The Sun News

Dele Ojo: Life, times of juju legendary musician

• ‘He brought hometown, Ilaramokin, to limelight’

Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure

Not many young individuals may be familiar with the music of late Dele Ojo, said to be the originator of Juju Highlife in the country. He introduced the style of music at a time when little or nothing was known about it.

However, the old generation especially the socialites would be familiar with the great musician and his style of music. He was household name in the 60s and mid 70s, especially among the Yoruba.

The juju exponent died almost two weeks ago in his hometown, Ilaramokin in Ifedore Local Government Area of Ondo State. He left agony and pain for his people as they continued to express sadness being a celebrity in the town.

Although Ojo is no more, the late musician built a niche for himself in the music industry and laid legacies for generations yet unborn to remember him for his good works and immense contributions to the music industry and the development of his hometown, state the country. He was to the music industry what Hubert Ogunde was to the film industry and what Daniel Fagunwa was to the world of creative writing.

No gain saying to the fact that the late musician played well his part and history would never forget him in a hurry. He dedicated 55 years out of the 79 years he spent on earth to the development of music industry and Juju music in particular. He started his music in the 50s. His contemporaries included late Isaiah Kehinde (IK) Dairo and late Fatai Rolling Dollars.

A visit to Ilaramokin by Daily Sun showed that the community has lost an illustrious son. Residents mourned his demise whom they said wrote his name on the sound of time. Ojo lived among his people in his sleepy Ilaramokin town until he breathed his last, a development residents appreciated and attributed to his love for his people. He reportedly died during a brief illness and he is to be buried in the town at a date fixed by his family.

A prominent indigene of the town, Chief Oluwole Eso told Daily Sun: “The first person who brought the town to national and international attention was Dele Ojo, one of the eight greatest juju music band leaders of the 1960s, a vocalist with a sonorous bass.

“Although he was based in Ibadan, Oyo Stae, he always mentioned his town, Ilaramokin, anywhere he was. He became very popular with his parable song rendered in the Akure dialect.”
This was corroborated by an Akure Chief, Segun Adedipe: “Ilaramokin became a recognized town both in Nigeria and outside the shores of Nigeria as a result of the contributions and efforts of Dele Ojo, who sang about the town in our local Akure dialect.”

“It was about a princess who went to the farm with her husband with supernatural powers who was turning into frightful animals. The song was to show that wives must respect their spouses who, on their part, must treat them with love and dignity. This song was rendered in Akure dialect and it promoted the name of Ilaramokin to the international level as many Akure people in overseas bought the record album.”
Ojo was fresh primary school in 1952, and taught how to use a typewriter through the sponsorship of his father. In 1954, he secured a job as a clerk but resigned after three months. He was given another job as a local schoolteacher.

Adedipe, an historian, recalled that Ojo’s music career began when he met Victor Olaiya who employed him as a member of his music band: “In 1961, Ojo formed a band called Dele Ojo & His Star Brothers, after Olaiya had disbanded his group.

“Ojo and his group started recording and performing songs to massive reception in live shows in the present Ekiti, Lagos, Oyo and Osun states. They also toured several cities in the United States of America.”
An indigene of Ilaramokin who claimed to be a relative of the late musician, Mr. Temitope Adedeji, noted: “The late Ojo was one of Nigeria’s music legends. He was the man who introduced bass guitar into juju music with his evergreen song, Bouncing Bonna.”

He stated that Ojo’s musical career spanned over five decades. Some of his popular songs included Tere Na and Eniyan bi Aparo:

“This town is blessed with many illustrious sons and one of them was the late Dele Ojo. Before people like Chief Ade Ojo, the founder of Elizade University began to reign, Dele Ojo had been reigning and he had promoted the name of Ilaramokin. He had through his music sold the name of the town to the minds of people and the old generation knew that there is a town in Ondo State called Ilaramokin today.”

A journalist who hails from the town, Mr. Tope Olusola said: “Ilaramokin cannot forget in a hurry the contributions of Dele Ojo to the development of the town. He was instrumental to the building of many churches. Being an evangelist, he supported financially and morally in the building of churches and schools. Many times, he sponsored fund raising in churches and invited his friends from outside the town.

“On several occasions, he made efforts to seeing things well organized and positioned in the town. He used his influence for the upliftment of the town. That was why he was honoured with a chieftaincy title before he died. Above all, he promoted the name of the town and this helped to popularize Ilaramokin. He was indeed a blessing to the town.

“Baba was not after the wealth of this world. He was a committed servant of God. He was never bothered about the things of this world. He was so contented and this was evident in the kind of life he lived, the clothes he wore and the house he lived while on earth. He was always after the development of his people and his community. The growth and development of his community was so paramount to him. We will continue to remember his good works.”

When the house of the late musician was visited, his children had left for Ibadan and Lagos where many of them reside. Only few family members were seen at their family compound. The children had been in town since the death of their father. They left after the eight days prayers.

The family and the community have been meeting on burial arrangements. It was also learnt that the state government would be involved in the burial to give him a befitting burial.

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Online Editor: Aderonke Bello
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