Today, being Good Friday turns out to be a bad day for Nigerians who woke up to the news that Orlando Julius Aremu Olusanya Ekemode, professionally known as Orlando Julius or Orlando Julius Ekemode, had died.
Orlando, who was a Nigerian saxophonist, singer, bandleader, and songwriter closely associated with Afrobeat music, died at the age of 79.
Orlando Julius was born in 1943 in Ilesa, Nigeria to a merchant family during British colonialism. He is a native of Ijebu Ijesha in Osun, Nigeria.
He went to St. Peter’s Anglican School in Ikole and played in the school band. In 1957, after dropping out of school and the death of his father, he left for Ibadan to pursue a career as a musician.
It will also interest you to note that Julius’ first musical teacher was his mother, who would sing and dance while he played drums.
Starting in the 1960s, he brought together traditional African sounds and rhythms with American pop, soul, and R&B.
He spent many years in the United States working in partnership with Lamont Dozier, the Crusaders, and South African musician Hugh Masekela, and his voice has been a fundamental part of the invention, growth, and popularisation of Afropop.
Julius released a widely admired Afrobeat album titled Jaiyede Afro. In 1966, he released Super Afro Soul, which made him a national celebrity in Nigeria.
Back in Ibadan, Julius joined Rex Williams’ highlife band. In lieu of formal lessons, he consumed as much music as possible, buying records of any horn-based music he could, but especially the highlife music out of Ghana which had become popular in Nigeria.