(Bankoke Banjo fires a riposte at Dr. Dami Ajayi, in-house music critic at Thisislagos. He is affronted that Dr. Ajayi compared Orlando Owoh to Orlando Julius. Enjoy.)
I was delighted to read about Orlando Owoh in thisislagos.ng.
While Dami Ajayi’s article was a welcome surprise, it is embarrassing that The Good Doctor attempted to maintain the general beer parlour tales around the legendary Doctor Before Doctor, Oladipupo Owomoyela, popularly called Dr. Orlando Owoh.
I am appalled at Dami’s insistence on bringing in Orlando Julius into the conversation when there isn’t any need to do so. I am not sure anyone with half a musical ear would confuse Orlando Owoh with Orlando Julius. The voice and musical delivery are several modulations apart. Aside from Orlando Owoh’s deep, sometimes-flat-and-out-of-tune baritone voice and heavy reliance of his music on the guitar, African konga and shekere were distinct features from Orlando Julius’ sonorous voice and express use of horns. One was predominantly highlife, the other fused Afrobeats/jazz with a sprinkling of highlife. Apart from the name, Orlando, which by the way is not the Kennery Master’s real name, not much can make anyone mistake one for the other.
Orlando Owoh sang about Indian hemp and smoked it freely. He once confirmed he started smoking at 19 and did try to stop a couple of times but always relapsed. From Ganja System to Ganja II, he paid homage to the ultimate vegetable. But, the song, s’aigbo, that many believe he sang in apology to his mother for smoking weed is not true. Perhaps due to language and dialect, or deliberate mischief, many misinterpreted that song to mean what it was not. The song was clear: Mama mi maa ma ba mi ja, pe mo s’aigbo…oore brother se lo ya mi lenu, lo mu mi s’aigbo, oni o naira mefa, ola o naira mejila, oni ogoji naira lo mu mi s’aigbo. (Translation: Mum, don’t be mad at me for doing it at a young age. Brother’s generosity was shocking, today six naira, tomorrow twelve naira and sometimes forty naira made me give in to him). Any Ifon indigene with an idea of the dialect would know. But Dami Ajayi is clearly not Ifon
While Orlando Owoh may not have popular successors, his sons, Kunle and Daisi Orlando-Owoh in Nigeria and their eldest brother, Orimipe Orlando-Owoh in America as well as self-acaclaimed godson, Obalola, have kept the fire burning.
Kunle Orlando-Owoh deserves more than a cursory attention. Having performed in his father’s band and stayed with him till his passing in 2008, Kunle inherited the African Kenneries and, his 2009 debut album, Golden Gate, was a fitting tribute to Orlando Owoh.
The follow-up album, Highlife Mega, is a Kennery lover’s delight. Backed by the entire Kennery captained by the famous Baba Oloye, Kunle gave us Kennery sounds that were as original as they come. The sharp modulations and Konga interludes were straight from Orlando Owoh’s playbook. One can only hope he keeps on track as he has gone underground for some years now.
However, in all the entire musical space, none has benefitted from Orlando Owoh’s rich repertoire of music as Yinka Ayefele. You could hardly pick a Yinka Ayefele album and not hear an original Orlando percussion or baptized lyrics. When Orlando sang “Kennery sound is a beautiful sound in the town” in E get as E be, Ayefele corrupted it to “Halleluyah song is a beautiful song in the church” in his Fun Fair album. But Ayefele has never been ungrateful, this much he showed in the many acknowledgments and consistent references to the late Kennery Master.
We may go on and on about this musical legend, indeed, his music may have faded out from core entertainment but as long as we still dust our pretty habiliments and go to church on a Sunday, you can never be so sure that your church guitarist has not scored at least five Orlando Owoh chords while you worship in truth and in spirit.
In spiritual realms, the legends inhabit. Oladipupo Owomoyela is no different. Shame his Dopemu house is without any monument, such a place should have been a worship ground for true Kennery fans day in, day out.