One of Nigeria’s most decorated highlife musicians, Orlando Julius Ekemode has died. The news of his death was announced by the Managing Director of Evergreen Music, Bimbo Esho who wrote that the wife of the deceased had reached her in the early hours of today, Friday, April 15 about his death.
Julius was a saxophonist, singer and band leader. A native of Ijebu Ijesha, he evinced his musical talents at a young age, having been taught by his mother who was a musical teacher.
His musical career took flight in the 60s when Eddie Okonta invited him to join his band. Before then, he had been tutored by Highlife musician Jazz Romero. With Okonta’s band, Julius performed in many gigs and opened for the American trumpeter and vocalist Louis Armstrong. In subsequent years, he would play with other bands, including Hugh Masakela and opened for other high profile international acts. Julius also opened for the iconic American musician James Brown.
He released his first hit ‘Jagua Nana’ in 1965 and went on to tour West Africa. Julius formed the Ashiko movement and taught people his style of music although he did not stay in this position for long.
After spending some time in the United States, he returned to Nigeria in 1984. He quickly began recording tracks for the album Dance Afro-Beat, leading him to put together the 18-person Nigerian All Stars band.
The cause of death is unknown as at the time of writing. He was aged 79.