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Sonny Okosun

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Born in Enugu, South Eastern Nigeria on January 1, 1947,in 1964 he founded the Postmen, a British Invasion covers band. A year later Okosun visited London for the first time as part of a theatre group—in the wake of the early 1966 government coup d’etat that led to the Biafra conflict. In 1974 he formed his own psychedelic rock unit Paperback Limited, which he helmed until, Upon dissolving the group Okosun again reinvented his approach, this time channeling influences like soul, funk and reggae—the resulting group, dubbed Ozziddi, crystallized the progressive musical and lyrical path he followed throughout the remainder of his career. “All my mates were singing love songs,” Okosun later said. “I was trying to talk about what was happening to black people.”

With 1976’s “Help,” Ozziddi scored their first major African hit, and a year later reggae giant Eddy Grant mixed their LP Papa’s Land. The follow-up Fire in Soweto, recorded in London, scored via the title track, which protest apartheid abuses in South Africa—Okosun nevertheless sidestepped the militant politics of contemporaries like Afro-funk icon Fela Kuti, promoting African unity and black pride over radical broadsides. After completing work on 1978’s Holy Wars, Okosun toured Nigeria with reggae greats Jimmy Cliff and Toots & the Maytals. With 1981’s Third World Okosun inked a licensing deal with London indie Oti, with the U.S. imprint Celluloid agreeing to reissue Togetherness two years later—in 1985, he reached the apex of his international fame as the lone African artist to contribute to the all-star anti-apartheid album Sun City, and a year later, his “Highlife” featured in the Jonathan Demme-directed feature film Something Wild.

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