A popular Edo highlife musician, multi-instrumentalist, who played a blend of Calypso, High life and Afro Beat genres of music, Ambassador Osayomore Joseph, is dead.
He reportedly passed on Saturday, 11th June, 2022, about four months shy of 70 years from stroke-related ailment.
His health deteriorated after he was kidnapped and released by his abductors who reportedly collected ransom.
He reportedly spent thirty days with the elements who kidnapped him in October, 2017 after performing at the Oba Palace, Benin.
The late musician was born on October 29, 1952 in Ugha village near Benin City, Edo State Nigeria.
He was one of the early pioneers of African popular Highlife music.
He was sometimes referred to as the “Fela Kuti of Benin”.
Like Fela, he was imprisoned for speaking out against the government in his music.
His educational, anti-corruption and anti- government critical lyrics sung in Edo but also in pidgin English reached a wide audience worldwide.
A friend of the late musician, Mr Tony Erha told THE CONCLAVE on Saturday that Osayomore was a wonderful friend.
According to Erha, “I was on regular visits to him at his residence, located at the Gapuiba Area of GRA, Benin City.
“Joseph Osayomore was his usual self, talking about current happenings in the country, as a human rights activist, whose music is soul-lifting, philosophical and protests against human oppression.
“This was despite the fact that he was ridden with stroke associated with his incaceration in the hands of kidnappers, who for weeks held and released him after payment of ransom.
“He was a truthful and selfless man who came from grass to grace, with his music as comforter for the depressed and wretched of the earth.
“I will always miss his good company and counsel.”
A fan of his wrote in a widely-circulated WhatsApp post, entitled “ADIEU OSAYOMORE JOSEPH” thus: “Before it was mere rumours circulating in the air but now it’s official: Ambassador Osayomore Joseph, leader of Ulele Powerhouse Dance Band of Edo state, is dead. Waoh!
“Another Benin music maestro draws the curtain and says goodbye to the world of music entertainment.
“In less than a year, Edo people have lost great sons of the state to the superior might of death- talented musicians of no mean persona and pedigree: Sir Victor Uwaifo, Chief Arala Osula and now Ambassador Osayomore Joseph.
What has befallen the music industry in Benin City? What is killing these treasured and cherished music artists who put Benin City on a high pedestal when it comes to music artistry & delivery?
“Adieu Osayomore Joseph! You were a songbird to us and a music legend with powerful lyrics revered far and wide. We will remember you for your music rendition and how you followed in the footsteps of Fela Kuti in keeping the government restlessly attentive to the voice of the voiceless and downtrodden of the nation.
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“RIP my superhero and legendary music maestro, arguably the best that ever emerged in Edo state.
“May your soul have eternal rest in peace till we meet to part no more.”
Joseph Osayomore was born on October 29, 1952, in Ugha village near Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria. He has a reputation as a freedom fighter, an activist musician with a long history of criticizing local and national political corruption through his music. Osayomore’s music chartbusters Efewedo, ‘Baba Na Wa,’ ‘Leave us alone,’ ‘Evil days postponed’ all in pidgin English.
Early Life and Education
Joseph Osayomore was born in Ugha, a village near Benin City. He moved to Lagos When he was 19 years old and began his musical career as a member of the Nigerian army officers mess band. it was in the band he developed his flute, and guitar skills. Inspired by Sir Victor Uwaifo, Fela Anikulapo Kuti and King Sunny Ade, Osayomore Joseph branched out and began releasing his own music in 1976.
After releasing albums several from 1976 to 1979 he returned to Benin to continue his career which was picking up support amongst Edo people in Benin. He used his musical training to combine contemporary popular music — funk, Afrobeat, and highlife — with Edo’s indigenous songs and rhythms. The funky, percussion-heavy grooves earned him fans across Nigeria and among the growing Edo communities in the U.S. and Europe.
With this sound, Osayomore had several regional hits in the early ’80s, including “Efewedo,” “Ororo No Dey Fade” and “Soja Go Soja Come.”
Osayomore returned to Benin and found success between 1980 and 1985 with a series of fan favorite hits. This success came as Nigeria was transitioning into a long period of military dictatorship. The harsh austerity measures and political unrest disrupted the social and economic lives of the people to the point where even an artiste like Osayomore began to use his music to comment on the situation. Osayomore responded to the political environment in the early 1990s with a series of critical songs, including “Truth” and “Teacher.” Until Babangida invalidated the results of the democratic election of June 12, 1992, which should have brought popular politician M.K.O. Abiola to power, Osayomore had always kept his criticism primarily indirect, however he made a bold statement with his album, June 12 Is God’s Mandate. In his song called “Baba Na Wa.” In it, Osayomore calls Babangida “evil,” the “original criminal,” and the “father of all disasters.”
His outspoken denunciation of corruption and injustice in songs like “Son of a Thief,” “Army of Freedom,” and especially “Baba Na Wa,” won him the Edo people’s long-term loyalty and love, and inspired an ongoing tradition of Edo State activist-musicians.
Osayomore Joseph was sadly kidnapped in October 2017, shortly after he had played at the Oba of Benin’s one-year coronation celebration. He spent 30 days in his captors custody before securing his release. Soon after in December 2017, he released a new album, 30 Days and 30 Nights in the Evil Forest (Supreme Disk) — a document of his experience in the swamp.
The nickname ‘Ambassador’ was given to Osayomore by the Edo community in American during his first visit to New York in 1992. Since then he has regularly performed in the United States and Europe, specifically, Italy, UK, and Ireland. His last international event was in Canada in 2019.
Osayomore usually releases a new album twice a year and has 104 so far. A few well-known albums are Forever, and my Name is Money, Fire on the Mountain.
Osayomore Joseph have since influenced artiste like Advisor Nowamagbe to use their music for activism.
Osayomore Joseph have released several albums with big music conglomerates, Polydor and Philips West Africa. A few of these albums are ‘Who Know Man,’ ‘Mother’s Day,’ ‘Ulele Queen,’ Ulele Power Sound vol 2′ ‘Edo Funk Explosion,’ and many others. In these albums, he sang with the ‘Creative 7’ band.