This is my tiny way of saluting a man I’ve come to respect and admire his life and work so much, a man I feel that we should name a major street in Igboland after, in recognition of his works in promoting our language, culture, values and traditions.
He is known as “Gentleman Mike Ejeagha”
“Ndị beanyi, onye si nwata jide nkàkwụ, ya debekwalụ ya mmiri ọ ga-eji were kwọọ aka”
The above is the first of the countless deep Igbo proverbs you’ll hear as you listen to one of his hit tracks entitled “Omekagụ” Not only would you be presented with too numerous deep Igbo proverbs, he laces his lyrics with ancient Igbo idiomatic expressions that gets you thinking about your roots and smiling, while you nod, whistle or move your body.
This man is gifted, highly talented. A real Igbo born, a trail blazer in the music industry. He’s a philosopher, a very masterful story teller- a folkloric ideologue and one man who has contributed immensely in promoting the Igbo culture.
My first encounter with Mike Ejeagha was in my primary school, when we went out to fetch fodder for our goat(Nri ewu), as was the custom, still is.
It was a daily routine that, after returning from school and doing the regular chores, the next natural and most important assignment of the day was to ensure that the goats were fed, and also had extra food for the remaining part of the day and night.
I know that many people reading this would relate with what I’m saying. So, armed with our “nkọrọ” (sickle), we dashed out barefoot, most times with no shirts on, sometimes, torn shorts, to the expansive playing field of the Government Technical College, Ngwuru, Nsukka then.
Usually, the main duty of cutting grass or whatever shrubs from the green area of the field wasn’t always done immediately on getting there, we had to relax and play for a while. Sometimes, we spend more time than normal, only to get home late with the consequential punishment as they’ll know that we did something else than just fetch the goat food.
If it rained, we’d run around in the rain, shout all we could, got tired, hurriedly cut whatever we could and ran home before they began to call for us.
It was on one of those days, soon after we arrived the field, we noticed some loud sounds coming from the hall across the blocks. We heard people shouting happily, amidst some indistinct background music. Ever curious, we faced that direction and in a few minutes, were inside the hall filled to the brim with ecstatic students dancing and calling out to each other.
It was a big party for them, a very happy and memorable day as Mike Ejeagha thrilled them to his different songs We asked what was happening, and they told us that his son was there, it was their send forth party and he had come to make it a memorable day for his son and his friends.
That was my childhood memory of Mike Ejeagha.
I can’t remember well now if we danced or not, but I remember that it was a big day for us, about the first time I saw a live band of a popular artiste.
He sings in pure and unadulterated Onitsha accent even though he’s from Enugu state.
Maybe he grew up in Onitsha. I don’t know.
Listening to any of his songs takes one into a very expansive and clear plain of imagination where you are able to visualize all the beautiful folk tales we were ever told and also makes you deeply appreciate the Igbo culture and the deeper meaning of our way of life.
He animates those stories and links those ancients with the present in the most beautiful, understandable and entertaining format that is so satisfying, encouraging and uplifting.
He stylishly laces his lyrics with perfectly fitting Igbo idioms and proverbs that creates a certain sense of appreciation of our roots, the importance of of justice and fairness, goodness, honesty, hardwork, brotherly love and many of those virtues always embedded in Igbo folk tales, which were created to teach us what our society should aspire to be.
His songs are simply didactic.
He is the originator of “Akụkọ n’egwu”, which directly translates, “stories in music/song” and each time you hear anyone make a remark that “I na-akọ akụkọ n’egwu Mike Ejeagha”, just know this is how it all began.
Mike is a real person, a living Igbo legend.
The Igbo folklore shows the customs, practices, belief systems, literature, cultural practices and festivals. It includes myths, legends, jokes, riddles, chants, charms, blessings, curses, insults, dress codes, prayers of a people, their hopes and aspirations, etc.
The Igbo people have this and they define us. We act according to our core traditional belief systems, even without knowing them because it’s how we grew up and what we learned from family, friends and the community.
He uses Igbo folklore to convey strong messages in very entertaining way that keeps one thinking reminiscing, imagining and smiling.
His listeners are thrilled to his masterful guiter sounds, the near perfect dexterity of the percussionists and the melodious rendition of his ballads, in Igbo style and totally devoid of the sycophantic praise-singing that some Igbo musicians are known for.
Many of our musicians are known to praise people with obviously questionable wealth, just to get some crumbs from them.
This man has over 33 record albums and 4 singles. In total, he has recorded over 300 songs.
Not a mean feat!
If only Nigeria was a place where originators or creators of intellectual property got a good reward for their labor!
If only this was a place where the government knew the importance of protecting people’s intellectual property rights and caused them to reap the full benefit thereof, many of these people wouldn’t be where they are today.
I saw his CDs sold on Amazon store at $19.99 (approx N7, 500)for 4 albums and I wondered if he was the owner of that store or someone else was doing it and making money off another person’s sweat.
Some of them are today living in not so desirable conditions despite their long years in hardwork in investment in creating premium content.
We should celebrate our great men and women alive. We should show them love, practically while they still breathe and let them know that they are really appreciated for the ways they impacted our lives, not only when they’re dead.
These are the people who make us smile, make us dance and minister to us in our homes, offices and everywhere at our happiest or saddest moments, highest or lowest points in life. Each one of us has been impacted one way or another by these guys.
There’s a certain joy that fills one’s heart when such heroes pass on and you realize that you showed some love at some time while they were alive.
As our Gentleman Mike Ejeagha clocks 88 this August, I just wrote to appreciate a man I admire so much and really love his works.
I also wanted to let’s say “happy birthday” to a living Igbo legend, a great musician, a cultural icon and one of the preservers of our oral tradition.
If you would like to send him a birthday token, his account number was once provided by his fans in 2018 when he was sick and visited by our brother, Charles Ogbu.
I don’t know if he has started getting his royalties seized by his recording company for many years, an issue that really impoverished him as he was in court for many years fighting for his money, in this his old age!
One of his songs is entitled, “Jaa m mma na ndụ” ( Praise me while I’m still alive).
My best tracks are :
- Onye nwe Ọ na ebe
- Ụwa Mgbede
- Egwu udo
For me, Onye nwe ọ na-ebe is the best of all.
Which of his songs are your favorites?
You can send him something via his bank account here : Mike Ejeagha || 0016031385 || Union Bank
(Please, note that Mike didn’t ask for this, but I just feel some of his fans might want to show him some love).
Happy birthday nna anyị, Mike Ejeagha.