist.

The band travelled to Enugu and quarrels ensued. Eastern Mysteries started having problems and due to the fact that I was a musician, having played in some other bands before going to learn work as a mechanic, I was in the workshop, Alex Driving and Mechanic School, at 44 Mbaise Road (Owerri) in those days. Ikediala’s wife, Louisa, came and called me. She said: “You are a musician, come and see that they want to kill your brother in the Eastern Mysteries”. She told me that she did not know what the problem was. I went to where the band was based then, at a hotel called One In Town, and asked after the man from his sister and she said they had not come back. So we sent some people to trace them. They were told that the band had gone to Nsukka. That was how they were traced and were asked to come back. So my brother came back. We decided in my village that he would no longer play with that band again, for them not to kill him. He started asking how he would continue playing as a musician. I told him I was ready to assist him in getting instruments and make up another band and look for somebody to sponsor it.

That was how we formed another band, and the sponsor was Oliver Biaduo. Then I was asked to look for musicians who would play in the band. I then started scouting for boys. I got one boy, Tony Awoma, from Aba. I got Ogbajirigwe, and so many others whose names I cannot remember easily.

So we formed that band and played together for some time at Biaduo’s hotel called Ambima, in Enugu. We were in that band between 1971 and 1972, but things were not moving fine. We came back to Owerri. On getting to Owerri, Ogbajirigwe left. Then there was one boy, Okuru. And Aquila came in. Aquila is one of the legends of Oriental Brothers today. I move everywhere with him. You heard when he spoke (before this interview commenced). If he says I should not grant this interview to you, I will not object to his view.

So (Israel) Nwaoba came to Louisa’s place to find out why we were no longer playing music. I told him some of our members came back from Enugu and dropped from the band, so we don’t have boys who would help the band to continue. I told him that we would still look for some other boys to continue the band.

But my parents were angry with me, for leaving my work as a mechanic to play music. They said music was not a gainful undertaking; that musicians were worthless fellows who don’t achieve anything in life. They queried the rationale behind me leaving my work for music. I told them: well, I just want to help this my brother to stabilise his band, then I will go back to my mechanic work. Then we formed another band, with Okuru and Peter. Then we got Aquila and we started rehearsing. We went to Enugu. It was at Enugu that we got Kabaka. As we were playing in Enugu, one of our guitarists, Awoma, dropped and we started looking for a replacement. That was how we got Kabaka.

Along the line, we got Warrior, here in Owerri. We then regrouped with Ichita and moved. From Enugu, Ikediala said we should go to Kano, that his brother, Japhet Ikediala, who lived in Kano then, would help us with sponsorship, so we could start recording our own songs. I agreed. So we moved to Kano. While in Kano, we almost died of hunger. There was nothing to eat, practically nothing. The man himself would go and feed well with his brothers, but we, who accompanied him, had nothing to eat.

Then, those boys started to worry me. They kept asking me: why did you take us along? You want us to die of hunger? Send us back. But I told them that I didn’t have money to send them back. I also wanted to go back home. I began to regret leaving my job for music.

The same Ikediala started pleading with us to be patient. He said since I said I knew Lagos because I grew up in Lagos (I schooled at St. Dominic, which is now St. Dominic Catholic Church, Yaba). I was in Lagos when Queen Elizabeth came to Nigeria the first time. So this man took us from Kano to Lagos, telling us that there was a place we would play. He said he would help us to do recordings at Radio Nigeria. So we came to Lagos, finished our programme on radio and started playing at shows in one or two places.

Along the line, we were not making any headway, and Ikediala dropped and moved on – his brothers took him away. We kept suffering alone, looking for our relations who could accommodate us, but to no avail. Then the band boys kept troubling me, asking me to take them back to the East. I didn’t know what to do. As it was, there were two Benin boys Ikediala brought. I told them that they could find their way, but these ones I brought from home, I had to be responsible for them.

At a certain time, I decided to join the club at Stadium Hotel, Surulere, belonging to Victor Olaiya. Immediately I got there, those my boys started saying, why are you joining another band without first taking us back home? I did not know what to do, so I came back to them again. I then decided to settle at Ikeja, in Easy-going Hotel. The owner of the hotel was my in-law; he was married to my sister, Nwaruoulo. So I went and reported to that my sister, asking her to find some money for me to send the boys home; that we were dying in Lagos.

