Posted on Fri 4 Oct 2019, 09:25 AM

Ogbueshi Eleazar Chukwuwetalu Arinze, known simply as E.C. Arinze, was one of the founding fathers of what became known as West African brand of highlife music. He was prominent as a craftsman in playing trumpet. His contemporaries at his peak include Victor Olaiya, Chris Ajilo, Tunde Amuwo and Bobby Benson.

Ogbueshi Arinze was a pioneer member of the famous Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) Dance Orchestra, where he assumed the lead trumpet role because he could read and play ‘sheet’ music. The group was a large orchestra which also included saxophonist Chris Ajilo, trumpet player Michael Falana among many others, it was directed at different times by the late Fela Sowande and Steve Rhodes.

The title ‘Ogbueshi’ is not because he held a traditional title, but because he came from a town where longevity is celebrated. At the age of 80, about the year 2010, E.C Arinze joined his agemates to celebrate the Ito Ogbo Obosi, a celebration where an age grade is recognised as exclusive senior citizens. At the ceremony, the celebrants begin to wear the revered red cap of honour.

E.C Arinze started playing music as a teacher before moving to Lagos in 1952 and began his career from Empire Hotel situated at the time at Idioro. The band was owned by the owner of the hotel, Chief Kanu; and was named Empire Roving Orchestra. He was there from 1952 till 1959 when he left to form his own band.

He reached the peak of his musical career in Lagos in 1966 before he was forced by the civil war to relocate to the East.
After the war, E.C Arinze made the Presidential Hotel, Enugu, his base where he performed consistently for 15 years. He quite performing at the hotel in 1985. 

Amongst the songs composed by E.C Arinze, the most popular may be ‘Nike Nike K’ayi ji alu olu’, which the Nigerian Police Band has made a signature of their identity.

The later part of his life was spent at his home in Abakpa Nike, Enugu before retiring to his native home, in Ugamuma Village, Obosi in Idemili North Local Government Area of Anambra state. He died in 2013 at the age of 85.

Ogbueshi E.C Arinze will, apart from the tunes which he created, be remembered more for his ability in identifying talents and giving them space to shine. 

He spoke to Benson Idonije, a journalist with Guardian Newspapers, on how he discovered one of the most talented musicians Nigeria has ever produced, Sir Victor Uwaifo.

“I picked Victor Uwaifo from school. The press was making jest of me then saying ‘E.C., you’ve got a school boy to play.’ Then he was putting on white shirt and shorts – St Gregory’s uniform. Because of that, I took him to Bhojson’s Stores then at Ebute Metta and bought him a pair of trousers; a long sleeve shirt and a tie – because my boys were wearing ties, long sleeve shirts and black trousers. I made him to look like the others.

“The boy was wonderful. I knew he would make it that was why I picked him and encouraged him. You can see how much he has achieved today as a musician. I have not achieved as much as he has done in music. He is greatly talented.”

Homeland News remembers the grandmaster of highlife music, Ogbueshi E.C Arinze.

Part of the materials were extracted from an article by Benson Idonije, published by The Guardian, April 15, 2015

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