Orlando: The D-Dor you never knew
By Kayode Fasua
In the days of yore, when African native monarchical rule still bore teeth, there was a succession dispute between two royal siblings, at a nondescript location.
The kingmakers, who possibly paraded the Biblical Solomon Wisdom, after draining gourds of original palm-wine, successfully resolved the royal dispute. “Both of you, the elderly and the younger, go severe and bring the most bitter part of an animal, so you can become king,” the dispassionate kingmakers hollered.
Thoughtlessly, the younger prince went and pounced on a goat, slaughtered it and ripped of its heart. He raced to the ever taciturn kingmakers and said “Take; heart is the sweetest body part.”
But the elderly prince, guided by native intelligence, proceeded to the elders to seek counsel. There, he was told, “the tongue is the sweetest body part.” He obeyed and presented “tongue” to a bewildered council of kingmakers.
Yet, the kingmakers made a last-lap demand. “Go bring the most bitter part in an animal, to become king.” Irascibly thoughtless as ever, the young prince chuckled and simply went to slaughter a fowl; plucked out its gall bladder and went to the kingmakers, waiting to be crowned.
But his elder brother sought out the elders as usual. The elders, without bating an eye-lid, again said, “go and present tongue, for it is the most bitter part in the body.” Confused, the prince asked, “Why?” And he was told that “the tongue is the sweetest and the most bitter because the power of life and death lies in it; it’s a double-edged sword, a source of either joy or of sorrow, of fortune or of misfortune, depending on the way it is applied.”
So, the elderly prince, in obeying the elders, became the king. That literature is hewed from Oni la o moba, an evergreen track composed by the quintessential African music legend, Orlando Owoh. Owoh, christened as Stephen Oladipupo Olaore Owomoyela in Ifon, defunct Owo Division of Ondo Province, 76 years ago, was no more than a phenomenon.
Heavily moustachioed, gangling, ebony black, wafting loud with a husky baritone and dotting an eye-bulge mien, the Orlando power simply seduced the parched music souls. A real deal could also not have been less than his grip on a unique, reliable rendition, gorgeously ennobled by the rocking rhythm of lead and base guitars.
But for Owoh, the husky, the velvety and the swift, the music stopped in the early hours of Tuesday, November 5. He died after an epic battle with the stroke disease.
A man of humble background, Orlando attained early fame in the 60’s, launching out with a wide acceptance in his maternal home of Owo, Ondo State. As his renown soared, his paternal home of Ifon also in Ondo State, grinned with envy at a time everyone thought Orlando was ‘a native of Owo.’ He thus pacified his father’s natives with an impassioned song translated as ‘there is no way you’ll have patrimony without matrimony; rather than argue over ownership of a star, it’s rather you both unite to empower and enrich him the more.’
All over Yorubaland, the Orlando musical whirlwind raged like a bellicose harmattan fire. Though he rendered his genre in Yoruba and in his native Owo dialect, he steadily appealed to other ethnic stocks in clear demonstration that language is no barrier to good music.
He also waxed a few albums in English, pidgin, Igbo and Hausa languages. In moral appeals and piety, Orlando had been an avande garde through albums like Iyawo Olele, Jealousy jeolousy and Ibaje eniyan, ko da se oluwa duro.
As per romantic music, D-Dor, as he was fondly called in some weird, fanciful circles, was more than fecund. His greatest hit in that realm is possibly ‘Yello Sisi Siddon Na Corner, Pushy Hand Na Joo.’
He is also known to have transformed music to a weapon of social reform and potent tool for reversing unpopular government policies. Albums to his credit in this respect include ‘Na Democracy we Want, Operation Feed Nation, I Say No to Military; which was popularized by the track: Babangida Chop Nigeria Taya Before he Go”.
Orlando is reputed as great and profoundly successful in the music art. Not many, however, had caught glimpses of Orlando behind the scene. This departed music legend was a friend of my father, Mr. Gabriel Fasua, and their friendship blossomed at a time dad was a practising journalist, in the early 8o’s.
Orlando might not have been admired by those given to utter disdain against the indulgence of Indian hemp (or Gbana or Igbo or Ganja or Eja) smoking but he and his Keneries Band members smoked like hell, retiring afterward to private, individual music practice. D-Dor’s closest associates then were Daddy Matter, an Ondo/Ekiti chair of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and Adebayo Success also the union’s ‘Final Word’ in Lagos State.
