The Profile of a great African
By Richard Raymond (President)
Emma ike Agu popularly called Alaabama was born in the 60’s . He studied music by chance in 1982 sitting side by side with the then deputy Vice Chancellor of University of Ilorin, Professor Ogunshola, the dean of Faculty of education, the head of department of Physics, Professor Adeniyi, the head of department of Chemistry, Professor and DR Mrs. Fagule under the guidance of Deacon Ande, the then organist,1st Baptist Church Ilorin.
‘I was like a little ant in the midst of giant, sitting side by side with these men and women. I was scared at first but gave my self the task of sneaking behind them to practice on my own“ He had left his village about a thousand miles away to further his education in this ancient city. Emma Agu hails from the Eastern part of Nigeria.
“I had a pastor who was very zealous and very impatient. The then Organist of the Church Dr. Iyanda was living for Bida Polytechnic as the rector, I had signified my intention to render a number,” When I see the blood” with my friend, Segun during our Easter Cantata, the Pastor insisted after seeing me play with one hand that I must ‘seat down there and start playing for the Church‘. It was really a tug of war between the man and myself. He had his way. I started playing with anger because I felt I was not ready.’
‘My playing for the 1st Baptist Church chapel brought me instant recognition and fame. Those giants who were my co-students could not believe their eyes, seeing me playing for the Church within a short period. Professor Fagule and his wife invited me to come live with them. I became a music student music teacher. Those Professors and Doctors became my students “
“I was very reluctant on the Keyboard, the pastor of my church David Ejenobo never liked my guts. The man made me miserable. My first love was the guitar which I had already started learning before the Piano. Though the man who was teaching me how to play the guitar was fooling me, the man kept teaching me Kpim,Kpim Kpim,Kpim Kpim( soh doh doh soh doh doh for months without any new notes. I met a Youth Corper friend who taught me to play just one chord, from there I started playing the guitar. I was just going to play the piano and the guitar someday when I get married for my wife and children, that was my desire then.”
He started featuring at the Youth scene program at the NTA channel 7 Ilorin. “I sang my original composition titled “Hello” the very 1st time I featured in that program. I became a known face within a short time. Playing the keyboard for my Church and being a guitar boy at the NTA channel 7 Ilorin brought me to the attention of the then General Manager, Jimmy Atte, who today is the deputy director general of the Nigerian Television authority. I am talking about 1980-82.”
The management of NTA Ilorin under Jimmy Atte were looking for somebody who could make songs on War Against Indiscipline. A Federal government oriented project. Emma Agu won the audition to make the Jingle. His “lateness to work O, na indiscipline” became the talk of the town in 1982 . Around this very time, the Kwara state council for Arts and culture were looking for a music director and a song writer to direct and compose a welcome song for the head of state visit to Kwara state. In the audition that had Professor Mensah, a music lecturer in a attendance, Emma Agu simply won the day with his compositions and presentation. That was how Emma Agu became Nigeria’s youngest music director in the 80’s. That was how a boy who hails from the East became a music director in Kwara State.
Emma Agu led the whole contingent of dancers from all the local government councils in Kwara State and all the cultural troupes from the schools and colleges in Kwara state, a contingent of about a thousand people to render a song, written, arranged and directed by him at the main Bowl of Ilorin stadium to welcome, Gen Mohammed Buhari the then head of state. That performance was watched nation-wide. Emma Agu was invited personally to do a solo performance for the head of state at the state house by the governor of the state, Governor Olatinwo.
He was given a contract by the state government to make an album for the war against indiscipline program. The album was kept in the cooler when another military ruler Gen Babaginda came into power.
“I was however, with the National Center for Agricultural Mechanization all these time” The Director general of the Ministry of Information actually wrote, requesting for my release“
He left Ilorin, having seen it all to seek greener pasture In Lagos in 1986.” I had gotten a transfer to the Federal Department of Agriculture, Ikoyi and with a good job, I knew the sky was my limit“ He hardly settled down for business when the Primate Olabayo led Evangelical Church of Yahweh approached him to come work with them as the Church Organist. He was made the music director after six months in this church.
Awards in the Church.
He led this church to win the All Nigerian Music Festival held at the University of Lagos in 1987. “I had the best Choir in Lagos. My church had the likes of Christy Essein Igbokwe, Sunny Okosun, Juli Pip, Uche Ubeato.” Yahweh Church was the main thing those days and I was proud of the lawyers, Doctors and professional in my choir who adored and cherished me”
“I left the Yahweh church after two years to pitch my tent with Yom-Yem and the Band of Distinction. Yom-Yem was the happening party artist. You must be the party going type to know late Yemi Ogunsanya. He had a voice made of gold. While others were making noise, we were all of over the place jamming all night.
Ikoyi club, the Lagos boat club, Surulere Club, Metropplitan Club name them. At the French Embassy or at the US, British, Italian ,Spanish Embassies, just to mention a few. Yom-Yem and the band of distinction was the only band that played when Prince Charles and his late wife came visiting Nigeria“.
“I played in this band standing face to face with Dim Ojukwu and Bianca, Late MKO Abiola, Late Abacha , Bamanga Tukur and who is who among the rich big boys and girls in Africa. We traveled far and near. Yom Yem never lived in contrived Popularity as was the case with the music scene of today where paper stars hijacked the music industry.”
