Saturday, July 2, 2011

Death of Essien-Igbokwe is a big loss, say artistes

Note: Christy was from Akwa Ibom State

Business Day
1 July 2011

.Nigeria’s ``Lady of Songs”, Chief (Mrs) Christy Essien-Igbokwe, who died on Thursday, has been described as an accomplished entertainer who would be sadly missed in the industry.

Essien-Igbokwe passed on at the age of 51 at a Lagos hospital. She was the first female president of the Performing Musicians Employers Association of Nigeria (PMAN) and played “Apena” in the popular sitcom comedy-- ``The Masquerade”.

The PMAN President, Dele Abiodun, who was among the early callers at the residence of the late Essien-Igbokwe in Ikeja on Friday, told newsmen that she would be greatly missed in the entertainment industry.

``It is a pity that the industry has lost another big artiste like her. She has a passion for the industry and helped in building and sustaining it”.

Abiodun described the late Essien-Igbokwe as a good ambassador of Nigeria because her music went beyond the shores of this country.

``We adore her, her openness, uprightness and she was a good listener to anyone’s complaints. She was someone you could rely on for anything and she used to give good advice and did not believe in cutting corners”, he said.’‘

Abiodun said that since death was inevitable, people who have the zeal for the entertainment industry should do whatever they could to make their names indelible as Essien-Igbokwe has done”, he added.

A former PMAN President, Bollaji Rosiji also told the press that the deceased uplifted the role of women in the industry and was a good leader.

``She carried others along with her during her reign in various capacities in the entertainment industry,” Rosiji said, noting that she set enviable standards in everything she did in her short lifetime. (NAN) ....

30 June 2011

What sad news! Christy was feisty, hardworking, a stickler for details and always in search of excellence. She had zestful. She was not just a singer; she was a performer per excellence, not just in music but as an actress too - in the Old Masquerade, where she played - Apena, Jegede's wife.

I'll never forget that voice or those wide eyes as she would fix you with her gaze while addressing you.

I knew her by 1980 when I used to visit her and the husband, Edwin Igbokwe at the Punch compound, in Ikeja, Lagos. Then, Obiora, her son, now a man, was a little boy.

If Christy was a musical success, we must here pay adequate tribute to the late Olu Aboderin of the PUNCH newspaper; he was the wind beneath Christy's wing. That art lover gave every support to Christy, just as he housed Marvin Gaye (yes, the one and only in Ikeja for about six months just to relax and put his acts together when he hit a terrible low level after the glow of "Lets Get It On" had faded. Marvin would later give the world "Sexual Healing".

As Christy toiled on the "Ever Liked My Person" album, Aboderin sent her to Los Angeles, USA, to produce the album. That trip changed Christy's outlook in music; she said that she was surprised that session men were ready to have a go at playing the needed instruments without labourous practice sessions. When she expressed that surprise, someone told her all had been reduced into musical notes.

Thereafter, she teamed up with Dili Odogwu, from Asaba, (he is related to the art patron and billionaire businessman, Sunny Iwedike Odogwu) - and they attempted to form an orchestra that would elevate Nigerian music; to plant something of LA in Lagos. The dancers had just one rule; to dance without reducing themselves into nothing beyond mere sexual objects. In the mid-1980s, I had a hand in that musical project.

By then, Christy Igbokwe was on the Skylark label, then a member of the PUNCH group. The record company was then headed by Austin Izagbo, the UNIFE Political Science graduate, who caught Aboderin's attention when he headed the Skala club in Ife which organized MISS ACADA Beauty competition. It was when I came to visit Izagbo at Ife that I saw the BEAUTY of that university - my first and only visit that took place in the late 1970s, yet the memory still endures. To combat record pirates, Skylark Records would colour Christy's records various colours except black. "Have You Ever Liked My Person" album was green.

Christy’s death came as a shock to my system. Perhaps it is time to get up and renew my friendship with the new Chairman of PUNCH newspapers, Mr. Wale Aboderin. I last saw him when he accompanied his cousin, Yinka Balogun , now London-based, (Wale and his sisters called him Akeem) to visit me decades ago- driving his father’s Volvo. Yinka, stupid boy, still calls me "coconut head" for my stubbornness. All I want to say to Wale is that he should attempt to surpass his great father; a great patron of the arts, without whose support Christy Essien-Igbokwe would not have been the great Lady of Songs that she became. Once in a competition in the US, Christy was placed second, and the audience nearly rioted. A husband and wife who were in the audience got mad because of that injustice and gave Christy their own prize - their car! They took a taxi home. The limo could not come into Nigeria because the authorities would not allow it in duty free!
Anytime I discussed with Christy, there was always the sun in her eyes and that oomph in her voice. I'll ever remember her. May God give her husband, the gentle Edwin Igokwe and their kids the fortitude to bear the loss of this Akwa-Ibom lady who grew up and started acting in Aba but sang in Lagos. Izagbo will also miss her incurably.

Oh, yes, Christy was instrumental for the setting up of the Nigerian music guild, PMAN, and got the Babangida administration to give it the needed recognition.  
Tony Eluemunor.

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