The Ikenga Super Stars of Africa, led by Vincent Okoroego, a former member of Steven Osita Osadebe’s Nigeria Sound Makers were a leading Igbo “guitar highlife” group of the seventies and eighties in Nigeria. The Ikengas called their style of music “Ikwokilikwo”, a fast-paced form of highlife popularized by Oliver de Coque and Godwin Kabaka Opara of the Oriental Brothers, amongst others.
The band went on to record several LP’s, while establishing themselves as one of the most beloved Nigerian groups of all time, not only in their homeland but across Africa and in Europe as well.
It has long been rumored that “Nkengas in London” was an Osita Osadebe master tape hijacked by Okoroego and other members of the Nigeria Sound Makers who defected in the early seventies. Absent any evidence to the contrary, this seems likely. “Nkengas in London” sounds not at all like other Ikengas recordings, for instance, “Ikenga in Africa.” The vocals, the instrumentation, even the spoken comments at the beginning of the songs, are all classic Osadebe.
The Ikengas have had numerous personnel changes and defections over the years and while they were basically an “Igbo” group, over time they took on a broader character, enlisting musicians from other ethnic groups and Cameroun. In this sense they were part of a broader movement in Nigerian music in the late seventies and early eighties that I call “Pidgin Highlife,” a trend that included artists like Prince Nico Mbarga who sang mainly in “pidgin” or “broken” English rather than vernacular languages. As this genre faded away in the early eighties, so did the Ikengas.
See also Nkengas.
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