How civil war shape entertainment in Anioma land
With Nigeria’s civil war over, Onicha Ugbo, a serene town in Aniocha North Local Government Area, that lies along the Benin-Agbor-Asaba highway and about 37 kilometres from Asaba, Delta State capital and 27 kilometres from Agbor, experienced in 1972 a vogue social scene that enveloped the then mid-western Nigeria.
According to veteran entertainment journalist and former Entertainment Editor, Punch Newspaper, Azuka Jebose-Molokwu (aka Expensive Black), music was the social engineer to that psychedelic revolution. Psychedelic rock and funk music woke the small town from the traditional celebrations and dirges.
He noted that parents and the elderly were serenaded and entertained by traditional celebrations and ceremonies like: Ichi Nmor (joining the league of red cap wearers), Ichaka (league of native doctors), Ili Nzele (chieftaincy title taking), marriage, birth and funerals ceremonies from Ogbe to Ogbe (quarter to quarter).
“The Obi-in-council, chief priests and heads of various villages controlled the town’s social scene. It was a communal setting directed by centuries of customs, and traditions rooted in conservative principles,” he said.
“Ogwugwa’s beer joint, the town’s first mini shopping plaza located at the centre was a melting pot of social activities, particularly as the youths (male and female) throng and paraded the joint.
“Bored youths returned from evening farms and or schools and hung out at the centre to get the latest gossips and also be acquainted with the fashion trends and happenstances within the entertainment fabric of the quiet town. Rumours at the time, razed faster than harmattan breeze,” he added.
Jebose-Molokwu, further explained that the town centre provided information and served as a communal potpourri of networking, adding that people were able to gather without proof any innuendos, rumours and information, sometimes silly human errors or lifestyles, which were used for the town’s annual Ineh (New Yam) festival — Igba Abu.
“With the big yellow moon teasing and streaking brilliant lights during its seasons, everyone could see clearly through the thick forests of our villages’ paths. The insects and other nightly creatures shared the natives’ paths to nightlife and fun. The sounds of the bats, the rattling of the crickets or the rough wailings of the frogs, were cacophonies of life those days.”
Ogbele Palace Hotel
According to Jebose-Molokwu, the Ogbele Palace Hotel became the heartbeat of Onicha Ugbo’s roadmap to modern entertainment lifestyle and social scene. He noted that by 1974, Onicha Ugbo witnessed a change in its dragged nightlife.
“An indigene was in the cinema business; so he occasionally came home to show movies at Ogbele Palace hotel. I watched the American movie, King Kong at Ogbele in 1974. I had just returned from a six-year self- (or parental) exile to begin secondary education at Ebu Grammar School.
“I attended Ebu Grammar school for one year; transferred to Oraeze Grammar School (now St Pius Xth Grammar School, Onicha Ugbo) the next year. I lived with my grandmother in Ushi Oduna. We watched movies (films) every month or as our dear son of the soil privileged us.”
At the four points’ intersection that marked the centre of the town (Abu-ano) was an exciting and flashy skinny tailor name Imakala, who sewed trendy clothes for all celebrity secondary school boys and girls within what is known today as the Ika/Anioma axis.
“Imakala also a disc jockey (DJ) would power his changer record player on batteries and spin the latest vinyl and satisfied our souls. Those were the days we had Sunday jumps at Ogbele Palace hotel and the super nouveau celebrities from neighbouring towns would come to Onicha Ugbo to flex and vex.
“Sundays were jumping either at Ogbele or at private parties where we had riddles and jokes, girls/boys choice: the chance for a girl or boy to dance with a girl he/she admired,” Jebose-Molokwu explained.
For him, the schools — Oraeze Grammar School (now St Pius Xth Grammar School); Comprehensive High School, Idumuje-Ugboko; St. Anthony’s College, Ubulu-Uku; Ede Grammar School, Umunede; St. Patrick’s College, Asaba; Ezi Grammar School, Ezi; Oligbo Grammar School (now Pilgrim Baptist Grammar School), Issele-Uku; and other secondary schools had styles and class, and the students dressed to impress the girls and had funny but sensual nick (guy) names.
