Jacob Nguni at Social House Hall, Newark Delaware, October 23, 2009
There are people who get into music for the chicks and there are others who do it for the money or for both. Then, there are the rare ones, the real musicians who enter the field for the love of music. I have known Jacob Nguni since we were kids in Sasse. He is one of the later, and I will tell you how I know.
When Jacob took up the guitar in Form 2, he instantly knew that it was what he wanted to do as his life's work and he pursued it with a ferocity that I did not see in any other of my schoolmates, who did not really know what they wanted in life. He practiced until his hands were calloused and bruised, but he kept on practicing until he achieved what sounded to me like perfection, and he still continued to practice. He could play the popular tunes of James Brown, Jimmy Cliff and others with ease, but his benchmark was much higher, the spectacular genuises of Congolese guitar. Such names as Vata Mombasa, Ricos Kinzonga are not well known, but they were the magic fingers behind the guitar pyrotechnics of Orchestres Lipua Lipua and Bella Bella. Jacob could play the most demanding guitar licks and riffs of these giants with complete accuracy.
"If you forget your mother, you have lost your life," croons Nigeria highlife star Nico Mbarga in one of African music's biggest hits, the classic 10-minute midtempo dance rave "Sweet Mother." Mbarga was the most successful translator of West African horn-driven rumba to a guitar band. Mbarga's Rocafil Jazz group may lack bop syncopation, but its six members nonetheless swing together with sweet, machinelike precision. Released originally in the late seventies, before juju and fuji became Nigeria's predominant styles, the tracks collected on Aki Special collectively mark one of the most fertile periods of African music--with tribal rhythms and proverb-studded vocals combined with Western pop harmonies to create ecstatic dance music for both the body and, as suggested by "Free Education in Nigeria," the body politic. --Richard Gehr
Born to a Nigerian mother and a Cameroonian father on Jan 1, 1950 in Abakaliki, Nigeria, Prince Nico embraced the musical traditions of both cultures.
Prince Nico's music was inspired by the five years he spent in Cameroon during the Nigerian Civil War in the late 1960s.
He played the xylophone, conga, drums, and electric guitar in school bands and he made his professional debut as a member of a hotel band, the Melody Orchestra, in 1970.
He formed his own group, Rocafil Jazz, after returning to Nigeria two years later and performed regularly at the Naza Hotel in Onitsha. In 1973, Nico and his group released a single which was met with little fanfare but their second single, "I No Go Marry My Papa," became a regional hit.