REVEALING: BRIGHT CHIMEZIE (OKORO Junior), King of Zzigima Sound still Nigeria’s Iconic Highlife Music Ambassador…Waxing stronger at the age of 57 years *Evergreen playing music days of George Benson, Bobby Benson, Hot Chocolate and other musicians *True meaning of Zzigima, Ozi I Ga Ma in Igbo language *Earlier worked in Nigeria’s Customs/Excise Dance Band, Featured at University of Lagos Cultural Centre severally *Discovered Asusu Ejiri Mara Gi (Identity Language) Music Title during Relocation to the Village after 35 years on music stage *Awards: Best Nigerian Highlife Music Legend 2015, Duke of African Music Award by Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Tribune Chapel, Ibadan on February 14,1998, Bagged a chieftaincy title from Oba Omowonuola Oyeyode Oyesosin II, the Ogiyan of Ejigboland in Osun State BY GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU/FOREIGN BUREAU CHIEF, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA & CHIKA OBINNA/ENTERTAINMENT STAFF WRITER, SOUTH-EAST NIGERIA

REVEALING:

BRIGHT CHIMEZIE (OKORO Junior), King of Zzigima Sound still Nigeria’s Iconic Highlife Music Ambassador…Waxing stronger at the age of 57 years

*Evergreen playing music days of George Benson, Bobby Benson, Hot Chocolate and other musicians
*True meaning of Zzigima, Ozi I Ga Ma in Igbo language
*Earlier worked in Nigeria’s Customs/Excise Dance Band, Featured at University of Lagos Cultural Centre severally
*Discovered Asusu Ejiri Mara Gi (Identity Language) Music Title during Relocation to the Village after 35 years on music stage
*Awards: Best Nigerian Highlife Music Legend 2015, Duke of African Music Award by Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Tribune Chapel, Ibadan on February 14,1998, Bagged a chieftaincy title from Oba Omowonuola Oyeyode Oyesosin II, the Ogiyan of Ejigboland in Osun State

BY GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU/FOREIGN BUREAU CHIEF, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA & CHIKA OBINNA/ENTERTAINMENT STAFF WRITER, SOUTH-EAST NIGERIA

HE’S ONE OF NIGERIA’S Most celebrated musicians from Eastern part of Nigeria in the early 1980s being a mixture of traditional Nigerian music and igbo highlife fused with chanted vocals. BRIGHT Chimezie passionately strongly in the power of using music to reflect various ills affecting Africa’s most populous black nation society. His lyrics focused on social issues of the country in a rather funny way. Till date, this multiple, award-wining legendary highlife musician, regarded King of Zzgima sound still waxes stronger and remains Nigeria’s music ambassador.

Chimezie’s style of Zzigima Sound is a genre that he used to revolutionize the musical structure in Nigeria with lyrics that are emotional, thoughtful, poetic and rich in meaning.

For more than a decade he held Nigerians spellbound with Zzigima sound his genre of music. His breath taking performances on stage also endeared him to the crowd where ever he performed. A very creative musician Chimezie was able to infuse comedy into his songs. Some of his hit songs like ‘Respect Africa’, ‘Okro soup, Oyibo Mentality’ propelled him into Nigerians consciousness and to national stardom.

Though he started playing music as a member of the church choir. He reportedly said: “I sang alto, bass among other numbers. I was about 10 years old then. Later when I gained admission into secondary school, my interest in music grew tremendously. Earlier, I was initiated into the tradition (Igborokiti) music of my people. I was then a pupil of Eke Oba Community School in Umuahia, Abia State. Igbokiriti is a genre of music played by the elders during funerals and other important festivals. Right from childhood, I gained popularity by entertaining people with a local guitar.”

Regarding his regular playing music of George Benson, Bobby Benson, and other great musicians, he said: “In my secondary school, I used to play the music of George Benson, Bobby Benson, Hot Chocolate and other reigning musicians in those days. In my second year, I started leading the school cultural music group. Other students loved me so much that the senior students stopped punishing me because I used to entertain them with my music. My nickname then was Ocean and the senior students called me Chimezie and the Ocean Band. I soon became a household name in the school because I used to play some funny sounds with my hand placed under my armpits.”

But what doe Zzigima sound truly means, Chimezie reveals: “Zzigima means Ozi I Ga Ma in Igbo language. It means the message that everyone (Africans) should know. My music is rooted in the cultural music of my people. I am out to promote African culture and African ways of life. Our people have become copycats in their manners of eating, dressing and even talking. All these have to change. Otherwise, Africans would not be different from bats that neither belong to the air nor to the land. We have to retrace our steps to our African ways of doing things, which are even superior to the European an American ways which we now imitate. That is all about Zzigima sound, the message for every African all over the world.”

On how he joined Nigeria’s Customs Service, his words: “In 1980, I learnt that there were vacancies in the Customs and Excise Dance Band. I applied and was successful. I was there from 1980 to 1983. During this period, I combined my music with the job. I also featured at the Cultural Centre, University of Lagos on many occasions.”

Chimezie reportedly talked about his maiden album, then titled First ‘Respect Africa’, he explained: “While working for the Customs, I was also busy shaping up my brand of music by producing demos. But the more I prepared the demo cassettes, the more they were rejected. In 1984, I was informed that Rogers All Stars Recording Company was interested in traditional African music. I went to Onitsha to give him my demo. He listened to it, and made his decision to release me. That was the birth of Respect Africa, the album that shot me into limelight.”

On how and why he relocated to his village, the Duke of African Music, talented singer, dancer and composer said: “It is over 13 years since I relocated to my country home in Imo state, but I am planning on relocating to Lagos soon.

“I am working on it but it would be a gradual process. The Zzigima brand is like an institution, and moving it entirely from the East back to Lagos would not be a tea party, just as it was, when we moved down East from Lagos. I was controlling a 16-piece band, and you know what that means.

“From my relocation exercise. I can say it has inspired me to write and make a new song, which I plan to use as a come-back when I relocate. The song is almost ready and the working title is Asusu Ejiri Mara Gi (Identity Language). The truth is that Igboland is a gift to the Igbos, so are Yorubaland to the Yorubas and Hausaland to the Hausas. To that effect, every tribe should appreciate their language, and parents should also strive to ensure that their children speak their language. The advantages are unquantifiable and my children are already reaping the advantages, courtesy of my drastic relocation back home.”

Awards
On awards and honor he received, Chimezie reportedly said: “I received Best Nigerian Highlife Music Legend in 2015 by Naija Standard Newspaper. I was conferred with the Duke of African Music Award by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Tribune Chapel, Ibadan on February 14,1998. I also bagged a chieftaincy title from Oba Omowonuola Oyeyode Oyesosin II, the Ogiyan of Ejigboland in Osun State.”

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