The woman said she did not have enough to give me to take the boys home, but that if I could bring those my boys to her place, they could use there for stage shows. She added that we could raise some money in that process, and that if we make enough money, we would then go back to the East. After getting that assignment, I went back to the boys, to beg them. They told me that Warrior had left, to meet his brother, Rowland. We traced him to the place, to him to rejoin us in playing at Easy-going Hotel.

When we got to the hotel, we met some Cameroonian boys who had a resident band there. So we were playing our own type of music, which was different from theirs. When we played with them a little, I would bring in my own compositions and play them for some time. Then we had to go and look for Kabaka who was in Surulere, with his relations. It was Goddy Nwaniwu who told us that he saw Kabaka at Surulere. We gave him little money to go to Surulere and get us Kabaka because he did not know where we were. Nwaniwu went to him, gave him transport fare and brought him to us in Ikeja. We played with him that night after which he said he was going back to Surulere. He wanted to go back to the East, but I pleaded with him to exercise a little patience. Along that line, I began to search for where we could do some recordings, since we had gotten some tracks. I mounted search for recording companies.

I went to EMI, Philips and other companies. Unfortunately, at each of them, they would tell us that our music was not good enough. In fact, at EMI, the late Sunny Okusons told us that “the vocalist is just shouting”. The White man there wanted to sign us on, but Okosuns blocked it.

Was Okosuns working at EMI then?
Yes. I asked him why he was doing that to us. So when we finished the audio recording, the White man told us that Okosuns said the shouting was too much in our music. That was our first number, ‘Ihechi Nyerem’, where the vocalist was saying, “ah eh…ihe chinyere m onye a nana m”. He said he was shouting too much. That was all. So from there, we went to Decca West Africa recording company.

On getting to Decca, a certain Yoruba man there resisted. Then Victor Nwogwugwu gave me a paper, asking me to go to the studio. Nwogwugwu is the person who made it possible for us to survive.

Who was he?
That time he was the receptionist at Afrodisia (Decca). He later got to the level of artiste manager, even before we broke up with Afrodisia due to money issues and all that. And why we were quarrelling, which later led to our being dissolved, was because of Ebenezer Obey, who saw that Oriental Brothers had started defeating them. But we will come to that.

Nwogwugwu gave me a letter, directing me to go and see John Okwechime. That time Afrodisia was peopled mainly by White men. The director was one Mr. Chris. So I went to the studio and enquired about Okwechime. They said he was the artiste manager. I gave him the letter from Nwogwugwu. He said okay. Then, we had not chosen a name for the band. It was after we finished recording that I wrote the name, Oriental Brothers.

He asked me how many numbers we had then, and I told him that we had several numbers, that if we are allowed to come for auditioning, he would listen to the songs and decide on which and which to be recorded. He then asked me to bring some money for fuelling their car to come to our hotel. He promised to help us, maintaining that left for the Yoruba there, they would continue saying that our music is not good enough for recording. He emphasised that as far as we are Igbo, he would want our songs to be recorded.

On the appointed day of their visit, Okwechime came with some of his co-staff. Before they came, I had told my boys to be ready for the auditioning which the visitors were coming to carry out on us. We had to look for money for that event. I met a friend, Ossai Igwe. Whenever you hear our songs, we continued praising Ossai Igwe because each time we were in need, we used to run to him to bail us out with funds. So that time, Ossai Igwe gave us N20 or so. We used it to buy some drinks and fried meat for the visitors. We also bought black ‘Polo’ T-shirts, which we wore as uniform, so that we could look organised. If people came and saw that we were not packaged, they would conclude that we were not composed. So I went to the market and bought the T-shirts which we wore on that day.

The Cameroonians in that hotel began to question what we were doing. I explained to them that we were expecting visitors who want to listen to our brand of music. So they gave us some permission. When the visitors came, we played first, second, third numbers etc. ‘Ihe chinyere m, onye a nana m’, ‘Taxi driver’, all those numbers. We also played ‘Ihe oma’. Then they picked ‘Ihe chinyere m’ only and said they wanted to give it a trial, to see if we could be admitted into Afrodisia. So we finished and had some drinks with them. Two or three days later, we got a message that we should come to their studio for recording.

