His presence at the Sky Garden Onitsha, was greeted by loud ovation from the crowd that had come to spend the Sunday evening with families, friends and well wishes. Wearing his usual toothy gap smile Bright Chimezie acknowledged the greetings from the crowd which for six minutes had been chanting “Zigima sound” and “Okoro junior”.
He has not come to present any new album but he was there as the Nigerian Breweries Limited (NBL) Ambassador of Highlife music and to flag off the third edition of the company’s King of Highlife competition and festival. Chimezie came in company of three other judges for the competition, Dr Akas Nicholas, David Jones David and Mr Ben Umeh.
The competition in 2017 produced the first King of Highlife in the person of Mr Chi Best and in 2018 it crowned Mr Ifeanyi Don – all young talented Highlife artists from the South East. The occasion was also the unveiling of this year’s NBL King of Highlife competition which would take place in Onitsha, Aba, Asaba and Enugu respectively.
Speaking with reporters the Brand Manager Life Beer, Mr Chidi Egwu said that the concept is to discover young talented Highlife artists that would be mentored by the NBL in conjunction with the known and accomplished musicians from the South East and South South such as Flavour and Phyno among others.
“It is all about mentorship and discovering new talents from Igbo land and also give them the opportunity to collaborate with established musicians from Igbo land. We believe that we have young talented men and women that may not have anyone to sponsor them in their chosen fields of endeavour that is why the Nigerian Breweries is organising the festival.
“The star prize is N5million as against the N2million, which we gave last year and this is to make it more competitive and attract more people to take part in the festival,” he said. He noted that the qualifications for participating in the festival include: the person must come from Igbo land or the South South and must also be talented in the Highlife music. Bright Chimezie expressed his happiness over the return of Highlife music which according to him had almost gone into extinction.
“Highlife music originated from our local cultural music in the past from Igbo land in Nigeria and the South South and parts of Ghana, and we had musicians and groups like the Rambolans Band, Osita Osadebe, Oliver de Coque and Original Brothers.
“Later people like us, Morocco, Maduka and others joined the club and we tried as much as possible to keep the fire burning. At some point it all looked like it was over for Highlife music when the younger ones like Flavour, Phyno and other young talented musicians came in to the picture and Highlife came back.
“We thank the NBL for the support and assistance it is giving to the growth of the music through the festival and competition. The will go a long way in sustaining this type of music,” said the musician Chimezie noted that Highlife music is the Igbo heritage and identity of the Igbo people which give Ndigbo a voice of their own in Nigerian and the world in general.
“Where ever you go in the world and you hear Highlife music you are at home as an Igbo man and there is that sense of identity and oneness that you are with your people. It goes to cement relationship and rekindle the unity of the people,” he added. Dr Akas Nicholas recalled that: “When we were young we relished going to watch Osadebe Oliver de Coque and Dr Sir Warrior play and our elders would be together enjoying the music and in any function being organised by our people it cannot be complete without Highlife.”
Of course the occasion was not complete without the solo speaking bass guitar, the melodic choruses of yesteryear’s incidents and events that wrote the unwritten script about the Igbo race and its journey through life and its challenges. The NBL Highlife band was also on hand to take the crowd down memory lane with some memorable tunes of yesteryear’s
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