In his over forty years musical career, Chief Dr. Oladipupo Owoh, popularly called Orlando Owoh has without doubt proved to be one of the greatest musicians that have come out of Nigeria. The life and times of this uncelebrated musical icon clearly reveals that to this genius known as Orlando, the whole world appears to be his musical stage and he gains inspiration from everything happening in his society.
Like other legends he carefully crafted his own genre of African Highlife music to what is today referred to as the Palm Wine Highlife which is anchored on a very strong lead and base guitar rhythm. To many of his fans especially from the Ondo/Akure and Ekiti axis, Orlando appears to be a legend. Orlando did not play music for money, but played music because saw music as his calling in life and loved what he did, perhaps this is why he hasn’t very much to show for a musical career of over forty years. Notwithstanding, he never missed the opportunity to tantalise his fans with his ever green tunes and popular tracks such as Ajanaku Daraba, Lai Ku Egiri, Oluwa la’la Baromi, What can you tell me? /Yello Sisi Siddon Na Corner Pushy Hand Na Jaw, Aunty dey shame, Ganja 1 &2, Bori Ba Joba Lola, Kangaroo, Have you been to the State Before?, Logba Logba, Jealousy Jealousy, Ifon Omimah Ni Mo Tiwa, Iyawo Olele amongst others.
Orlando was one of many musicians whose life experienced a missed bag of ups and downs, as he faced several ordeals and trials that even saw him going into one of the most notorious prisons in Nigeria, Alagbon. Nevertheless, he did not allow any of these ordeals distract him for following his God-given purpose. Many people even laughed at his husky voice, but he transformed that to his own identity and brand, calling naming his band the African “Kenneries”. He came out stronger from every ordeal he faced and they even inspired most of his albums and compositions such as Experience, Have You Been to the State Before, Kalakuta Republic at Alagbon, Jealousy and Ibaje Eniyan Ko Da’se Oluwa Duro, Economic Saboteurs amongst others.
Than every other musician in the history of Nigeria (apart from Fela), Orlando’s music has contributed immensely to the socio-economic development of Nigeria. He was a social critic and used his songs to decry the ills of our society such as life and corruption in prison, composing lyrics such as Innocenty Plenty oo for Alagbon, Dem go molest you taya, and Long long protocol L’Alagbon. He sang about how morals no longer exists in the society, how the love of money and lies now rule over the truth and how he economy have deteriorated in his tunes such as Aso Otito Aiye, E get as e be, It is not Easy, Eku Iroju Omo Nigeria, Not in Our Character (Iwa Wa Ko), Nigeria Aanu Semi, Hunger and many others.
His songs also contributed to the political development of Nigeria and sang songs like Na Democracy we Want, Operation Feed Nation, I Say No to Military; with lyrics like “Babangida Chop Nigeria Taya Before he Go”, shedding more light on the need for democracy, human right and good governance. He also added his voice to the international call for the release of Nelson Mandela and stopping the Apartheid regime in South Africa, in his album Apartheid.
Orlando’s songs were made of proverbs and words of wisdom aimed at inculcating moral values in the society. He sang about patience in Logba Logba, hardwork in Ise Logun Ise; the “Tongue” and how it could be used for either blessing or cursing purposes in the track Oni La M’Oba.
Dr. Owoh was a strong believer in the oneness and unity of the Nigerian state, and encouraged Nigerians to have hope. This he expressed in his tunes like Nigeria a Dara, Omo Nigeria Ka So Wopo, Ajo Ma Lowo, Ka Jumo Se and Ire Loni amongst others.
Orlando loved his mother and the female folks in general and displayed this love in many of his tracks such as Ero Ki Yeye Mi, Ko S’Olobe Bi Iya Mi, Mama Mi Ma Fi Mi F’Oko and Ko Se Mani L’Obirin, Omo Pupa, Salewa Ye Ye Ye amongst others.
