Late Chris Mba
Last night, it was hot…sizzling hot at the magnificent COSON House in Ikeja as entertainment industry gurus, friends and family came together to celebrate in a big way. the life and times of the late Chris Mba, the vivacious performer with the signature jerry curl hairdo who made significant contributions to changing the Highlife Sound in Nigeria.
It was spectacular! From the fluffy red-carpet celebration in front COSON House anchored by the master of impressions himself, Kofi Da Guru, to the big bash at the COSON Arena on the top floor of COSON House which witnessed electrifying performances with the audience grooving and dancing all night long.
Pastors David Agnenta and Tokunbo Ayokunle of Living Faith Church, Winners Chapel, fired the big bash open with reverent supplications to the Almighty. Before the “amen” from the audience had faded, gospel music minister, Kenny Saint Best was on stage with an exhilarating address that had the audience chanting with excitement along with her.
And then, master of the big stage, King Wadada, exploded with his famous song, “Holy-Holy-Holy” and the no-holds-bared gyration began all over the packed arena. While the gyration was going on, renowned reggae toaster, Righteousman joined Wadada on stage with Carole, his other half and the audience was mesmerized with a never-to-be-forgotten show. And then, artiste after artiste took over the stage. I had admonished everyone that in the famous words of Chris Mba’s hit song, “Baby Don’t Cry”, we were not gathered to cry but to celebrate the life of a musician’s musician. It appears that everybody listened to what I had said.
Those who witnessed the awesome show included the likes of Collins Enebeli, father of hitmaker, Don Jazzy; Mike Odiong, CEO of Premier Records, Nigeria’s frontline recording company on whose label, Chris Mba released much of his memorable songs; Alex ‘O’, one of Nigeria’s most celebrated pop singers of a generation; Cordelia Okpei, retired GM of FRCN’s flagship station, Metro FM; eminent broadcaster, Godwin Asuquo; celebrated airline captain, Emma Anyanwu, who himself is a famed guitarist and almost every member of the COSON Board including the COSON General Manager, Mrs. Bernice Eriemeghe-Ashibuogwu. There were also several famed journalists like frontline bloggers, Charles Okogene and Uzo Chikere.
Chris Mba’s friends and family were present in full force. His widow, Ada Chris Mba, was in the front row with her children, Unique, Favour, Onyi and Naomi.
On the big screen at the COSON Arena, a masterfully crafted multi-media presentation titled “The life and Times of Chris Mba” was shown, in living colour. The presentation was anchored by the famous entertainment journalist, Mandu Uwem Umoh, of STV and TVC fame. The presentation was greeted by a resounding applause.
Chis Mba hailed from Umuhuaba in Obingwa L.G.A. of what today is Abia State of Nigeria. Umuhuaba is about 20 minutes’ drive from Aba, the famous commercial nerve center of the South-East of Nigeria, home to the sprawling Ariaria Market and the all-conquering Eyimba Football club.
Aba with its famous Unicoco, Ambassador and Crystal Park Hotels, was also the bakery that produced unforgettable musical groups such as the Funkees of Aba, the Wings of Aba, Apostles of Aba and the Friimen Music Company. In the 80s, Unicoco and Ambassador were known for their unrivalled Sunday Jumps.
Aba for many years also formed the base for the great show man, Geraldo Pino, who had awe inspiring shows at Crystal Park while living in Port Harcourt. It was at NTA, Channel 6 Aba, that the immutable Lady of Songs, Christy Essien Igbokwe, was discovered by the great Highlife master and broadcaster, Pal Akalonu whose younger brother, Basil Akalonu or Bazzy Cole, drummer of the memorable Sweet Breeze passed on just last week.
Though, he later moved to Lagos, it was Aba that formed the background and foundation of the musical career of Chris Mba who in the late 1970s and early 1980s fraternised and played with several of the local bands, sometimes as a guitarist and other times as a percussionist.
In Lagos, Chris Mba found residence in a bubbling popular music community and fraternity in the Surulere area of Lagos. In that community was located the famous Jazz Basin, run by multi-talented saxophonist, Mike Appoh or Micro Mike as he was known to many. Jazz Basin was a melting pot for musicians, young and old in the 80s and 90s. Coincidentally, Micro Mike, the very gifted multi-instrumentalist that nurtured a lot of young artistes in Nigeria died in London a month ago on July 15.
Among those who watered the Surulere breeding ground of great music was the Reggae revolutionaire, Pupa Orits Wiliki who took over the location where Jazz Basin used to be. Also to be found within the Surulere hot spot of sound, was the late Obi of trumpet, the great Eddy Okonta and his brethren in Highlife, Zeal Onyia. There was Jigida Queen, Uche Ibeto. The sparkling Afro funk star, Alex O and Jambos Express of Jonny Wood Olimah, Spark Abiloye, Ehima Otey, Mosco Egbe and Prince B were in the Surulere hot spot of sound from where they created the hit Song, “Mother Africa“. The Jambos Express front man, Prince B, sadly also answered the final call three days ago.
Perry Ernest Okocha who voiced “Help” and “Don’t Cry” for Sonny Okosun’s Ozzidi was an old boy of the Surulere hot spot of sounds. Sonny Okosun himself lived down the road in Aguda Surulere before moving to his sprawling Ogba residence. Renowned drummer and producer, Richard Ayodele Cole was also a significant old boy of the Surulere hot spot of Sounds. So also was veteran musician, prominent actor and compatriot of Chris Mba, Commander COC Nze.
The genius of Chris Mba may not have been apparent until he released his album, “Love Everlasting” with the monster hit single ‘Baby Don’t Cry’ which had great impact on how Highlife music is expressed.
Chis Mba was signed to Premier Records on whose label he went on to release several other albums, including ‘Funky Solution’ and ‘Making My Way’
After a long battle with heart challenges, Chris Mba passed on 3rd May, 2023 at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital. The announcement of the death of the ebullient Chris Mba has elicited immediate and huge reactions from his fans and colleagues across the world. His death is a significant loss to the music industry and his fans.
From London, former Nigerian teenage music sensation and now Pastor of London’s Power Church International who played several concerts across Nigeria with Chris Mba, sent in a touching tribute.
Also reacting, Governor Alex Otti, the newly minted governor of Chris Mba’s home state of Abia where Chris is considered an illustrious son, sent a moving condolence massage to his family.
Governor Otti’s Special Adviser on Tourism & Entertainment, J. Martins, who in his own right, is a celebrated Abia born musician, spoke via a video message to the packed audience at the COSON Arena.
Chris Mba’s music and unique style have left a permanent mark on the Nigerian music scene and he will always be remembered for his contributions to the growth of the industry.
Chris Mba may be gone but his memory will linger in our hearts for many-many years. All of us at COSON thank everyone who has contributed to celebrating the life of our member, the great Chris Mba. May his soul rest in peace.
See you next week.