“Onicha Ugbo had its own ajonwas (radicals); I remember these names: Tuwo (my uncle, Peter Molokwu); Gwegide (my aunt, Ngozi), she mortgaged her beauty…don’t blame her; Last Kobo, Yankee, Moco, Action, Jaggas, Darasine, Alan Ball, Black Moses, Teo Kuti.
“We had Asimo Plastic, Last Kobo, Yankee, Pato, Jagas, Action, Chop Money Toronto, Derry Jay, and myself as Expensive Black. These were toasters and happenstances of our social scenes. Tuwo and the late Darasine were celebrated radicals, we wanted to be like them.”
Enter DeeJay Radio Papa
Somewhere in Agbor was a skinny middle-aged disc jockey, DeeJay Radio Papa, who came to the scene with a more sophisticated and thrilling equipment, flavoured with his quintessential Ika swagger. He would seduce and party all with his new music, style, lights and sophistication.
As a music store operator in Agbor, DeeJay Radio Papa through his store was able to load his play list with what was then the best and latest dance and disco music. Little wonder the social region gravitated towards him on arrival to the entertainment scene. He became and was the reigning deejay within the Ika/Aniocha Local Government Area.
Anioma mid-north area had secondary schools that shared and swayed openly, their swagger — the non-conformists. The status quo was challenged, as the young boys and girls of the time were willing and able to live by a modern day social lifestyle and their own rules. They were free spirits.
DeeJay Radio Papa found an amazing attraction within these secondary school dudes and chics, and came to them frequently, gave them what they wanted — new dance music and vibes, powered by then state-of-the-art music equipment such as Kenwood speakers and stereo powered by generator. It rendered useless Imakala’s battery powered turntables.
“He slowly became the showbiz master while Imakala settled as occasional afternoon house parties filler, especially on Sunday afternoons where groups of ‘Idumu’ boys selected a home and hosted the town slickers to an afternoon of music, riddles and jokes. We would dance hold tights with the most beautiful girls who dared to challenge the taboo culture of dancing so close with boys in daylight settings,” Jebose-Molokwu told The Guardian.
The Paparazzi — Rockwell and Willie
A young cameraman known as Rockwell along Ogbekenu village, with his camera captured the lives and moments for evasive youths. Rockwell became a part of the town’s entertainment column.
As paparazzi, Rockwell became popular as the town’s photographer for nearly 10 years until Willie joined the caravan of fun and show business capturing the best of those moments.
With disco music fast becoming contemporary and new lifestyle, Imakala was not able to stand the raves and waves of DeeJay Radio Papa. His music scene was still basking in traditional highlife and Nigeria’s popular music.
Onitsha, Port Harcourt and Lagos were music centres of Nigeria’s pop music. These metro cities stationed popular bands such as: The Funks, The Semi Colons, The Apostles of Aba, Oliver De Coque, Ikenga Superstar, Oriental Brothers, Nikko Mbaga, Osita Osadebe, Fuel For love.
Then Came DeeJay Derry Jay
Radio Papa’s dominance was interrupted by what would be described as the best-organised disc jockey business, which propped up a new deejay. A young, sassy, dark, lovely extrovert from Ogbe Obi landed the scene with a bang and made his iconic debut.
Christened Nwanne Nwawolor, he was well known by the moniker, DeeJay Derry Jay! Derry Jay was flamboyant, free spirit, flashy, and stylish. He was also very funny. He was an instant party starter; he shocked and awed all with his disc jockey equipment and lightening.
“It was the first time most of the young village celebrities danced under blinking disco lights. He lit up our lives with the best disco and reggae music of our times,” Jebose-Molokwu noted.
Derry Jay became the resident Deejay of Ogbele Palace Hotel, performing mid-week or at the weekends. He was also available for hire for other local functions such as secondary school inter-house sports, graduations, birthday parties, and funeral parties (Obitch).
His play list included the best music selections: Sylver Convention, Brass Construction, Barry White, Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, Peter Tosh, Dillinger I Roy, U Roy, Mighty Diamonds, John Holts, Ltd, Tina Charles, Bob Marley, Sonny Okosun, Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
He added style and colour to his passé. He had entourage and groupies that travelled surrounding villages, secondary schools, towns, to perform. He was everywhere the youths wanted to be.
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