By Chidi o. Uwabuofu
Music is an important part of the rich culture of Ukwuani people; a viable instrument used to pass down stories, socio-economic, cultural and religious experiences from generation to generation. Undoubtedly, Ukwuani music appeals to a wide audience and has been widely appreciated by other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria. In other words, “the style of Ukwuani music is one of the main influences they have had over their neighbors, many of whom have adopted Ụkwụànì music as their own traditional music”(1).
Considerably, Ukwuani music has helped Ukwuani people validate their cultural identity in this epoch where virtually every ethnic group is striving to show off their unique cultural heritage. Among others, artistes such as Charles Iwegbue, Ali Chukwuma, King Kennytone, Sir Kendo, SND Opia, Robinga, Ishie Brothers, Harmony king (Franco Lee Ezute), John Okpor, Chief Isaac Rogana Ottah, Chief Ochiligwe Ubulu, Agu Risky, Sir Daddy Kris, Agu Lato, Igiligi Sounds, Oboduka Mba, Adviser Ishioma, Danny K, and Smart Williams Achugbue through their music have made major contributions to the development of Ukwuani self-identity and they are all regarded as musical legends in Ukwuani history.
Of all the aforementioned names and the ones not listed here, given their prodigious and sprouting albums, Chief Ochiligwe Ubulu and Chief Isaac Rogana Ottah stand out as the best in their time and perhaps the greatest Ukwuani musical artistes of all time. They have substantial influences in Ukwuani music and as such occupy a pedestal in the cultural history of Ukwuani people. The duo are in fact, musicians par excellence. Their music, respectively, reflected what life was like in their time, and equally foretold some of the things happening in our time.
Incidentally, their music is quite philosophical; it commands your critical attention to the essence for living; it gives highest place to man emphasizing where he is from and where he is heading to and the need for him to live a good life while on earth. Their songs weaved rich Ukwuani wise sayings and proverbs that bend good listeners’ minds to critical reflection. Though, they might not have earned degrees in philosophy but palpably, their expositions are pure philosophy at its best. They admonish everybody to treat each other with respect. Their music also promotes unity, peace, moral uprightness and industriousness. In some cases, they devoted entire tracks singing praises to only God (Ogaga).
In the height of their musical careers, thought to have been inspired by jealousy, they appeared to have fought a supremacy battle over who was the best. Little wonder they both refered to themselves as Kings — ‘King Ubulu’ and Rogana as ‘the Oshio Super King’. At the peak of the battle for supremacy, in some of their tracks, they would take a swipe at each other. For instance, people believe that Ubulu had tactfully ridiculed his counterpart’s non dancing attitude at public performance — standing, playing guitar and singing without throwing dance steps when he refer to him in one of his track as ‘Block Apkontu (Blocks do not jump)’. On the other hand, Rogana’s use of ‘Eyele’ is perceived by many as retaliatory, accusing Ubulu for soiling his hands and making use of sorcery to enhance his performance in order to attract mammoth crowds whenever he performed. Interestingly, the seeming rivalry that existed between the duo has been considered healthy in that it motivated and challenged them to work harder. They were never seen quarrelling publicly outside their usual way of playing mind games through their proverbial submissions.
However, when it comes to determining who is the greater musician between these two powerful figures, I know we are all bound to disagree at least a little bit, so rather than attempt to solve that here, we shall leave that question to the readers to determine. But one thing we can all agree on is that they were both very good at their trade.
Brief Historical Background of Ubulu and Rogana:
Chief Ochiligwe Ubulu (1949-2004), Originally known as Augustin Ojinji, a. k. a King Love A. U, Offor, Alushiegu, etc. hails from Onicha Ukwuani (Amoji), Ndokwa West Local Government, Delta State. He was once an artisan — a cobbler. As a youth, he’s said to have hawked musical tapes on the streets to earn a living. I understand he came from a fairly humble background. He admitted this in one of his songs when he said that hardship made him discover his musical talent. Ubulu was a stutterer but surprisingly he never stuttered when he sang. He didn’t play any musical instruments, but his performances were masterpieces, his dance moves iconic and his music unmatched in its reach. Ubulu was and is still largely celebrated among Ukwuani people, his dance steps have influenced the masses even more than his singing in some ways, and because of his untiring spirit, he is widely regarded as one of the best entertainers of all time in Ukwuani history. One Chief Chukudi Onojafe aka Ogbuefi Ocha narrated how Ubulu could deliver a non stop performance for a long stretch of time; something that other artistes of his time could hardly do.
The following among others rank among the best albums of Ubulu: Kakene Chukwu (1985), Oyeije (1986), Onyebu Uwa Nishi (1988), Onweli Egwu Na Amu Ka Nma (1989)
Ife Oma Nasoanyi Special, Onicha-Ukwuani (1977), Ubulu “80” Special (1980), Ifesike (1985), Ife-Di-Nma (1986), Oyeije Special (1986), Bini Chukwu (1987), Onyebuwa Nishi (1988), Onweli Egwu Na Amu Ka Nma (1989), Egbu We Ubulu (1990),
Ichonionum (1992), Owele Madu (1993), Sasa-Nkem (year unknown),
Ichonionum (year unknown),
Ogor – Efune (year unknown),
Coamaj Special (year unknown),
Ife Oma Nasoanyi Special (unknown),
Bia Kayi Dozie (unknown), e.t.c.
On the other hand, Chief Isaac Rogana Ottah (1951- 2006) ‘the Oshio Super King’ hails from our own Akoku (Ugulu), Ukwuani LGA, Delta State. Rogana’s guitar work is completely and comparatively unapralleled in Ukwuani musical history. He had a very melodious and rare singing voice too and he had such control when he sang. Singing while playing guitar can be a very daunting task but Rogana did this very perfectly. I think this might be the reason why he didn’t dance so much.
“His musical career began in the early 1970s when he played in the bands of Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe and Rex Lawson. In 1973 he joined fellow Ndokwa native Charles Iwegbue and His Hino Sound Band. Striking out on his own after Iwegbue’s tragic death in 1976, Ottah scored a major hit with his first LP, Ukwani Special, in 1977. In quick succession a series of outstanding recordings, notably the “Oshio Super” series, propelled Ottah to the vanguard of the Anioma recording scene. Although his career slowed after the 1980s, he still made a prosperous livelihood as a touring musician into the early years of the 21st century” (2). He has so many albums to his credit. Among these albums are Ejeluno (1978), Money Hard to Get (1980), Oshio Super One “Azubuike” (1981), Oshio Super Three “Abiani Uwa Abia (1981), Oshio Super Two “Onyeloni” (1981), Ajo Oyi (1982), Anyi Bu Ofu (1982), Ifeloni Special (1982), Oshio Super Four “Okwuedili” (1982)…
It is my opinion that artists like Ubulu, Rogana and a host of others deserve to be celebrated, and honouring them with posthumous awards would encourage the teeming contemporary artistes.
1. Ukwuani People, Wikipedia.
2. John Beadle — Rogana’s biography
3. An interview with Chief Chukudi Onojafe