By Femi Okafor

Almost 43 year ago, a group of lbuzo men and women came together to form a dancing group with the primary goal of taking lbuzo cultural music to another level.  Prior to this time, lbuzo musical entertainment was restricted mostly to live performances at ceremonial occasions.  That resolve saw the production of the very first long playing album by any lbuzo group in history with the title of “Kalamakalama”.

It was at lfor, Ogun State sometime in November 1975 that l first heard, listened and joyfully gyrated to the scintillating lyrics and beats of this song where l went with my bosom friend, Mr. J. I. M. Okonji, the crime buster, for the traditional marriage ceremony of his then fiancée. The group, Otu Ofuobi, later went on to release several chart busting LPs that are still a pleasure to listen to till date.

The production of this album attracted me and l sought and joined the Group in 1980 after they came to perform, at my request, in Benin City during the naming ceremony of one of my children. Today, almost 43 years of coming together by these members of the pacesetting traditional and cultural group to life, majority of the founding members have since transited to the great beyond.

It is with heavy heart but with great sense of pride that l reminisce the following great artistes, sons and daughters of lbuzo being the founding members of the cultural group. Like many other Ibuzo culture enthusiasts, I praise their sacrifices towards promoting and preserving our cultural heritage by their efforts through hard-work, efforts. I praise too their originality of rendition of our cultural songs before our traditional music before today’s adulteration or improvement, depending on your perception. However, I leave that to your individual personal opinions.

Founding members of the group, many of whom have joined their makers include:

Mr. Emmanuel Oraegbu.  – Patron (still alive)
Madam Christians Uti.- Matron (Late)
Mr. Okwute Nwanaja – lead vocal (late)
Obi Nwadishi – Akpele or native flutist (Late)
Mr. Ebisi – AKA Usi dokpu nti  (GROUP Leader) Agogo (Late)

Mr. Joe – Akaeze AKA Brigadier and Chief of Staff (Ekwe) Late
Madam Anuchi Mafua- nee Ajudua, my “mother” and defender – chorus singer (late)
Mr. Osoke Okonji – late, lead choreographer
Mr. Okise – late, Ubome (big gong)
Mr.Ezendo – late, vocal and Maracas (lsaka)
Obi ldayi – late, vocal, maracas,
Mr. Asiodu -Maracas
The two brothers,  Okwuose Jnr. – late, Lead vocals and maracas,
Mr. Okwuose Snr. – late, Chorus and Maracas
Mr. Nwanze Odu – late, Ubome nta (mid size gong)
Mr. Okonta – late, Chorus and maracas
Mr. Okonkwor Nwan nmili – still living, vocals and Marscas
Mr. Emma. Okobi – late, Maracas
Mr. Andrew Obikekwu Okonji Mpi – still living, small gong
Mr. Joe Nkpulu – still alive, Technical director and Maracas
Dr. Osakwe – member (Late)

Several years later, the following members joined the group.

Mr. Mosindi – alive, lead vocals
Mr. Okotie – still living, Member
Mr. Sonny Owondi – member still alive
Ms Omebe – ( l think still alive) Choreographer,
Ms. Ngozi Morgan, choreographer – late, and my humble self -still kicking, maracas, choreographer, and a host of others whose names l cannot remember right now.

This effort today, is my own little way of remembering and immortalizing in our hearts, these our great pioneer indigenous musical talents, who first show cased lbuzo traditional music to the outside world. They were amongst our very first cultural ambassadors, our illustrious sons and daughters who pioneered the export of lbuzo music in Long Playing records to the whole country and to those in diaspora.

Though they have passed on to the great beyond, the legacy they bequeathed to the rest of us remains ever green in our hearts. While alive, their live performances at all-time helped many us to release tensions while we listen and or dance to the meaningful lyrics from the soothing sonorous voices of the vocalists, the evenly arranged local instruments expertly put together to produce an electrifying  effect on both the listeners and the dancers.  Even in death, these great men and women continued to thrill us through the works they left behind.

Femi Okafor, a Social Crusader from Ibusa writes from USA

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