On that day, we went for the recording. Then there was no guitarist. It was only Kabaka and I. So I handled the bass, and he played the lead. After playing the bass, I dubbed solo. So that was how we did the recording. Our recording style could be, one person can play the conga and also fill the maracas, to make sure that the music is a solid one.

After the recording, I chose the name, Oriental Brothers, naming the band after three brothers from the East.

So the band was based in Lagos?
Yes, we were based at Ikeja. That was our original base. That time people used to refer to us as “umu Ikeja” (Ikeja boys). At the time we released our first songs, people thought we were Biafrans who ran away from home to Cameroon. The type of music we played was different. When we finished that recording, Kabaka told me he wanted to go, because I put his name as band leader, that I wanted to use his name to make some claims (from the recording company). Then we didn’t know about 419 (obtaining by trick).

But did his name feature then as the band leader?
Yes, I did not regard that as anything. I was the founder. He was a run away. Something led to our putting his name. After our second or third recording, Kabaka decided he would leave the band.

What reasons did he give?
He said it’s my band, that he wanted to form his own band. I told him that it was not my band as such, that I used his name as the band leader. He said yes, that I duped him; for that reason, he would go and form his own. That was how he left. Along the line, after some years, the band started to split. So I decided not to continue with some other boys, those of them who didn’t want to remain. They left and we continued playing till today. We have lost Warrior and Ichita.

But you and Warrior were very close and you continued even after Kabaka left?
Yes.

So what caused your separation with Warrior?
Nothing, he suddenly said he wanted to leave the band. I didn’t know because he didn’t tell anybody. We used to have one promoter, (owner of) Black Power Organisation, at Aba. He is now late. These were the people who planned to bring this Oriental Brothers down. The man booked that we were to play some shows at Benin, Sapele, Warri and then Onitsha. Benin show was to be on a Thursday, Sapele on Friday, Warri on Saturday and Sunday Jump in Onitsha. They came here and did the bookings. I didn’t know they were planning a coup. The man said his boys would go and distribute or paste posters for each of the shows. So on Thursday morning, Ogwi and the others came here. They went into the store and packed all the instruments. The driver asked for the key to the bus and I gave it to him.

They loaded all the instruments and moved. I hoped they left for Benin. Around noon, I moved. I got to Benin and did not see anybody. At the hotel, I was told that no band was booked to play there. They said there was no arrangement. I became afraid. I then moved to Sapele. It was the same story. Then I knew that the situation was bad. I slept at Warri and in the morning I left and got to Papa Uwa, FESTAC Hotel, Onitsha; that was where we were to play. Papa Uwa confirmed that there was nothing like that. Meanwhile, the whole boys who were living in my house had come back.

Warrior became greedy and conspired with some people to destroy this band. He wanted to form his own band. They carried the bus and everything to his house. I came here and enquired. They said that Warrior and the driver were quarrelling, so I went to Warrior and he said that in fact that driver was insulting him too much. I told him to allow me carry the bus and instruments back to my house, and he said no; it would not be done so, that we should call Afrodisia to come and share the instruments among us. I asked him, which instruments are we sharing? Is it these ones?

Why? He said he had become tired of playing with Oriental Brothers, that he wanted to form his own band. I said, on what ground? I told him he was free to form his own band, but he cannot tamper with the instruments. He refused, so we I reported the matter to Afrodisia and they told him to return the instruments. The instruments were for Oriental Brothers. If you form your own (band), you can now get new set of instruments. He said he’s a member of the Oriental Brothers, but they told him the band was registered in my name.

Despite all the persuasions, Warrior refused to release those instruments. The day Afrodisia came to retrieve the instruments from him, he came out with two speakers, but they told him that those were not the instruments. I looked at the whole thing. I did not want any fighting or war with him, so I let him be. He went away with the instruments and the bus (a mini luxury bus).

Afrodisia said if that’s the case, we would issue you a new set of instruments. So they issued me new set of instruments and also issued him with another set of new instruments and asked him to return those old instruments to their office, so they could register him on new label as ‘Dr. Sir. Warrior’ – that is his own band. But Oriental Brothers still remains Oriental Brothers.

So that was how the whole issue was resolved. They said I should leave him, if he wanted to be on his own. I didn’t know that was how that boy (Warrior) was. There was nothing between Warrior and I.

So Afrodisia provided you the instruments you were using?
Yes, but we were paying for them. It was on royalties. They used to take the money from what they were paying as royalties.

