Chief Dr. Emeka Morocco Maduka is the present king of Highlife music in the eastern part of Nigeria. The 69 years old highlife maestro from Anambra State always exhibits his talent while on stage whenever he is performing. In an encounter with ADA DIKE, he shares how he sojourned to Highlife music and Egwu Ekpili (The Igbo griots).The recent tunes from Highlife maestro, Chief Dr. Emeka Morocco Maduka’s band in Lagos, forced guests during an official opening of a hotel to dance and appreciate Highlife music.
Popularly known as Onwa Oraifite, Maduka has spent larger part of his life on stage doing what he loves to do best - singing and dancing.
He recalled that: “I inherited music from my grandfather who in his time was a great musician just like my own son has toed the same line. I started my music career at the age of 10 while schooling at Eastern Commercial Secondary School, Aba, Abia State. I was schooling and doing music then as a hobby but went professional after the war. Celestine Ukwu, Rex Lawson, Victor Olaiya, Zeal Onyia, Roy Chicago and Evan Iware, among others were reigning when I was growing up.”
On whose music appeal to him, he replies: “Naturally, I am a music lover. You know music knows no language, what was reigning in 1962 when I was growing up was Congo music so I loved it.”
The living legend recorded his first album in 1971 entitled Agha Nigeria. His songs are mostly sung in Igbo Language and they appeal to mature minds, though many young minds now appreciate Highlife music more than before. In all, he has recorded more than 72 albums with Premier in South East and some of his songs have powerful messages including Ochuba Aku, Ubanesse, Amuru Onye N’Ego, Nke Onye Metalu, Ozogidigbam, Uwa Ekwe Nmeta, Oma Nma, Eze Udene, Olu Oma Nwelugwo and so on. His latest album titled Tribute to Ojukwu, he released after the death of late Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu on November 2, 2011, makes whoever listens to it to shed tears. In that song, he eulogised Ojukwu and gave details about the late warlord’s vision to liberate Igbo people.
He sheds light on why he sang Ochuba Aku which has lyrics like Uwa bu onye Mere ike ya Ola: “I composed it after a man named Ochuba Aku (Wealth-seeker). He retired from active as a military officer and became wretched so he went to a native doctor to do medicine to be rich. He was asked to kill a girl and took her head for ritual which he did and became rich. He later got married but had no child; he married two other women and still did not have any issue. He rushed back to the native doctor who told him he could not do anything to change the situation because that girl begged him not to kill her and asked her to take her in as his wife instead of killing her but he ignored her plea. So at the end, Ochuba Aku was childless and committed suicide.
“So I composed it to advise people not to rush to be wealthy or be too money conscious because we will all in one way or the other will leave this world.
Among the numerous songs he has released, the track that appeals to him most is Asili 1990. “When I went to play music in Abuja in 1990, there was a rumour in my village that I have died in an accident. I was not perturbed so I went on with my job and vowed to complete my tour. I later released Asili 1990 which changed my life because I made millions of Naira from that track and I built a mansion in my village.
Onyeka, 23, his last child out of four males he has is also a musician. He sings like his father and desires to release his own albums very soon, but Morocco asked him to be patient till he has retired. He advised his son not to rush to release any album because he believed that “Music is a talent given by God; you don’t force yourself to do it. When God gives you a talent, he will equip you to succeed with it. I am proud of him and dance to his music because I know that he is following my steps. So let the youth keep the flag flying.”
Does Maduka use his music to praise people or use it for mere entertainment? He was asked: “I use my music to do crusade and advise people to abhor what is evil. But there is nothing wrong in using music to praise people because it fetches us money.”
Highlife music from the 60s, 70s and 80s is still being enjoyed today, irrespective of the lifespan of its creators. After the exit of legendary Highligh musicians from the east like Oliver De Coque, Sir Warrior, Paulson Kalu, Ikenga Superstars, Celestine Ukwu and Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe, it is obvious that Maduka is the leading Highlife musician there. He buttresses this point and says: “I am the leading Highlife musician in the whole south-east.”
He is based in Awka, Anambra State, despite the fact that a lot of Highlife and hip hop stars have continued to migrate to Lagos where they believe their music would be celebrated. He said he is comfortable in the east and would not leave Awka, where he has built houses and succeeded. “I don’t know what would have happened to me if I was living in Lagos or any other part of the country but that does not stop me from going to Lagos, Abuja or outside country to perform.”
A lot of young talented musicians doing Highlife music from the east are increasing and Morocco is happy about it. But he advised them to play music that can sell itself. You don’t need to sing about a beautiful girl before your music will be celebrated.”
He does not like doing collaboration with any musician. “I want my music to remain mine. So let other musicians compose theirs. A lot of musicians have approached me to collaborate with me but I refused because my music appeals to me. A young boy whose music does not sell once approached me to remix my music in his album but I refused.”
Flavour plays Highlife music (He cuts in). “Flavour is playing hip hop. These young artistes copy our pattern, refine it and do hip hop. For example, late MC Loph sang Osita Osadebe’s music and changed the concept.
He does not believe there is any other profession he would have joined apart from music that is why he appealed to upcoming artistes to move the industry higher as he is getting tired.