Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe (March, 1936 - 11 May 2007) was an Igbo Highlife musician, from Southeastern Nigeria. His career spanned over 40 years, and he is one of the most well known Igbo highlife musicians.
In 1958, his first record was released to much acclaim and acceptance. It contained two songs, one of which was "Adamma", a tribute to a beautiful lady. Since then, he has written over 500 songs, more than half of which have been released and circulated world-wide. Today, he enjoys the prime prestige of the doyen of highlife music in Africa. In some circles, he is even considered a cultural icon.
There has always existed a robust co-dependency between the musical tastes of Africans and the modern cultural expressions of Europe and America. The colonial and post-colonial ties have always remained there. Much advancement in modern technology has greatly enhanced this.
As a good student of musical expression, Osadebe did not initially give himself much room for much experimentation with Highlife's form. The Empire Rhythm Orchestra, led by E. C. Arinze provided room for Osadebe to learn. Nobody suspected that the little skinny young man was later to embody the accumulation of the pioneering efforts of Rex Lawson, Celestine Ukwu, Eddie Okonta, Victor Olaiya, Fred Coker, and Victor Uwaifo and several others.
Having become established, Osadebe took his music to another level in two major ways. The first was in incorporating satiric social commentary in his compositions. He was not as ribald and confrontational as Fela Kuti, nor was he as overtly benign as Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey. He often appeared to target personal foes, a factor that later hindered his lyrical purity. The second was in extending the duration of each song to accommodate the dance floor jolly mood of his audience.
Osadebe, kept his live performance schedule active both during and after the war, in-spite of all the hardship of those years. By the mid Seventies his career had reached its zenith. Osadebe '75 gave him great success. Several hits followed in rapid succession like Biafran bullets. This continued as the Nigerian economy swam in its much wasted oil boom. He also survived several band split-ups. One positive result of this shaky period that he went through was that Nigerian music welcomed several voices that found expressions thereby enriching the highlife genre.
In 1984, Osadebe struck gold with "Osondi Owendi." His profile had been established as the leading highlife musician. His bold innovative experiments paid off admirably. "Makojo," which appears in this collection was, a celebrated hit from the eighties.
Osadebe's music has evolved a particular flow that features jazzy horns and strong guitar strokes atop bold native instrumentation, through it's many years. His voice, which is his major instrument, has maintained an incredible consistency through his career. In his songs there is lots of narration accompanying the singing. Another feature of his music is the heroic praise he gives to social clubs and his rich patrons and others. This is a carry over from traditional Igbo music, which celebrates the war and economic exploits of the local warriors and farmers. Again, this trait has threatened the more philosophical lyricism of his music as an art form.
When Osadebe turned 50 in 1986, he consciously began to make room for his son Obiora, by lightening his touring schedule. Several of his children from his wives had also began to demand more fatherly guidance. His record releases however had not diminished in any way. And age seems to have added more glow to his golden career. One of his internationally celebrated releases of recent is "Kedu America". Osita Osadebe died in St. Mary's Hospital Waterbury, Connecticut on the 11 May of 2007.