Was that the reason, even when you were separated, you still came together to release album?
No. The reason is that when we separated, his music was selling well, yes. And my own music was also selling well, but his way of playing was no longer Oriental Brothers’ style. If you listen to Warrior’s music, it is not the same with Oriental Brothers music. The style of my music is different from his. But they wanted to get us back as one group playing that particular Oriental Brothers’ music. They tried, but what they promised us, they did not do. I left Afrodisia when I saw that they were not able to retrieve those instruments from Warrior. I stayed on my own, especially when I had stroke, which I suffered for five years. That ailment resulted in my no longer playing guitar; I now sing.

After, Afrodisia decided to use that name as its own. It was recording our songs without paying us. We discovered that and I went to court against them. I later defeated them and they folded up and ran away. At the court, they claimed that Oriental Brothers was theirs, but I proved to them that it’s mine.

What informed some of your lyrics, like ‘Iheoma’, ‘Ihe chi nyere m’ and ‘ebele onye uwa’?
There were some numbers I composed and gave to John Ikediala and they were released, but he recorded them and collected the money for himself. So the message behind Ihe chi nyere m, onye a nana m is that nobody should snatch what God has given me (or someone else). Secondly, you know that this music comes through inspiration. In those days, we used to buy cassettes because you could be in the bathroom and the message (inspiration) then comes. When it happens that way, you could record it because if you don’t record it, it could vanish.

Ebele onye uwa was a premonition of the split of Oriental Brothers. I didn’t know that it would happen that way shortly after that song was released. That song explained how some people ganged up to cause the final split of the band. There were people who were not happy with the progress the band was recording in the music industry.

What about ‘Obi nwanne’?
‘Obi nwanne’ was something we formed during the regime of Governor Sam Mbakwe (of blessed memory). We advised him to govern with brotherly love. That was how the message came. It is not what we can explain in full now.

Your second album after you split from Warrior, ‘Eji apa onye ri ndu apa’, was a hit. What was the message?
He said “Para m a para” (which means to carry someone who could not walk on his own). So I told him that a person who said he should be so carried, it will be done according to his wish because already he had wished to be carried. So I called on the kinsmen to come together to go and carry the person who so wished.

What about ‘Osa enwe(ghi) akwu, uze enwe(ghi) akwu’?
That is about Nwaiwu and Nwanyanwu. It happened in this village. The families are still there. There was a farm here, after Florence Mgbemena compound, by the right. The two people were quarrelling over ownership of the piece of land. They fought and had machete cuts. I was one of those who rushed the wounded to the hospital in Emekuku. When the matter was investigated, it was discovered that neither Nwaniwu nor Nwanyanwu owned the land. The real owner of the land was late, but those two persons almost killed themselves over the land.

What of ‘Iheoma’?
‘Iheoma’ was about Udoji award of 1975. The federal government offered workers what was known as ‘udoji’. Some people got so much money and bought motorcycles or cars. Nothing was given to us musicians then. So we came out with that number, asking them why they didn’t remember us. It is like what we are still saying; nobody gave Oriental Brothers anything despite our contributions to happiness of the people and growth of the music industry. The government does not remember that we contributed to the making of Imo State. They have continued to enjoy the wealth of state without remembering us. That was how they enjoyed ‘udoji’ without extending anything to us. There is no human being who hates good things. When they took everything without giving us anything, Kabaka asked me, where is your own motorcycle since everybody had bought motorcycle? I replied: I do not have any motorcycle. -https://www.thenicheng.com/


Dike Ogu
Elu rie, ala erie!!!  Asi m elu rie , ala erie..... I say ''may the sky / cloud eat and let the land eat also" It is the literal meaning. In reality, it means "may everyone get any equal share"

Label: Decca – 278.192, Afrodisia – DWAPS 2057
Format: Digital, Vinyl, LP
Country: France
Released: 1978
Style: Highlife, Merengue

A Ibezim Ako 18:29
B Elu Rie Ala Rie 18:25

Companies, etc.
Record Company – Decca (West Africa) Limited

Credits
Written-By – Worrior (tracks: B), Dansatch (tracks: A)

Notes
Ibezim Ako is marked as High Life
Elu Rie Ala Rie is marked as Merengue

See also
''Whatever record with the Oriental Brothers together or seperate is worth listening to.'' -Moos