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Remembering Bob Miga: 1949–2014 ~ By Nze Fidelis Ozichukwu

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Valentine Soroibe Agim, known as Bob Miga Was born 1949 in Owerri, Imo State. For those who grew up in Nigeria in the 1970s and early ‘80s, Bob Miga was a classic act; a superstar, and one among a wave of music celebrities whose sounds touched a core in our lives in a powerful and memorable way. This group of musicians held Nigeria spellbound between 1970 and 1980. The Hykers of Owerri, the Funkees with Jake Solo, Harry Mosco Agada, Sonny Akpan, and the lead guitarist Fela Dey, Founders15 with their massive hit single, “Be My Own,” the Apostles of Aba, featuring Walton Arungwa and Chyke Fusion, whose song, “Drop out” and “Enyim” – was a dance hall favorite of those years; the Aktions Band that found its paces in Warri, Lasbry Ojukwu’s Semi-Colon band in Umuahia with the immemorial single, “Slim Fit Maggie,” the likes of Dan Ian with monster hits like “Money to Burn” and “Fuel for Love,” Sonny Okosun, who had lived in Enugu before his transition to Lagos with the powerful song, “Help” or The Wings ( Ari Okpala, Spud Nathan Udensi, Charlie Duke, Manford Best, Emma Chinaka, Jerry Demua) whose “Tribute to Spud Nathan” was for many years a schoolboy anthem for many; The Black Children with “Love is Fair,” and “Satisfaction,” Wahehe Njoku and his Rock of Ages band, One World whose song “Victory,” remains one of the finest songs ever played by a Nigerian group; and then the scintillating Sweet Breeze (Nestor Philips, Bazy Cole Akalonu, Vin Ikeotuonye, Jackie Moore Anyaora, and Danny Anyanwu) – those IMT Enugu graduates who took the music world by storm with the album that had “Mr & Mrs Fool,” “Palmwine Tapper, “Igbara Aka Bia Ilum,” etc. At the Lagos end were such superlative acts like the BLO trio of Berkeley Ike Jones, Laolu Akins, and Mike Odumosu, and the Schoolboy band, Ofege, with unforgettable Melvin Ukachi on the vocals.

This was of course a prelude to the 1980 eruption of Chris Okotie (“I Need Some”) and Jide Obi (“Front Page News”) straight out of the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus Law School, Dizzy K Falola, Onyeka Onwenu and Oby Onyioha – who took the scene by the storm and changed the direction of Nigerian music in 1980. All these, is a foreground in celebration of one the greatest of that era of music – Valentine Soroibe Agim – Bob Miga. He was the rousing spirit behind “The Strangers” band based in Owerri which became one of the most famous bands out the East in the 1970s. Its hit single, “Love Rock” – with the lyrics, “some talk about love/ some live it…” is unquestionably one of the greatest rock songs written anywhere in the world.

It was during this experimental period that names and groups like Teddy Oscar and the Strangers, Pat Finn Okonjo, Jerri Jhetto, Joni Haastrup, Michael “Micro Mike” Akpo, Franco Adams, Lola da Silva, Paul Nwoko, Victor Damole and uncountable others, surfaced. And the Teddy Oscar and the Strangers Band assumed to penetrate the newly arrived pop scene disappeared before anyone could figure out what had gone wrong.

According to Uchenna Ikonne who will be releasing a book on West African vintage music, the Hykkers appeared on the music scene upon probably the sudden dissolution of the Teddy Oscar-led Strangers, and though at the brief appearances, Miga may have not been given publicity.

Nevertheless, Miga joined the Hykkers, an army engineered band, alongside Jake Solo, Okonjo, Emile Lawson, Felix Umuofia and Jeff Stone Afam. Hykkers would play jam sessions and entertain the army brass until the base camps at Lagos wanted their attention, the need to go back to Lagos and perhaps keep up with the same flow and same band members.

That would not happen. Miga had a plan. Since his mother was staying in Owerri, he figured there was no need to follow the band back to Lagos. So, he alerted the military commands about other band members’ desire to move back to Lagos, which wasn’t a good idea, as he suggested; and how to keep the band permanently positioned in Owerri could be beneficial to the military commands, considering the fact that the band had gained grounds in the East, and would not make sense to start all over again by moving back to Lagos.

As it had happened, the military commands favored Miga’s stories and strategies which should keep the band intact, in the sense that, Wetheral Road, Owerri, and other hangouts in the hood where the band did their rehearsals, had become established and known, by the locals and fans all around the region, the East. Owerri had become blown to a mega city because of Miga and how he brought pop culture home. Owerri Township and its suburbs, overnight, turned out a sensation with the kind of psychedelic funk, blended with some rock, had been introduced into every home; and thanks to Miga’s Strangers. Miga had become a demi-god and idolized anywhere he popped up.

While Miga stayed on top in many of what he had initiated, bands erupted like crazy. The pop culture revolution had just begun.

The Hykkers, as it would turn out when Miga had succeeded in convincing the military commands why Owerri remains a better spot, in which he was allowed to keep all the instruments while the rest of the band members left empty handed back to Lagos for Miga to regroup. Meanwhile, Eddy Duke who had stayed behind on Miga’s counsels did not hesitate to join Miga in the new Hykkers band when Jake Solo (Nkem Nwankwo) and Ify Jerry came aboard from Enugu for scheduled Hykkers gigs, jam sessions and studio recordings. A group now in adaptation to the Liverpool foursome, the Beatles, would rock the East in a similar fashion the Beatles did in Europe and the Americas.

The Hykkers, would, however, record some powerful singles — “God Gave His Only Son,” “Stone The Flower,” “Deiyo Deiyo,” etc. — before going their separate ways which was typical of music bands and how the business was run.

Enter the new Strangers of Owerri. There is a new band in town with rules of engagement. After parting the Hykkers and Miga stuck with musical instruments, leaving him with one of two choices: To look for session men, shop around for a recording label, form a new band for gigs, outdoor performances and live studio recordings, or leave the entire business alone and move on for something entirely different and, better.

Miga already knew what show business had been all about; so, making up his mind did not take too much probing to find out there was no other place for him than the only thing he had known from growing up.

With all musical instruments in his possession and a band dissolved with no other band-members around to flex with, Miga hopped on the road again to shop around for a group of session men, or folks willing to form a new band with him. It was in this quest, he bumped into guitarist Ani Hoffner (Eugene Umebuani) and Sammy Mathews and, after talks of engagements in recording and performing contracts, Hoffner and Mathews agreed to participate in Miga’s new band, The Strangers of Owerri.

There was a Strangers resident in Owerri and Miga and his band mates got every soul popping. Other music bands emerged, too, and the Eastside never would be the same again. In every nook and cranny, there was a gathering, student union ballroom, family parties, series of scholarly fraternities, social clubs, christenings, cultural festivals, traditional initiations on the rites of passage, and things like that, which overwhelmingly overshadowed the Eastern and parts of southern landscapes, as these musicians entertained.

Bob Miga was also perhaps the finest organist in Nigeria before he quit the stage. Bob Miga died 2nd April 2014 in London, where he lived since the late 1970s. It is true that a younger generation of Nigerians may not know the joy he and his generation of musicians brought into our lives, but there is no doubt that the annals of Nigeria cultural history will record in his name a fine musician – a fantastic band leader – and a great musical genius.. Bob Miga lies today with the immortals. No question about it.


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