Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Celebrating Yoruba Heroes (OJ Ekemode)

Someone (and i don't know who) said a hero is by definition an ordinary person who does extraordinary things. The Yorubas of west Africa are a remarkable ethnic group whose history has been shaped by many known and unknown heroes.

Here is one of those heroes...Orlando Julius Aremu Olusanya Ekemode (OJ Ekemode)

"I started Afro Beat in 1960.....The first name of my band was The Globetrotters; we were globe trotting with our style of music. When people asked us for our kind of music, we just said it was Afro Beat because we could not start to mention all the genre of music fused. That's how Afro beat originated. It was not from Fela."

"I wrote songs over there [America] that won awards. An example is Going Back To My Roots. I wrote that song with Lamont Dozier. I was the first African to record with African American musicians in a native language. I played drums and other instruments in the music and helped him in arranging the songs.
That album won a Grammy but unfortunately, he did not live up to expectations. I was not acknowledged. I was duped! I am glad that I sang my part of the song in Yoruba. If I had done it in English, it would have been very easy for him to deny. He made it sound as if it was not the song (Back To My Roots) that won him the Grammy. A group in the UK, Odyssey, remixed the song and it was at number five on the Bill Board charts for several months. The song is one of the classics of our time."

Fondly called O.J, his real name is Orlando Julius Aremu Olusanya Ekemode. Born in Ikole-Ekiti, the indigene of Ilesha, Osun State, is the fourth child of Professor Gabriel Ekemode.
His foray into music began as a lad in primary school when he joined the Mambo Dance Band. However, his dad's sudden death the year he finished secondary school put-paid to his academic dreams. Before his career picked up, he played with the likes of J. Oyeshiku, Cotey Necoy and Julius Araba and finally took up apprenticeship with Ademola Haastrup
And today, with a career spanning over 60 years, Orlando has definitely carved a niche for himself.

In this interview with National LIFE, the multi-instrumentalist and singer opened up on how he was robbed of a Grammy Award for popular hit, Back To My Roots. He also opened up on his relationship with late Afro beat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti and reaffirmed his claim that he and not Fela founded Afro beat.

Read the full interview here

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