In 1992 when Yom-Yem died, Emma Agu left the group to start his own. This time, he had been posted to the International airport, Lagos by his department.
“I started the Ikee and Starz 2000. We were playing at the Arts traffic along the International airport in Lagos, Nigeria. We were doing the same thing Yomi’s group were doing but along the line, Arts traffic was shut down. There and then, I started nursing the idea of going solo. Running a band in Africa is no small business. Most session men are no true professionals. I started gathering materials to enter the studio to do my own thing”
In 1995, he came out with his debut titled “Don’t Worry” released under his own label, Manni records. “I had been moved by my department to Wharf and later Tin-Can Island of the Nigerian Port Authority. I was a little boss in my little way. Tin can port is the place every Nigerian who likes money would like to stay forever but when I released my début, I could not cope with the popularity it gave me in the port where you have more than twenty thousand workers. The then head of State late Sanni Abacha and the Minister of Finance, Anthony Ani came with measures that paralyzed the Ports, I took time out to proceed on a playing tour in 1996“.
‘I got a deal from the French Cultural center for my tour and when I came back to Lagos, I had no choice than to throw in the towel. That was how I went into music full-time in 1997 and since then I have not looked back” I came out with a follow up in 1998 titled “Money Palaver” track called “Jump Around” got every kid, boys and girls in Lagos jumping around, according to Fame Magazine news report. Jump Around paved the way for the East and Central African music which is ruling the music scene in Nigeria right now.
In year 2000 following pressures from his Bishops and Pastor friends, Emma Agu released “Messiah“. It became a battle to sell this work because the same people who told him to embark on this project started playing politics with me. Everyone of then wanted me in his Church at the same time. Emma Agu made up his made after recording “Something good” to leave Nigeria for the US to pursue his musical career in year 2002.
Living in USA.
He is the President of Manni Records. He owns a private digital studios and runs The RhythmAfrikkan Natives. He just came out with the song everybody had been waiting for.. RHYTHMAFRIKKA. For more information on RhythmAfrikka, see the album review on www.rhythmafrikka.com. Check out this site for his style of music too.
He was honored in 1986 by the Youth Association of Ilorin as the Star of the Youths. In his home town In Nigeria, he is the leader of his age group. The Nigerian West Indies honored him after he became the only Nigerian artist to perform for 8 hours for a Caribbean carnival. The French Cultural center In Kano honored him as the best African artist to play in their International arena in 1997. The US African EYE named him the star of the month in the month of March 2005. He has played alongside Bonju Baton and the best of Caribbean artist at Lord Randall hall in New York. He is reputed to be among the best African artist in the US. He is #2 on the list of African artist making waves in the US on the famous Organization of African Artist.
Students form all parts of the globe have learnt music from Emma Agu here in New York. He has produced over 8 albums for other artist.
He was the music director of over 10 churches in Nigeria. He was the former 1st and de-facto Chairman of the Performing musicians association of Nigeria, Lagos Chapter.
He was the former Chairman, Anti-piracy task force. He was the Founder and National President of the Musicians of the Niger (MON) He was the former President of the Nigeria Peace Campaign.
In one word, you can not describe this man and so may ways you can not compare him with 95% of the Nigeria musicians who are still living and playing and yet he is one of the most silent musicians you can find anywhere any time.
Emma Agu is a complete gentleman, a human right activist who does not smoke nor drink. In 1989,the Punch Newspapers said.. ‘Emma Agu looks like a gentleman working on a measured step to his bank but when he speaks, his voice became that of an agitator‘. Unlike others, you will never know this guys plays music until you jam him doing his thing. He has brought so many innovation into the music industry. So many individuals and Churches these days now play one man band, it was made popular by Emma Agu. He taught Churches and individuals to sing original songs. He had taught well over five hundred students in the Church alone, people who today are Choir masters, music director and Pastors.
He has featured in all Network programs, talk shows in the all the Popular television program in Africa. His face became the popular signature tune used by Minaj broadcasting International, before every major shows. His video once became #1 on the African Independent television, (AIT) in the 90’s .
He is a great songwriter whose writing skill still amaze most Nigeria artist. He style is original and Unique. He is not playing music because he had to. Emma believes music is a call and gift given to him from above, hence, he does not joke with his Creator. “Every Sunday morning I must be in the Church to say thank you Lord. I must offer my contribution to the church
Because I was made in the Church“
He was ordained as an Evangelist in 1994. He produced “Celebration of Praise” for the Apostolic Church in New Jersey and currently working to Release Solid Rock un-behalf of Salem Gospel Church international here in New York. He was the songwriter and producer of Tosin Jegede, Nigerian singing prodigy in the 80’s. He equally produced and wrote all songs for Joy Ekwere, On Emi Label based in Lagos Nigeria in the 90’s
Till eh left Nigeria, the media could not categorize his kind of music. The man was making good music while those who were making nursery rhymes were wining awards based on distorted popularity.
Emma Agu is everything a complete artist wants to be, a songwriter, music teacher and director, Multi-instrumentalist, singer, Producer and recording engineer.
I am proud to present the profile of a great African Star.. Emma Agu.
Richard Raymond (President)
Rock Promotions ,NY