Chief Owoh was one musicians who always seized every opportunity to pay obeisance to constituted authorities such as the Royal Fathers and he rolled out several tunes for the likes of Oba Sijuade the Ooni of Ife, Oba Oyekan of Lagos, Olisa of Idanre, Orogun Ile-Ila, Oba Ojopagbogbo the Alara of Ilara and others. Orlando’s band was the favourite band of many clubs and associations such as the Ifon Social Club, Owo Socialite Club of London Ope Fund, Egbe West African Friendship Association and Agbayewa Commercial Academy to mention a few.
A careful study of his music reveals that Orlando was a Christian and he used some of his tunes to evangelize and tell biblical stories such as Cain Ati Abel, Oti D’Opin, King Nebuchadnezzar, King Solomon, Jonah, Mo Duro Le Christi Apata, Noah, Lord Speak- Your Servant Heareth, Angeli Ti Ko’rukomi Soke, Singing Hallelujah and Ewa Gba Jesu amongst others.
Orlando was one man who loved and cherished his relatives and friends, as he eulogises them in several tunes such as Omiye La La, Shanu-Olu, Adebayo Success, Koledola (alias father of the nation), Fola-Sabela Motors, Professor Oyewole and Apata amongst others.
Orlando also contributed his own quota to remembering Nigeria’s fallen heroes, icons, musical collegues and friends such as the Late Obafemi Awolowo, Late Gen. Murtala Mohammed, Late Pa Ajasin, Late Dele Giwa, Late Fela, Late Samuel Oparaji, Late Gbenga Adeboye (Fun Won Tan), Late Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson, Late Crosdale Juba, Late Gabriel Jejeniwa, Late Chief Ogunyolaka Ademulegun, Late Madam Felicia and Late madam Martha Folawewo amongst others.
Orlando’s music also cut across tribal inclinations and his songs such as Ala La Natu Ba and Zo Muje Onitsha thrilled the other tribes when they were released. Orlando’s style and music also got international recognition and he was given an honorary doctoral degree in the UK.
Today Orlando has created several disciples of his music and the likes of Adewesco in Akure and his son to mention only two plays his style of music. Even most of the songs of the ever popular Yinka Ayefele are entrenched in Orlando’s Palm Wine Highlife music.
What else can we request for this legendary musical genius? His critics seem to be very short sighted, failing to be progressive by not looking at his immense contribution to the society at large. They only consider his love for his local herb or Ganja, criticising him for that and forgetting that we all have our own idiosyncrasies, which is not uncommon to most icons and all humans as a sign of our mortality. At least he wasn’t hypocritical and he sang publicly about his love for Ganja. If only his critics understood that everybody has a role to play towards the development of our society, not only our leaders in Abuja. Gone are the days when musicians were seen as ragamuffins, riffraffs and dregs of the society, but as a veritable tool in our development as a society, and Chief Dr. Orlando Owoh has more than delivered on his own contribution.
I must say I was personally disappointed in the organisers of the recently concluded Nigerian Music Awards for forgetting to honour this musical icon with a Life Time Achievement Award. I therefore suggest to the organisers of the Ondo State Awards to bestow Chief Dr. Orlando Owoh, not just with an ordinary award, but with a Life Time Enormous Contribution Award for what this great man and musician has achieved.
I also suggest that the Ondo State Indigenes Association should set up a team to conduct a sound documentary into the life and times of this great man and put together a comprehensive compilation of his music (as was recently done for the Late Fela Anikulapo Kuti) so that history can be documented for the generations of Ondo Indigenes, Nigerians and Africans yet unborn. This is the way the Sunshine State can be effectively branded and showcased to the world.
I heard Dr. Owoh has not been feeling too well lately, as such I also suggest that a fund be launched to raise money for his medical treatment here in the UK. This is how the western world honour and cherish their icons. I believe his lack of formal education hindered his ability to properly coordinate and manage his finances in his early days of musical wind fall.
Nevertheless, I make bold to say that as Kenny Rogers, Ray Charles and James Brown are to America, and Tom Jones, Rod Stewart and Sir Paul McCartney are to the UK, so also is our own very dear Chief Dr. Orlando Owoh is to Ondo State, Nigeria and Africa at large.