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Understanding the Idonije phenomenon at 80th birthday celebration

Benson Idonije

Benson Idonije

The Benson Idonije @80 Committee has lined up a series of events to mark the quintessential music critic and writer. Schedule to hold from Thursday, June 16 through 18 in three venues – Lagos State University, Ojo (LASU), MUSON Centre and Freedom Park – the events will kick off with a workshop with LASU Music students. Time is 11am. It will be coordinated by Mr. Biodun Adebiyi.

On the same day, there will also be tributes/colloquium session, with the theme, ‘Essential Benson Idonije’ at Agip Hall, MUSON Centre, Onikan. Time is 4pm. Dr. Christopher Kolade will chair the event while the lead speakers are Sir Victor Johnson and Mr. Kevin Ejiofor. Other speakers include Mr. Ron Mgbatogu, Mr. Tunde Adeniji, Dr. Dan Agbi, Chief Tunde Aiyegbusi, Chief Dele Ajakaiye, Mr. Tomprai Abarowei, Odion Iruoje, Osaze Iyamu among others.

Idonije’s three books will be presented also at MUSON Centre by Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi, and reviewed by Dr. Reuben Abati and Layiwola Adeniji. Time is 6pm. The books to be presented are Dis Fela Sef, The Great Highlife Party and All That Jazz. The screening of ‘The Essential Benson Idonije’ documentary is at 7pm in the same venue.

To wrap up the evening, there will be a concert at Freedom Park by 8pm, facilitated by First Marketing Services Limited, featuring a mixed grill of sound.

On Friday, June 17, there will be a conversation and keynote address by Prof. John Collins at 4pm, with theme ‘Highlife – The Evergreen: Looking Back, Looking Ahead.’ The panel discussants include, Odion Iruojo, Femi Esho, Ray Mike Nwachukwu, among others.

Saturday, June 18 will see a town hall meeting-and interactive session with COSON members at Freedom Park, with the theme ‘All That Jazz: The Standards, the Cross-Overs, The Trans-forma-ion.’ Time is 11am. There will be another conversation by 4pm, just to mention a few of the programmes for that day. A concert follows at 7pm at Freedom park.

On Sunday, June 19, activities to celebrate the music critic will wrap up at Freedom Park by 4pm, with a conversation on ‘Music Forward: Deconstructing. Reconstructing.’ Keynote speaker is Mr. Ayeni Adekunle and will be chaired by Mr. Laolu Akintobi. ‘A Toast to Grandad’ is the theme of a concert at 8pm same day featuring Idonije’s grandson, Burna Boy and Friends.

Born in 1936 in Otuo, Owan East Local Government area of Edo State, where he also started elementary school, Benson Idonije studied Communications Engineering at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, after his Cambridge School Certificate at Holy Trinity Grammar School, Sabongida Ora. He joined the service of the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (later Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN) in 1957 as Engineering Assistant but moved to mainstream broadcasting in 1960 when, among other roles, he became a producer and presenter of such famous programmes as The Big Beat and Stereo Jazz Club, eventually participating in setting up and pioneering Radio Nigeria 2 (now Metro FM) in 1977.

The high point of his career in broadcasting was his transfer to FRCN Training School where, for eight years, he became Principal Lecturer and Chief Training Officer, Programme Production — from 1984 to 1992 — when he retired.

After retirement, Benjay, as he is fondly called, contributed critiques, opinions, and commentaries to many major arts-related journals in Nigeria and abroad. In 1996, he was formally invited by The Guardian (Nigeria) to write for the newspaper; and he maintained three columns every week – Evergreen (Wednesdays), Sound and Screen (Fridays) and All That Jazz (Sundays).He is perhaps the only columnist in any Nigerian newspaper with such frequency and resourcefulness.

The well-researched columns are individually widely acclaimed, attracting feedback(s) – mostly commendations — from all over the world. The hundreds of articles have been collated into volumes for publication.

A   2012 recipient of the Life Time Award for Journalism Excellence from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, Benjay is also a Fellow of Adam Fiberesima School of Music and Conservatory, University of Port Harcourt.

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