By Oche Jesse
Today, Idoma Voice brings the list of Idoma music legends who made waves in the extant time.
The list is endless.
He is believed to be the pioneer of the Idoma local gospel music industry. Elder Edoh Daniel Olega made waves in the late 80s with his popular hit tracks such as Elaja Oleho, Isirelu Nmijipiti
and many others. He mentored the likes of Peter Otulu, Bony Faith Adigwu and several others. His son, Steven Edoh Olega has no doubt taken over the mantle of music ministry from him. He died few years ago.
Oleje Ona sang local story telling songs called “ocha” mostly at night. His residence back in Otukpo then was like a Mecca for music lovers who would go to savour his rich chants. Until his demise, Ona made name but little money for himself. He died some years back.
To some, he was a balladeer of lewd songs which ‘responsible’ Idoma men and women forbade their children from listening to.
To others he was an entertainer, a man ahead of his time and his numerous fans could not wait for his next release.
While some equally saw his music as rather not for the morally minded because of his vulgar contents, Akatu no doubt remain a force to reckon with in Idoma cultural heritage.
As a musician in his time and environment he was great though died poor.
A fan once wrote about him thus, “Sadly, Idoma history went to the grave with the death of the great Joe Akatu. As stated, he died hungry and poor man. The little he contributed as an Idoma man is what some persons are relishing as his music today many year after his demise. He remains one of the sore pointers of what value Idoma put on their own.
Ray Stephen Oche
Ray Stephen Oche was a singer, drummer, flutist and mainly trumpet player from Idoma community.
Born on June 28 1936, in Edikwu Village, Otukpo, Idoma Division, Benue Plateau State, Nigeria, Oche comes from a family of musicians, singers and flute players. His ancestors and folks were undisputed celebrities in the many music festivals of his native region, especially in the 30′s, and Ray just followed with amazing ease and talent, the path they had so gloriously thread.
From the late 50s he spent time in Ghana, meeting famous drummer Guy Warren who is supposed to have deliver him the secret of the authentic african rythms, toured in Sierra Leone with Outer Space band, went to Senegal and Gambia.
His hit tracks include Alaglanu-Alaglano, Okwukwu-Kiwongo, Ikwun Mokon-Qkoitiho
Botala-Boyaka as well as his popular hit track, Daybreak On The Niger.
In 1969, the Idoma people of Nigeria allowed Prof. Robert G. Armstrong to record a ritual whose live performance is considered taboo except at funerals. For the wake, elderly women sing and play ichicha (large gourd rattles); there is also a dance circle with at least one man on an okanga (two-membrane drum). The wake lasts all night until the actual funeral, the Uchulo Nehi (Great Ceremony), the following noon. Ediigwu popular songs include, Onugbo M’loko, Journey to Ebira, Alekwu Chants.
Tom Aba was born on March 22, 1956 at Otukpo, the fourth male of a polygamous family. He attended St. Mary’s Primary School, Otukpo; Methodist High School, Igumale; and took a shot at the Higher School Certificate in Gindiri Boys’ High School, Gindiri.
Everyone thought Tom would grow up to be a Catholic priest. From about age 4 to 6, he often gathered his parents and siblings in the family parlour; dressed the occasional table; and “said mass”. Of course, he did become a priest, but in the strict Biblical order.
After a decade of personal and corporate image making; and to the dismay of his employers, siblings, and fans; Bro. Tom Aba resigned from NTA for full-time gospel music ministry under the banner of Eagle Foundation. He produced four major albums under his Sonshyne label.
For a brief spell, he also managed a music studio owned by the late Sam Obla, along with Pastor Wilfred Bonse, a gifted composer-singer and gospel teacher. An astute keyboardist, guitarist, and singer, Tom performed with, among others, Panam Percy Paul and Ann Mker. Ever self-motivating, he strived to master the saxophone until he could no longer muster the breath required to give life to that extra-challenging instrument.
Mid-1994, Bro. Tom Aba fell asleep after a massive onslaught of pneumonia, leaving three secondary school children for his wife, Susan. His death was particularly devastating to his family and the church at large; more especially as his immediate older brother, Christian, had died less than three years previously. The tremendous number of Christian brethren and other sympathizers, fans, and admirers who staunchly rallied round us at their funerals–more especially Tom’s–is one of the ways through which God comforted the Aba and Ocheibi families; urged us to show forth our born-again claims even in the face of crushing pains. We use this memorial occasion to thank them all for their love and loyalty.
Good-looking and gregarious, he was cherished by virtually all who had contact with him. He had more adult friends and associates than he had among his peers. The late Christopher Hua, then the District Officer at Otukpo, was one example. Tom’s drive for music manifested at Igumale where he organised choir/musicals and honed his fledgling skills on the few, basic musical equipment he could find. In the late 1970s, he was very popular as the resident Disc Jockey at Dolphin Hotel night club, Makurdi.
In 1980, he was employed as newscaster at NTA Makurdi, a job in which he excelled and garnered greater acclaim still, through very creative children’s programmes, etc. Here, he attended training courses, including a sojourn at Halverson Radio Institute in Holland, eventually rising to the post of Corporate Officer.
It was at NTA that Tom had a final, definitive encounter with our Lord, Jesus Christ, under the discipleship of Joe Ichull. From then on, the Holy Spirit took over his musical and other gifting for heavenly purposes. Soon, Bro. Tom Aba was being invited to minister all over the country, at national conventions of Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship Int’l; etc.
In 1984, he got married to Sr. Susan, from the esteemed Odumu Ocheibi family of Otukpo. They bore three children, now university graduates; proven Christians; and youth gospel musicians in their own rights. Tom’s family joined a unique, loosely structured but firmly-worded assembly called Church in the House. This gave Tom another opportunity to grow more deeply; minister around the nation; and to discover his (mostly fallow) teaching office.
A decade afterward, his widow too left us. Tom’s life of 37 years was short, no doubt; however, his enduring renditions have made, and still make, appreciable impact on his generation. Among other things, he coached musicians such as the US-based Joe Otumala, Evang. Isaac Itodo; Pastor Bonse; etc. Further, as kids the likes of God’s Shield Orokpo and Chris Morgan literally sat at his feet, to tap anointing. This duo was so inspired that, downstream in their musical careers, they silently “borrowed” some of his popular copyright songs and even chords!
EDITOR’S NOTE: Please feel free to add any Idoma legend via comment below, we’ll update accordingly.
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