The Igbo people, an ethnic group predominantly found in southeastern Nigeria, have a rich musical heritage. Throughout history, Igbo musicians have contributed significantly to the Nigerian music scene and have made a significant impact on African music as a whole. while there have been many talented Igbo musicians throughout history, it’s challenging to rank them definitively in a “top list. However, I can provide you with a list of influential Igbo musicians and a brief overview of their history.
- Oliver De Coque (1947-2008): He was a highlife musician known for his unique guitar-playing style and numerous hit songs. He infused Igbo folklore and traditional rhythms into his music.
- Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe (1936-2007): A prominent highlife musician, Osadebe’s music was characterized by his strong vocal delivery and fusion of highlife and traditional Igbo music.
- Celestine Ukwu (1940-1977): He was a talented guitarist and singer who popularized the “Òdìlẹ̀” style of highlife music. Ukwu’s music often addressed social and political issues.
- Sir Warrior (1947-1999): As the leader of the Oriental Brothers International Band, Sir Warrior was instrumental in the development of highlife music. His music focused on themes of love, societal norms, and culture.
- Chief Morocco Maduka (1930-2020): Known as the “Eze Egwu Ekpili,” Chief Morocco Maduka was a renowned highlife musician. He was known for his energetic stage performances and engaging storytelling through his music.
- Prince Nico Mbarga (1950-1997): Although born in Cameroon, Prince Nico Mbarga had Igbo roots and became famous for his international hit song “Sweet Mother.” He played a fusion of highlife and makossa music.
- Chief Emeka Morocco Maduka: A talented highlife musician, Chief Emeka Morocco Maduka has been active for several decades. He is known for his energetic performances and hits like “Onye Amuma Odumeje.”
- Bright Chimezie: Often referred to as the “Zigima King,” Bright Chimezie is a highlife musician known for his fusion of Igbo folklore, highlife, and reggae music. His songs often carry moral messages.
- Sir Warrior’s Oriental Brothers International Band: This band, led by Sir Warrior, had a significant influence on the development of highlife music. They released numerous hit songs and helped popularize the genre.
- Mike Ejeagha: An accomplished folk musician and guitarist, Mike Ejeagha gained prominence in the 1960s. His music revolved around storytelling and traditional Igbo folklore.
- Sir Victor Uwaifo: Although primarily associated with Edo music, Sir Victor Uwaifo incorporated Igbo elements into his music. He was a multi-instrumentalist and known for his hit song “Joromi.”
- Onyeka Onwenu: A talented singer, songwriter, and actress, Onyeka Onwenu became one of Nigeria’s most celebrated female musicians. Her music blended various genres, including highlife and pop.
- Flavour N’abania: Chinedu Okoli, popularly known as Flavour, is a contemporary highlife musician who has achieved significant success both in Nigeria and internationally. His music fuses traditional Igbo sounds with modern influences.
- Phyno: Chibuzor Nelson Azubuike, known as Phyno, is a rapper, singer, and producer. He has gained popularity for his unique rap style delivered predominantly in the Igbo language.
- Umu Obiligbo: This duo, made up of brothers Okpuozor and Akunwafor Obiligbo, has become highly regarded for their modern highlife music.
These are just a few examples of the many talented Igbo musicians who have contributed to the diverse Nigerian music landscape. Igbo music continues to evolve, with new artists emerging and adding their unique flavors to the vibrant Nigerian music industry.