Dad hired a three-bedroom flat near Daddy Matter’s ‘face-me-I-face-you bungalow in Ishelu, Owo. At DM’s (Daddy Matter) home, you would always find Orlando. In a sunny afternoon while excitedly passing by DM’s house, I saw Orlando in the balcony, trying some tunes on his guitar. A certain fellow in the neighbourhood was sitting nearby admiring the great musician. I then seized the moment, carelessly singing one of his tunes, omo abi lowo etowo se (Owo natives, please be good ambassadors of Owo). He stopped short and asked the fellow, ‘Who is the boy?’ ‘Oh, he is the son of oga Journalist,’ the man replied. Forcing a smile, Orlando replied, ‘He will also be a journalist.’ Today, I am a journalist.
When I first met the enigma called Orlando, it was at the testy era after the 1979 general elections. Orlando was seen as supporting ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) whereas the party only ruled at the federal level. In Ondo State, Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) of Chief Obafemi Awolowo was in charge where its candidate, Chief Adekunle Ajasin was governor. My dad sought to meet Orlando for an interview over his role in politics.
Rather than arrange a venue for the interview, Orlando pulled a surprise as he drove down to our house near Jokas Palace, Owo. There was pandemonium, as my mum did not have stew in the pot. She had to rally round to make our unexpected guest comfortable.
Orlando, together with my dad, drained a bottle of Campari wine, while the interview lasted. As the two adults became tipsy, I went in to tickle the stereo and the amplifiers blared with Orlando’s song in which he hailed then multi-millionaire, Ajanaku Makun, who was dad’s erstwhile landlord. Heavily bemused, Orlando turned to everyone and said “this boy is mischievous, he will end up being a journalist.’ Today, I’m a journalist.
A close shot on Orlando, in my view, revealed a selfless team leader, as some of his band members confessed to me that he had little concern with money. If a night-out, for instance, had fetched N10, Orlando, they said, could take N1.50 and leave out remaining N8.50 for his band members. Another close observation also revealed that the titillating albums being churned out by Orlando were never formally rehearsed. He and his band members were more of soul mates, entrenched in seeming Siamese thought-flow that is incomprehensible to apostles of standard music practice.
Orlando also for a long time did not build a house perhaps not because he did not cherish a befitting shelter but poignantly as a result of lack. In taking to the binge, giving freely to the needy and assisting family members to realize their aspirations and overcome their crises, building a house for Orlando thus became an uphill task.
But what he lacked in material wealth, he gained in music talent and remarkable goodwill. When he was detained in the military era over drug cases, goodwill, I gathered, went a long way to ensure his eventual release.
Not many, till today, can accurately explain the philosophy behind Orlando’s modern hit track, ‘Oh Kangaroo.’ Some demur upon thinking that D-Dor in the song, is deriding the poor man and asking Kangaroo (belle) to go and marry the rich man. Foul.
The song was informed by the treachery and betrayal by one of Orlando’s close allies, a sawmill owner in Ore, Ondo State. The man (names withheld) snatched Orlando’s most beautiful young wife and also acquired his band, converting it to a private business.
The snatched wife, during the snatching process, was warned by all to rethink her action but she turned deaf hears because she thought that Orlando’s friend was richer and that D-Dor would die in prison. In the song, Orlando should have used ‘everybody appeals to you’ as against ‘everybody approach you’, which is only a function of language or that he wanted the song to appeal only to target audience. A man who believed in himself in the egalitarian mould, he saw the man who snatched his wife as ‘a poor man’ while he (Orlando) is ‘the rich man.’
Though faulted for regaling in his harem and productive libido, Orlando in his defence said he acted like an African man that he was and would never be caught with the emotional shenanigan of harlotry and behind-the-back stabs.
Always guided by abiding loyalty, when his benefactor, Ajanaku was alive, he sang for him possibly for a fee but when the latter died, he sang the deceased’s praises without presenting any bill to his family. A catalogue of the Orlando era could only come to a summary that he remains a living legend, one who assumed the enviable status of inimitable music icon, in the court of public acclaim.
Adieu, D-Dor, the man who lived his times.
*Fasua is the acting News Editor of National Life, a Nigerian newspaper