Date Published: 11/12/09
Bob Ejike; The last man standing By MARY E. AJAYI
Nigeria’s King of Pop, Bob Ejike has just dropped a Christmas present for Nigerian and African music lovers. Twenty-five different singles and an album, in a space of two months! That’s making history. Ejike’s audio CD Forever and Ever confronts Nigerian music purists who believe that Nigerian music must be recorded by an all Nigerian team, and sounding like D’banj or Timaya. Ejike, whose musical horizon has extended to Italy and East Africa, uses an ensemble and production crew from Nigeria, Uganda and Congo, and dares to sound like the new improved Bob Ejike.
Many are astonished at the sheer number of releases, wondering what Ejike, a world renowned university professor who pioneered Nollywood, launching such superstars as Richard Mofe-Damijo and Lillian Bach, and promoting the Nigerian film renaissance to international recognition, is doing with a 16 track album. However, they relax once they hear the throbbing rhythm, heavy bass guitar and intricate xylophone works in Change The System, which laments the socio-economic decay in Nigeria and decries the beleaguered lot of the common man..
Egwuoma, an Ibo song re-enacting black history and artistic heritage, surprisingly features Ugandan-born international sensation Cindy Sanyu, singing in flawless Igbo Language. Cindy still shocks the listener with her pidgin English rendition in Gimmi Gimmi. In On The Radio, Ejike does the extraordinary by appealing to radio and TV stations to play his music and videos. He continues in Higher, which features the comical duo Aki and Pawpaw, as well as Italy-based Nigerian artiste B.B. Jones, calling on you to request his music on radio, TV and locals. After thirty persistent years in the scene Ejike deserves the attention he craves. Why did he shoot forty videos, if not for them to be shown?
In the only reggae track Niger Delta, Bob Ejike, the social crusader, appeals for an end to the crisis in the Niger Delta, and asks the Nigerian government to make efforts to improve the underdeveloped oil producing areas. Other songs include Africa, Where Did It Go? Nigerian Woman, We Are Family, and the classic Does Your Mama Know?, which conquered the airwaves in early 2000. Iyawo Mi, a Wazobian piece on family values, is rendered in Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa, followed by Making Up, (a typical Naija song), Cheating On Me, and Give Me.
Ejike, a former NTA (Nigerian Television Authority) presenter, and Sunday Sun columnist, started this project 7 years ago in Lagos, with ace producers Nelson Onome Browne and Chris Okoro, before taking the materials to his studios in Italy and Uganda for continental and international touch. He ignores conventional wisdom, which dictates that for any album to be successful in Nigeria, it must be noisy, without making lyrical sense, and delves into serious social, economic and political themes.
Bob Ejike juggles genres, from hip-hop to RnB, to highlife-Makossa, with an import that would satisfy Naija hip-hop buffs without alienating his traditional fan base. His fans will be amazed to find the middle-aged crooner an accomplished Naija rapper. The overall African flavour flows through the expertly performed pieces. This is not one of the all-too-familiar computer-made synthetic albums. All instruments were played and recorded live.. The songs were chosen from forty-five mastered pieces, almost all with videos that were shot in breathtaking locations in France, Italy, Uganda and Rwanda. The videos were first launched on Bob Ejike’s website www.hiphoprhythm.com then on U-Tube, Facebook and MySpace, from which they were borrowed by hundreds of entertainment websites across the globe, making Bob Ejike one of the most famous African artistes in the Internet.
Now you have a Nigerian album that makes sense and sounds different, in which the artiste is not just reproducing another person’s beat and boasting about his wealth and the girls he has slept with. Forever and Ever is not the typical media hit that you cannot find anywhere outside your radio and TV. You can get a copy from the nearest shop to your home for just N100. Ejike, an advocate of art for art’s sake, kept down the price to ensure that everyone can afford a copy.
Those who were wondering whether Bob Ejike would leave acting after starring in 40 Nollywood films, and become a serious musician, will be convinced. The argument about whether he is a better writer, model, actor, singer, or TV presenter will terminate. One thing is certain, Ejike, who was trained by The Reverend Chris Okotie, remains one of the most experienced pop musicians in the continent and a valuable asset to the Nigerian entertainment culture. He is one of the few mature artistes who have survived the onslaught of the young hip-hop rappers, and he did it by being consistent in his style, never copying or imitating anyone. He often complains that there is no recognition for pioneers and multi-talented people who have contributed to the different areas of the art. One price that no one can deny Bob Ejike is the award for tenacity, perseverance and consistency, and that is Forever and Ever. Amen.
(Bob Ejike’s fotos are in google)
MARY E. AJAYI
University of Lagos,