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17 years after, Sir Warrior’s son speaks on his death

*His children thrill on Valentine’s Day show in Lagos

By Benjamin Njoku

Their performance that night was not only an ‘electrifying experience’ but a defining moment ‘ as authentic African rhythms exploded with precision.’

For many who have lost touch with true African rhythms, the performance provided them the rare opportunity to have a feel of it again. With their undeniable voices which rang out clearly through giant loud speakers positioned at different corners in the open- air space, the duo sang from one chorus to another, re- evoking the ghost of their late father on stage and reaffirming their readiness to sustain the legacy of the iconic highlife musician.

Amidst standing ovation from fans and revelers that were charged with excitement and enthusiasm after watching their performance last Sunday, Uche Obinna and his younger brother, Ajuzieogu Obinna, have continued to demonstrate their preparedness to immortalize their late father’s name, Christogonus Ezebuiro Obinna aka Dr (Sir) Warrior through their music.

Sir Warrior's children
Sir Warrior’s children

Having emerged from the shadow of their legendary father, who died in 1999, Uche and his brothers are stopping at nothing to tell the world that Sir Warrior lives on. Performing at Mr Fans Villa, in Ejigbo area of Lagos, last Sunday, which was St Valentine’s Day, the Obinna brothers literally brought down the spirit of the late iconic musician on stage. It was a kind of spiritual reunion between the dead and the living on stage.

The Obinna brothers are united in their resolve to immortalize the name of their late father through their music. They have continued from where their late father stopped, and they intend to surpass his accomplishments.

Uche, the eldest son of Warrior described his father as a prophet. In a chat with Showtime Celebrity shortly after their performance, the father of four, said Warrior was not just a musician but a prophet. He lamented the inability of the Imo State government to immortalize the name of a famous musician like his father.

“Dr Sir Warrior was not just a musician. He was a prophet and his music was not ordinary. Unfortunately, the Igbo people lack the culture of celebrating their own. Apart from few people who have been doing everything to immortalize my father’s name, it’s a shameful thing that up till now, nothing has been done by anybody, including the various governments of the eastern states to immortalize his name.”

“For instance, in the Yoruba race , departed musicians like Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Fatai Rolling Dollar, Modupe Arthur Alade among others are still being celebrated today by their people. But this is not so, in Igboland.”

“As I am speaking with you now, successive governments in Imo State have done absolutely nothing to immortalize my father’s name. But we are planning to immortalize him any moment from now. I am tired of reminding Imo State government that my father deserve to be immortalized as a great highlife musician who touched so many lives in the Igbo nation and beyond with his music. On our own, we are putting plans in place to immortalize him.”

Uche said, he decided to venture into music with his two brothers in order to keep the memories of the late highlife king alive. He continued, “While he lived, he never wanted us to go into music. In fact, he wanted us to go to school and acquire knowledge. It happened that when he passed away, my younger brother, Ajuzieogu and I decided to go into music in order to keep alive his memories. Since then, we have not looked back in our quest to sustain the legacies our father left behind. Music runs in our blood. Nobody taught us how to play music. The spirit of our father led us into music. Our first ever performance was at my father’s wake keep cum burial in June, 1999.”

Describing the death of his father as a big loss not only to his family and the Igbo nation but also, to the lovers of highlife music, Uche who was at 200 level at the Abia State University, Uturu, when Sir Worrior died said, they are putting plans in place to immortalize the highlife musician.

He, however, debunked the rumour that made the rounds then that the late highlife maestro died months after he was caught while dealing on drugs in the United States. It was rumoured then that some substance was injected into his blood stream thereby causing his demise after he returned to the country. Dispelling the rumour, Uche described it as “unfounded”, adding,

“We were aware of the rumour, and we thank God that after the rumour surfaced, he lived for so many years before he died. My father was a God-fearing man. He was never involved in drugs business. He was comfortable as a man, so why should he delve into drugs business?”

According to Uche, his father’s legacy was the greatest thing his children took away from the legendary musician. “His legacy was the greatest thing we took away from him. While I was growing up, he was there for me and my siblings as our father, directing our footsteps. He told us, how he suffered while he was growing up. According to him, nobody cared about him except God who saw him through in all his tribulations. He urged us to hold on to our maker, that He would never disappoint us. ”

Admitting that they can never be like their father, Uche said, they have released about six albums into the market since they ventured into music.

“Yes, we can never be like our father. We are different from him, and we cannot tell the world that we are another Dr Sir Warrior. Rather, we can say that we are following the footsteps of our late father.”

Asked whether his father made money from music, Uche replied in the affirmative, saying “Of course, my father made more than money from music.” He noted that while Sir Warrior lived, he never lacked anything as an accomplished musician.

“For him to have raised children that took after him was enough reward as a musician. He didn’t lack anything while he lived. He was at the peak of his career before death snatched him away from us. During his time, even though the industry then was not as appreciated as what it is today, he still managed to stay on top of his game. He was a genius. If he had been alive, he probably would have become one of the living legends of highlife music,” he said.

The Ultimate Dr. Sir Warrior, who died in 1999, after a brief illness was the leader of the old Oriental Brothers International Band which was famous in the Igbo highlife music scene for several decades.

The group, which was formally made up of the likes of Godwin Kabaaka Opara, Ferdinand Dansatch Emeka Opara, Nathaniel Ejiogu, Hybrilious Akwilla Alaraibe, Prince Ichita and Christogonus Ezebuiro “Warrior” Obinna before experiencing the first split in 1977 , when Dansatch Opara and Prince Ichita left to start their own bands under the name Oriental Brothers moniker. It was one of the influential highlife music groups from the south east part of the country that played a very important spiritual role in keeping many Igbos sane after the civil war experience.

Warrior later became the leader of the band after Godwin Kabaaka Opara left the group to form his band. Worrior released several hit songs. He had about 12 platinum and 10 gold hits in his career. His 1978 album Nwanne Awu Enyi went gold, selling more than 7.8 million copies. Combining Igbo vocals with deft guitar work and a superb rhythm , Warrior created a unique style of music that for many people was the defining sound of highlife music. He was described as one of the most influential musicians to come out of Igboland. Having started playing the guitar in the 1960s, Warrior reportedly had a sense of revolution, as he created a brand of highlife that identified with the core Igbo and at the same time universal in taste. He introduced the Oyorima concept, which is an Igbo word that means a refined feeling of rhythmic movement and balance. His children are now taking after him.

 


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