OLIVER DE COQUE
If you have never listened to his songs, then you are missing some good Igbo music. Some call him “Oliver de coke”. Actually that was how we pronounced his name as kids.
You’re missing big time if you’re Igbo and you’ve never listened to his songs.
And did you know why he was called DE COQUE?
Let me tell you.
As a young man he was very good at the game of DRAUGHTS ( some call it draft),and was known as the “Game master”.
Draughts is called “Okwe” in Igbo Language, so people began to call him “De Ka Okwe “.
He decided to change it to sound more like a French name with “Oliver de Coque”.
Sunday Oliver Akanite a.k.a(Oliver DE Coque) was among the Igbo musicians who promoted Igbo Language and culture with beautiful music. A very talented guitarist and a master vocalist.
Oliver ventured into music at the early age of 17 when he started with the Igbo music called “Egwu ekpili” in 1965 with Alexander Emelumonye.
Oliver would play his music on weekends and he would trade shoes at Aba, which was his base then as a young boy.
After the Nigerian Civil War in 1970, he went back to Aba to look for job and it was then he met some old friends who were also good in music and they started looking for what they could do together.
Around that time, they met a certain band group that usually came from Lagos to play in Aba. Oliver asked the leader, Mr Sunny Agaga to feature him in his band because he could handle the guitar.
As the boy was good, and after some persuasions, Oliver joined them back to Lagos but, the band wasn’t playing for about 3 weeks so, there was no way of making money.
Because if this he decided to join Jacob Oluwole, whom he met at Oshodi in Lagos. They have him accommodation and they were also preparing to record their album called “Agbasisi” which later became a hit.
However, Oliver noticed that they quarreled a lot so, he left them and joined Sule Agboola around the time his bad was planning for an Europe tour in 1973. They secured a passport and visa for him and they were to stay in Europe for 4 months.
Since they performed only on weekends, he started looking for a job he could do during the weekdays.
He was lucky to secure a job that paid him £80/week(80 pounds per week).
It was from this part time job that he saved money and was able to buy two guitars, two amplifiers and a set of drums and when they got back to Nigeria, he set up his own band.
He called it the “Ogene sound super of Africa”. He blended modern high life and traditional Igbo music perfectly.
He had a very beautiful and unique voice that sent his songs deep into hearts, with the careful blend of the instruments by his expert instrumentalists.
Oliver de Coque went on to record more than 73 albums and many of them were big hits. He was the most popular highlife king of Africa.
In 1974,he composed “Messiah, Messiah” which was recorded by Olumo Records Limited.
He sold about 50,000 copies. That song was a hit and spread through out some African countries, where many people didn’t even know that Oliver was a Nigerian.
Many thought he was from Cameroun, or Congo because of the way he sand and the way he handled the guitar.
He made a lot of money from that record alone. And things changed for good.
Always an Igbo man and Anambra man from Ezinifite, Nnewi South, with that smart business inclination, he bought three brand new vehicles and employed three drivers same day!
His music by this time had gone viral. He was a celebrity all over Nigeria and especially in the East. His home town was all jubilant because of their sons success.
He later made other popular songs like “People’s Club” which sold 2 million copies; “Ugbana”, “Easter Special”, “Obele Nwa na amụ ịrị enu” etc. In the later years, he sang “Nnukwu mmanwu”, “Oti mkpu” and others.
However his highest hit remained “Peoples Club”
Oliver was one of the Igbo singers who sang with the language and had a lot of Proverbs and Igbo sayings in his lyrics.
His songs still re-awakens a lot of memories in people each time they are played and many younger Igbo highlife singers still get some inspirations from his songs.
He has been criticized for praising certain people of perceived questionable character in some of his songs, especially in later years.
According to his son Darlington Akanite, Oliver was diabetic and hypertensive. But he didn’t make this public.
Oliver was born on April 14,1947. He had 12 children ; 7 boys and 5 girls. And they all enjoyed their dad’s presence.
He died on June 20, 2008. Cause of death was cardiac arrest. He was planning to go for a check up in the USA on July 2.
According to his son, through his stay in the hospital “he kept begging me to save his life but, there was nothing I could do”
Before he died, he held Darlington’s hand close to his side as he took his last breathe.
His son closed his eyes and kissed him on his forehead. He said he was confused afterwards and didn’t know what really happened.
OLIVER DE COQUE