…The secrets he shared with me before he died
Since legendary highlife singer, Chief Oliver Sunday Akanite popularly known as Oliver De Coque who bestrode the Nigerian music scene like a colossus for more than three decades died about nine years ago, nothing much have been heard of his ogene music. But with the recent switch to highlife music, by his son, Darlington Akanite, Oliver’s ogene music will dominate the air space again.
Fondly called Safein De’ Coque by his fans, Darlington, who was initially a hip hop singer recently switched to highlife music just to revive his late father’s music. This sudden movement, according to the bearded singer, is inspired by the insistence of his teeming fans who have severally advised him to return to his roots.
“I have been in the music industry for many years now, doing hip hop. But recently , I switched to highlife music following the reactions I get from fans. Whenever I’m performing on stage, fans would applaud me but some of them would call me by the side and tell me that even though they like my music, I should not allow my father’s ogene music to die,” Safein said, in a chat with Sidebeat.
According to him, “since then, I have been trying to ally myself with highlife.”
For Darlington, playing his late father’s kind of music gives him peace of mind. He has been in the music industry for many years now. Even though he has no album to his credit, he has, however, done a couple of songs with the like of rapper Phyno, Flavour among others. He also has some songs online.
He continued, “ Right now, I’m beginning to focus on highlife music. I’m playing my dad’s kind of music because it brings that peace of mind to me. That’s why I decided to follow the footsteps of my late dad.”
On whether his late dad prepared him to take after him in music, the hip hop turned highlife music singer said, he cut his teeth as a singer while growing up. But his dad officially introduced him into music when he was 20 years. “While I was growing up, I was writing my own songs and I never told my dad. The day he got to know that I have passion for music was when he was performing in Ibadan. While on stage, he spotted me in the midst of his band members. He was surprised as he said to me , I should have told me that I have passion for music. Since that day, he started taking me along whenever he was going for shows,”Darlington narrated.
Talking about his relationship with his late father, Darlington said, he never knew his mother as a child, a sad experience that brought him closer to his dad. Narrating further, the rising highlife singer said that his late dad believed in him so much that each time he was writing a song, he would want him to comment on the song. “He used to write his songs in three stages. After the second stage, he would ask me to comment on the song. Sometimes, I would tell him that I was too young to assess his song. That he was the famous Oliver De Coque and he should be the one telling himself the truth. But he would insist that nobody is a custodian of knowledge,” he added.
Darlington expressed his preparedness to step into his late dad’ big shoes. Though he doubts the possibility of any member of their family surpassing the legacy the king of Ogene music left behind.
He said, “We can only try to keep his memories alive. My dad really worked hard to distinguished himself in the highlife music genre. I had stories of how he used to carry his musical instruments on his head whenever he was going for shows. Then there was no buses to convey the instruments to the show venue. Despite all the frustrations, he did not give up on his dream.”
Recalling how the legendary highlife singer gave up the ghost at Jollad hospital, Gbagada, Lagos, Darlington said, his dad passed away shortly after sharing some secrets he wouldn’t wan to reveal now with him. “Before he passed away, he shared some secrets with me which I wouldn’t want to reveal for now. So, the shock wasn’t really that much. When the news of his demise was broke to me, I only muted, Dad why! Thereafter, I closed his eyes, mouth, and later kissed his forehead,”Safein recounted. Oliver, who hail from Ezinifite, Nnewi South Local Government Area of Anambra State died on June 28, 2008, in Lagos. Nile his death, he had 73 albums to his credit, including hits like Otimkpu, People’s Club of Nigeria, and Mbiri Ka Mbiri among others. With his band, Ogene Super Sound of Africa, Oliver, blended modern and traditional Igbo music to form a unique mix of highlife sound. Apart from Darlington, two sons of Oliver De Coque, Oliver Sunday Akanite (Jnr.) and Chinedu Akanite, are also professional musicians. Popularly known as ‘Solar De Coque’ and ‘Edu De Coque’ respectively, they have stepped into the shoes of their father by playing the same Ogene music and keeping intact the band he left behind.