Amobi Richard Onyenze, aka Onyenze, has a musical heritage that is hard to deny. Although people assume that the Ogidi-born highlife musician was a direct son of the late highlife legend Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe,
Onyenze is actually his nephew. Yet “Commander” Osadebe raised the young Onyenze as his own son, and
allowed him to spend lots of time with him and other inspirational musicians during rehearsals.
Born in 1978 in Anambra, Onyenze studied physical and health education at the University of Nigeria, and didn’t start playing music professionally until 1999. That year, he released the album Ndidi Amaka (Patience Is Good). The album, a modern take on philosophical highlife thought, found its way to Amaco Music and was released in March 2000.
The success of Ndidi Amaka brought the release of Ego Oyibo in 2002, which told the story of a man who becomes a mortuary attendant and dies mysteriously while in pursuit of material success. The following year, Onyenze came out with Ogo Obu Njo, which gave an account of the atrocities that people commit around Christmas time, just to have enough money during the holiday season. Italo was released in 2004. In it, Onyenze emphasized the importance of unit of a town or among brothers; especially those dwelling both at home and abroad. “I like to tell stories” says Onyenze,
“especially if they are based on true life, as well as folk tales. Ukwa Mu Adago, released in 2005, featured the melodious hit “Ife Ndi N’Eli Ka Ndi N’Aso“ (One Man’s Food Is Another Man’s Poison).”
After so much initial success, he retired to the drawing board to take new musical approaches. This proved to be the best thing to happen to him, as the release of Ndi No N’Ofe in 2007 has remained a hometown favorite. Then in 2008, Onyenze paid tribute to the death of his dear uncle the only way he knew how. He released Farewell to honor Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe, which won the Best Highlife Video award and marked Onyenze’s first English language song, “Patience is Golden.”
Since the release of Farewell, Onyenze’s creativity seems to be set to overdrive. Livin Dey Highlife was recorded in early 2009, and is Onyenze’s first international digital release. With it, he hopes to spread his highlife sound to the vast Nigerian and Igbo diaspora, but also to highlife fans and novices alike throughout the world.
released October 29, 2009
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