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Gbenga Oke: Shaping Nigeria’s cultural music industry

Gbenga Oke is a gospel artist, writer and percussionist who has made a name for himself in the Nigerian music industry.

He is arguably one of the most versatile, culturally oriented and unique gospel artistes to have emerged out of Nigeria. Consistency, hard work, originality and God’s grace have been the main factors that have kept his music career in the last 14 years.

His songs rendered in the Yoruba dialect are deeply rooted in the South-West culture and make great impact.

Gbenga’s love for percussion and talking drums inspired his music business at an early age of seven.

He has performed and ministered in several states across the country since the age of seven and currently has nine music albums to his credit.

It’s believed that highlife music was created over 70 years ago and was coined by people across West Africa who gathered around dancing clubs. The acoustic guitar is associated with this genre of music.

Since starting, he has written over 1,000 songs in the last 22 years of his singing career.

His release of ‘Oloyin’ – honey giver— brought him to limelight in 2007. Thereafter, he released ‘Yahweh Dara’ featuring the Midnight Crew. It was another hit in 2009.

Both songs were hits and depicted the very beautiful culture of the Yoruba language in Nigeria.

The young entrepreneur is a graduate of English Language from the Lagos State University.

Gbenga says that even though his genre of music is gospel, people can still feel the very root of nativity in his songs.

“I wrote popular songs like ‘Yesu Afayo’ – meaning ‘Jesus loves me’, which is in Ugandan language and is sung in almost every church in Nigeria today. I also wrote ‘Iwe Anu’, meaning ‘mercy book’ and written in Yoruba language,” he says.

Gbenga also sings in Igbo language, which is another widely spoken local language in Nigeria. He wrote the popular song ‘Chukwu Nemenma’, which has gained popularity across Nigeria and beyond.

He strongly believes that African culture makes the continent unique. He is an ardent preacher of projecting and revealing African and indeed Nigerian music to the world.

Juju and highlife music are two of the styles which originated from Nigeria with music greats like Victor Olaiya, King Sunny Ade, Fela Anikulapo kuti, Victor Owaifo, and Osita Osadebe, making the genre popular and global.

The Yoruba centric highlife and juju style are rich and have created niche for themselves in the community of diverse highlife music patterns in Nigeria. That is what Gbenga represents.

“Every-music in Nigeria borrows one thing or the other from highlife,” he says.

Gbenga has provided not just strength but inspiration, as he progresses with his divine message. He continues to hold a special place in the hearts of both the old and young Nigerians who love highlife and juju.


Josephine Okojie

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