Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe was one of the most prolific bandleaders from the 1950s & 1960s “Golden Age” of Nigerian dance-band highlife who stayed active and constant on the music scene till his death in 2007. He was born in March 1936 in Atani, Ogbaru Local Government Area, Anambra State. He was a chorister in his church as a boy, played in the school band, and was interested in classical music.
“The man who mainly inspired me into singing was the late Nat King Cole, an American,” Chief Osadebe was quoted saying in a 2004 Sun News article. “He sang in English, Spanish, and other languages. I loved his music.”
He entered into full time music in 1958, 1st joining Stephen Amechi’s Empire Rhythm Skies as a vocalist and maracas player. He found national success in 1958 with his recording “Adamma,” a tribute to a beautiful woman. Osadebe went ahead to play with other notable bands of E.C. Arinze, Agu Norris, Eric Onugha, Eddy Okonta, Chuks Nwamama, Zeal Onyia & Charles Iwegbue. In 1960, he took a 2 year music break to study for a Diploma in Trade Unionism in the Soviet Union. Upon completion, Osadebe returned to Nigeria to establish Stephen Osadebe & His Nigerian Sound Makers.
Osili as he is often called was referred to as the Doctor of Hypertension in reference to the perceived healing power of his music. His music played a very important role in Nigeria with his genre of highlife that was infused with sounds of merengue and rumba. Over the course of his 49 years in music, he put out over fifty LPs and numerous 45s and was said to have written over 500 songs; he prided himself on being a composer of music and lyrics. “My own belief is that if you cannot compose your song, you are not worth being a musician,” he said in the same 2004 interview with Sun News. Throughout his decades-long career, Chief Osadebe recorded in English, pidgin English, and Ibo, the language of his ethnic group.
In 1984, Osili dropped “Osondi Owendi” which has been said to be the biggest selling record in the history of his Nigeria (No facts to prove this!). Nowadays a party ain’t a party until the cut comes through a couple of times. His contributions to Nigerian music were priceless; not only did he carry the torch of classic highlife to the very end winning many honours and awards including the PMAN award with his music, his sonorous compositions became evergreen classics loved by millions – “Osita”, “Sisi Kwanangida,” “One Pound”, “Lagos Life”, “Nri Sports di Uso,” “Osondi Owendi,” ” Zik & Mbadiwe” and many, many more.
Chief Osadebe left 5 wives and several children, many of whom live in the United States. His 1st son Obiajulu Emmanuel Osadebe who had stepped into his father’s shoes remixing some of his hit songs to keep the Osadebe legacy alive, sadly died in 2009 at the age of 43 after a brief illness.
In 2009, MC Loph & Flavour did a remake of “Osondi Owendi” which became a hit as well. Check it out here
For the nearest accurate discography of the Commander in Chief Osili, visit here