By Ori Martins
The late Christogonus Obinna, popularly known to global music lovers and admirers as Warrior, died on June 2 but the obituary was announced on July 19, while he was buried on November 1999. At the height of his glory, Warrior not only got a self-styled knighthood addendum, he equally enshrined a doctorate to his identity, thereby completing a sequence that sounded even more musical: Dr. Sir Warrior.
Warrior was the third person in the sensational Oriental Brothers International Band formed shortly after the tragic civil war. The other four members of the group were Kabaka, Dansatch, Aquila and Ichita. Warrior, just like Acquila, hailed from Mbaise. The others were from Ngor Okpala. Their biggest sponsor was James Azuwuike. Decca recorded their albums while Afrodisia marketed them.
Like Pele in the Brazilian team of 1958 to 1970, Maradona in Argentina’s squad of 1982 to 1994, or the way Bob Marley stole the show among his Wailers’ contemporaries, just as TuFace flew ahead of the Plantation Boyz, Warrior was the toast of fans, indeed, the cynosure of all eyes in the Oriental Brothers group.
With his peculiar sonorous voice, Warrior, the vocalist and most creative, was the mouthpiece of the band; and from their first outing, he was quite magical. His voice was exciting. His lyrics were philosophical. His diction was entertaining and his composition captivating. As a matter of fact, Warrior, who was never the group’s leader, dramatically and perfectly became the posterboy of the outfit. His voice was the group’s identity. His name was Oriental Brothers’ stamp and his face was synonymous with the band. Indeed, everything about Oriental Brothers centered around Warrior and he never disappointed. He delivered satisfactorily.
Between 1974 when the first album, Ihechinyerem was released (with the Original Oriental Brothers) and 1996 when he pushed (alone) out his last work, Who Goes There, Warrior had become a cult figure, a music maestro, a people’s hero and an Igbo ambassador. Warrior easily got the support of traditional rulers, the business class, the rich as well as the poor. He was loved, even by his enemies.
Through hard work, he got himself together after the storm that scattered the group. His cultural integration – an Mbaise, who spoke largely Owerri diet garnished with central Igbo, his social ingenuity – he associated freely with all people no matter status, his compelling proverbial bend- Warrior was a philosopher who sang in proverbs and his Congolese plus Cameroonian concept of highlife music really brought glamour and colour to that music genre. These traits stood him out.
Like Prof Chinua Achebe, whose works correctly predicted the Nigerian political spheres, Warrior’s sayings and songs rightly prophesied socio-political tempo in Imo State, in particular and Nigeria in general. He also used his albums to celebrate events that have just occurred.
For instance, after the tragic death of Murtala Mohammad in 1976, Warrior led the Original Oriental Brothers to come out with the hit track, Muritala Mohammed in December of that year. After the 1983 coup d’etat, Warrior mocked the politicians with his Ndi Ji Ego Ejidela Ego Aguu Ana Agu Anyi. His ebee shiga-ashiga, more than any other thing, captured the ill wind of kidnapping that overshadowed Imo State of that era. It was not long before Warrior was proved right.
At the peak of his glorious career, Warrior was ranked number one in highlife music, a feat which placed him in the same prism with equally acclaimed global icons like Osadebe, Oliver de Coque, Obey, Sunny Ade, Victor Uwaifo, Okukuseku and a few others.
Probably, nothing showcases Warrior’s greatness than the fact that, in death, and 20 years after his burial, his music still blares in the air: most radio and television stations use some of his tracks as signal tunes, entertainers use his tracks to keep their audiences busy, while functions like wedding, naming, burial, launching, etc, must feature Warrior’s imprimatur.
In all, Warrior had 18 albums alone and 10 with his original band members. It was phenomenal.
Warrior was a great man, a great musician, he died great and was given a befitting burial. May he continue to rest in peace!