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‘Highlife music has taken another form, more like a mutation’

Bimbo Esho,  managing director, Evergreen Musical Company Ltd, wrote her final year thesis at University of Ibadan on “Highlife Music in Nigeria”. Her father, Femi Esho, is Africa’s largest collector of music of yesteryears with over 100,000 original vinyls of different African musicians in his archive. In this interview with Obinna Emelike, she talks about the place of highlife music in Nigeria and also about her upcoming music festival, Ariya Eko. Excerpts:

What is Evergreen Musical Company all about?

Evergreen Musical Company is the largest collector of music of yesteryears. The company have been in existence for over 25 years and has been the brain behind the preservation of indigenous music of yesteryears such as Juju, Fuji, Apala, Highlife, Sakara, and Waka. The company also has the licensing right to promote and market few of the music of Nigerian and Ghanian indigenous music icons like Adeolu Akisanya, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Victor Olaiya, Rex Lawson, Tunde Nightingale, ET Mensah, C.K Mann, King Kennytone, Crosdale Juba, Ramblers Danceband, among others..

What is the place of highlife music in Nigeria given that it is almost going into extinction?

Highlife music is one of the greatest musical gift to mankind. I do not believe it is going into extinction but rather I will say it has taken another form more like a mutation.  Few of the younger acts today play highlife. People like Flavour, BRYMO even Sunny Nneji.

Ariya Eko Music Festival is coming up very soon. What is it all about?

Ariya Eko Music Festival is a yearly festival geared towards the recognition and celebration of the rich, vibrant and nostalgic musical culture and heritage of Lagosians and Nigerians in general. It is traditional and contemporary form while harnessing its potency for development of the highly needed vintage music culture.

What is the motivating factor for the music festival?

The motivating factor is in a bid to preserve some of our dying core indigenous music repertoire for the sake of posterity and also to show the world that we are a people that have musical roots, culture and identity. Our music dictate our mood and it is a reflection of our way of life.

What are the criteria used in selecting the artistes for the project?

There is really no criteria as such just that any performer at Ariya Eko must be able to perform with a live band, must have been in the music system for years whether popular or unpopular and should have his or her own compositions.

How much of support are you getting from Lagos State government?

We are doing the event in partnership with the Lagos State government. We are happy to have Babajide Sanwo-Olu, a listening governor,  who is irrecoverably passionate about tourism and sees the importance of music in tourism.

Is Ariya Eko a continuation of Faaji Agba Eko which you hosted last year?

Faaji Agba Eko had a different theme and concept. It was more about fun for the older generation. Ariya Eko is for both old and young. This year we believe that both old and young should have a feel of Ariya (fun) in Lagos.

You are honouring Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi with Evergreen Hall of Fame. What informed the idea?

Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey has paid his dues in the area of music. With his music, he has touched many lives. He has been able to showcase our musical aesthetic (juju music) to the world. He has the largest music repertoire in Africa with about 660 songs. He is a worthy ambassador of our country, hence, we believe he must be curated for posterity for children yet unborn, for students of history and for artistes who want to learn about good music.  Another highlight of the music festival is the celebration of Shina Peters 30 years of his evergreen song – ACE.

Besides putting the show together, what about other logistic arrangements like security?

Lagos is a place that takes security and the life of its citizen very seriously.  Security is guaranteed during this event considering the calibre of people that will be in attendance both at home and from the diaspora.

What will you love to see at Ariya Eko to describe it as a success after the show?

Wow. I cannot wait to watch the veterans and the young acts come together under one roof to buttress the saying that the “YOUNG SHALL GROW “. There is no better time than NOW and there is no better show to capture this than Ariya Eko.

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