Today would have been the Highlife’s legend 74th birthday, Oliver De Coque, in memory of his posthumous birthday, Google dedicated April 14th’s doodle to him.
Oliver De Coque was one of the most famous musicians and highlife band in Africa, whilst he was living. The impact of his songs is such that some even doubt if he is dead, his songs are always evergreen, a pure art.
To celebrate this Igbo legend and national treasure, here are five fact about the almighty Oliver De Coque to refresh our minds:
Family And Early life
Oliver De Coque was born in the small town of Ezinnifite, Nnewi south Anambra state on the 14th of April, 1947. Oliver Sunday Akanite took interest in music from an early age, he started playing the guitar when he was 17 years old. As a teenager, he started studying the Igbo traditional music of the region and Congolese soukousded modern high life and traditional Igbo music.
He got married at the young age of 20. He later had 3 other wives making it four wives and he had twelve children.
Apart from his music, Oliver was known for his excellent draft playing skill. He loved playing the board game of draft, winning almost all the time. His game prowess earned him the name ‘Game master’ in the Igbo language ‘Oliver di ka Okwe’. He transfused the name to incorporate his french style still retaining the same sound Oliver De Coque. His real name was Chief Oliver Sunday Akanite.
Early Music Career
Oliver started playing Ekpili music when he was eleven, he was taught how to play the piccolo by a Congolese guitarist living in Nigeria then.
According to Oliver’s manager and friend Ray Ifeme, they both went through the civil war at the end of the 1960s. Their friendship gave a big start to the musician’s career because it was Ray who introduced officer Oliver to the Biafran Army’s band. The talented guitarist impressed the soldiers and kept them entertained with his performance.
In 1970, at a performance by the popular Sunny Agaga and his Lucky Star Band, Akanite convinced Sunny to let him stand in as their guitarist; he was hired on the spot, providing a massive boost to his young career. Serving an apprenticeship with juju stars Sunny Agaga and Jacob Oluwale, he was a star by his late teens.
Music Achievements And Accolades
There are so many music legends the world can boast of but not many of them can stand toe to toe with the great De Coque when it comes to the number of albums, all masterpieces by standards.
De Coque was famous for infusing the modern West African highlife genre with a Congolese-influenced guitar style and the energetic dance elements of Igbo music he grew up with, crafting a unique musical style, which he called Ogene. Before his debut album in 1977 ‘Messiah Messiah’, his solo in 1946 was making waves already, De Coque’s music only grew in popularity at home and abroad, as he put out album after album featuring his masterful guitar work and fresh take on African pop–over 70 albums throughout his lifetime.
He was notable for his flamboyant style of music, showcasing the enjoyment lifestyle of the Igbos through his songs. He has a penchant for honoring wealthy and notable Igbo people in his songs.
Oliver De Coque worked with Prince Nico Mbarga on his album called “Sweet Mother”. Some of his most popular songs include ‘Identity’ and ‘Mbiri’.
Oliver and his band, The Expo 76 Ogene Super Sounds played highlife music around the world. Coque was the lead guitarist of his group till his death.
The Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi crowned him the King of Highlife due to his consistency. He was given an Igbo title as the Ikemba.
In 1994, in recognition of his prodigious music achievement, de Coque was awarded an honorary doctorate in music by the University of New Orleans.
The talented Nigerian musician died on June 20 in 2008. He had a sudden cardiac arrest that led to his death. In a later interview with his son, he attributed his death to diabetes and hypertension, he said he fell ill at the end of 2007, which was a high secret.
Follow us on Facebook