Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe
Stephen Osadebe arrived on the Nigerian music scene in 1958 as the spry vocalist of Steven Amechi’s Empire Rhythm Skies Orchestra. With his dapper suits, urbane delivery and jaunty, calypso-scented dance tunes, he personified the frisky spirit and anxious aspirations of a generation coming of age in the wake of the Second World War, in a Nigeria rapidly shaking off British colonisation.
Osadebe would ride this acclaim throughout the sixties, but as Nigeria emerged from a devastating civil war, so did a new generation inspired by the more confrontational sounds of rock and funk. All of the sudden, the the post-war idioms seemed quaintly nostalgic.
Osadebe’s response? He cooled it right down.
Osadebe slowed his music to a mellow, meditative tempo. He brought forward the lumbering, Afro Cuban-accented bass and percussion, and from the rockers he borrowed searing lead lines on electric guitar. On top, Osadebe often doesn’t so much sing as muse, coo and sigh his dreamy aphorisms, words of wisdom and inspiration. “When one listens to my music, all I say appears meaningful. At times they are in the form of proverbs which provoke much thought afterwards.” The result is a blend both rollicking and languidly restorative. Osadebe christened the style Oyolima—a tranquil, otherworldly state of total relaxation and pleasure.
Osondi Owendi — ‘to each his own’ — is oyolima at its finest, and the bees’ knees of Nigerian highlife.