By Osa Amadi
It did never occur to me that I could compose a song until 1983. Some of my friends and I used to go to our village playground at night and lie down under the moonlight in those days.
Sebastian Nkwocha (we call him Sebe) would bring his improvised guitar and play for us a number of songs he composed. “If this guy I know very well could compose these songs, why can’t I?” I asked myself. That was how I started writing down some of my strongest feelings and began to set them to music. The first song I composed was titled Cruel Poverty.
So it was from Sebastian that I got the encouragement to start composing songs. Five years later, around January 10, 1988, the same Sebastian gave me the best book I have ever read in my entire life: The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale. The Power of Positive Thinking transformed my life in a most fundamental way, and later brought me to Christ.
Later, I became friends with Charlie, a highly ingenious boy from my village. We improvised guitars and drum sets with pieces of woods and strings from motorcycle clutch cables. Charlie taught himself to play the locally made guitars while I composed and sang the songs.
People used to gather in those days to listen to Charlie and me perform with the improvised instruments. I still remember all the songs I composed – We gonna re-unite Africa, Seaside Farmers, etc. By 1986 all those who were listening to us became convinced that we were ready to record the songs in a recording studio.
That year I took money from my mother and went to Charley Boy Oputa’s recording studio at Oguta, Imo State and booked for a recording session. On the day of recording, Charlie my guitarist friend refused to follow me to Oguta. I was both devastated and bewildered. I did everything to convince him to follow me to Oguta but he refused. I left to Oguta alone in the hope that I would find at Charley Boy’s studio a guitarist who could accompany the songs.
After I explained to Charley Oputa what happened between me and my guitarist he gave me a guitarist. But the chords the guitarist was using to accompany the songs I sang were several planets apart from what my friend, Charlie, used to play for me in the village. So, I gave up and returned home. All the money I had extorted from my mother to book the studio was gone.
It was failure. I became depressed. Within this period another intense longing I had suppressed and suspended for some years – university education – began to rise to the surface. In good time, there came to exist in me a conflict between music and university education.
One day a thought flashed through my mind: study music in the university. The thought helped by resolving the internal conflict. The prospect of a marriage between music and university education in my life was a perfect resolution. But still, problems remained. I did not offer music as a subject and I had no O’ Level qualification for it.
Later I learned that the Music Department of OAU Ile-Ife waved music as a subject for applicants for admission so long as the candidate could pass the subject (music) in the Joint Matriculation Exam. I saw an opening, an opportunity, and immediately, my entire life became focused on studying music at O.A.U Ife. Ife was also my father’s Alma Mater. My father had studied law there from 1963 when I was born. With me, going to Ife to study music became an obsession.
I was determined to pay any price to study music at OAU. I saw three hurdles: Getting the O’ Level requirements for admission into the university (I did not have up to five O’ Level credits). Two: Grabbing enough theory of music knowledge to enable me pass it in JME. Three: My father – how will I convince my father to let me study music? He had it in mind, I found much later, that I was going to study law and take over his chambers. In fact, my education was geared towards law.