Born April 14, 1947, Nigerian Guitar King Chief Oliver Sunday Akanite aka Oliver de Coque was one of Africa’s most prolific recording artists.
He came from Ezinifite, Nnewi South LGA, Anambra State, Playing music since the age of 11, he got his musical break in 1965 at the age of 17 playing ekpili, a form of Igbo traditional music.
Taught to play the guitar by Piccolo, the great Zairean guitarist and much inspired by the Congolese soukous, he became a star by his late teens. He got a job playing with a Lagos group – Sunny Agaga & his Lucky Star Band in 1970 after the Biafran war. Shortly after he engaged with Jacob Oluwole & his Friendly Unity Band, and was featured on their hit “Agbasisi.” De Coque’s stint with this group was also short-lived, and in 1973 he joined Sule Agboola & his Moonlight Star Band.
Attracting international attention with a London performance in 1973, he played on Prince NicoMbarga‘s album “Sweet Mother” four years later. Oliver De Coque emerged as a solo artist in 1976, when his LP “Messiah Messiah” was released. A series of classic recordings followed, most notably “Identity” in 1980, and a series of records in honor of the People’s Club of Nigeria.
His great inspiration was to combine highlife, Congolese-style guitar work and the propulsive energy of traditional Igbo music. His called his dance inspiring style – Ogene, after the Igbo double headed bell. Oliver De Coque has recorded no fewer than 73 albums in his homeland and had other hits as “Biri Ka Mbiri,” “Ana Enwe,” “Naukwa Mmwanwu”.
His guitar play on the massive hit “Identity” is pure magic. Oliver sings that he prays to God every morning and evening and he always does his best and trusts in God. His father told him to sing his music with honesty and his mother advised him to respect his elders, furthermore he says that he always “cuts his coat according to his size” (this West African expression means that he lives within his means). He sings that sometimes he wears a suit & tie like a “boyoyo” (a man about town), sometimes he wears traditional clothing like “Chief Obi” (a village elder). He sings that he has a beard, that’s his nature, and that music is his talent – that’s his identity.
De Coque passed away of a heart attack on June 20, 2008. Nigerian highlife music, on life support for the last twenty years, has sustained a mortal blow. It’s doubtful that anybody, or anything, can take his place. Coque who was often backed by his brother Eugene & His Igede International Band has ably carried on the “Ogene” tradition with his updated “Igede” sound
Two of De Coque’s sons have also recently entered the musical field. Oliver Sunday Akanite Jr.released his first album – “Onye Juru Ase” in early 2004, while Darlington Akanite hopes to make his mark in the burgeoning Nigerian hip-hop field. PS …I also think his album covers were awesome.