Aug 31, 2009

Orlando Julius - Dance Afro-Beat


Although he is fondly called O.J by his friends and admirers, Orlando is real names are Orlando Julius Aremu Olusanya Ekemode. An indigene of Ilesha in Osun State, he was born in Ikole-Ekiti to a trading family His father first traded in Abeokuta before moving to Ikole-Ekiti, where he was given a piece of land by the traditional ruler of the town and encouraged to settle there.

Orlando is the fourth son in the family and the younger brother of professor Gabriel Ekemode, of the University of Ife, Ile-Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) his journey into music began many years ago when he was a pupil of St. Peter’s Anglican School, Ikole-Ekiti . As a lad, he played the drums and flute for the school band, as well as for a local band known as Mambo dance band. After finishing school in 1957 and consequent upon the death of his father in the same year, he left Ikole-Ekiti for Ibadan (the then capital of the Western region) in search of a job. While in the city, he worked as a bakery assistant and at the same time, tried to keep alive his dream of pursing a career in music by stringing along with a few musicians who desired his services as a drummer and flutist.

He went to play at a time under J. Oyeshiku and Cotey Necoy of Ghanan and Julius Araba but his real wish was to become a saxophonist. And so, in keeping with the tradition of the time, he took up apprenticeship with Ademola Haastrup (aka. Jazz Romero) band and one of the brightest horns men around then. Orlando landed a job with Romero’s band (Action Group) playing trap drums.

To a large extent, Orlando Julius aids his success as a musician to the persisting influence of his experience in Ibadan. He cherishes most of those early days with the Action Group Band. He was not only impressed with the band’s organization but also reckoned it to be the best equip(musical instrument) band in the country and it provide a great opportunity for up-coming musicians to practice there skill and become professionals.

Early 1958 Orlando Julius went to Ondo State with Haastrup to start the Modupe Dance Band while in Ondo State, played drum-set with the band while Learning saxophone at the time, with his master. June 1958, was when Orlando Began to play the alto saxophone for the first time on stage. Towards the end of “58 the Band moved on to Akure-Ekiti, to the Flamingo Hotel and became the “Flamingo Dandies Band”. Jazz Romero abandoned the band after a misunderstanding with the owner of the hotel. Orlando became the band leader after a decision by the band members. Although the band members felt that Orlando has what it takes to lead. His own belief was that he was not yet experience enough to handle such responsibility at the time. After a short while Orlando decided to move back to Ibadan to get more experience.

After relocating back to Ibadan, Orlando returned to Action Group Band. He also traveled in between Lagos and Ibadan frequently. While in Lagos, Orlando played Nyingifa ‘s band, and also at “Mayflower Club” in Ibadan with Rex Williams. In 1959 Orlando landed a job with Eddie Okonta and “His Top Aces” band at Central Hotel, also Paradise Club. While playing with Eddie Okonta, Orlando had the opportunity to welcome Louis Armstrong to Ibadan.

Louis Armstrong performed and presented Eddie Okonta a special trumpet,with golden mouthpiece and his white handkerchief. Working with Mr. Okonta was a great opportunity for Orlando, He always loved Eddie Okonta’s music, and in fact he used to stand on a pile of blocks so he can see him play at Paradise in mid “57 So now working with him was like a miracle that put Orlando on the right path.

Orlando was constantly writing songs and modernizing High-Life music, since working with the Flamingo Dandies. While working with Eddie Okonta, he was made the “horn arranger” and parts scorer. With Eddie Okonta, Orlando Julius, played on WNTV, Ibadan ”First in Africa”. Also he toured Nigeria with Eddie Okonta and His Top Aces.

In 1960,after the Independence celebration Orlando traveled to Ijebu-Ode to work with the “Right Time Dance Band”, where he first met Y.S. Akinibosun the leader of the band. He worked with the band for over six months. After meeting his brother I.K.Diaro and his band at a gig in Ijebu-Ode, I.K.Diaro convinced Orlando to come back home to Ijesha land to lead the “I.K.’s Dance Band. While leading I.K’s Dance band he recorded his first single in 1961,”Igbehin Adara” and “Jola Ade”. In NBC Radio Station in Ibadan on Alowonle records. Orlando also co-written and arranged some of I.K.Dairo’s hits such as “Solome”,Bola Ti To”,and others. The dance band lead by Orlando Julius also backed I.K. Diaro on some high-life recordings.

By 1963 Orlando started forming “His Modern Aces” band in Ibadan. The name Modern Aces was because of Orlando’s style and modernization of “Highlife”. Orlando Julius and His Modern Aces played Parties Universities, Clubs, weddings etc;. The band was hot; in 1963 Orlando recorded with “Phillips records”. The song Jaguar Nana on a single along with Ishe Logun Ishe on the flip side. The song sold millions in the country and outside the country, but unfortunately, Phillips took Orlando and his band for a ride because Orlando never received any royalties for his records. Phillips paid five pounds for a single and that five pounds had to take care of the whole band. It is said that the single sold over a million copies.

In mid 1964,with the success of Jaguar Nana, Orlando got a contract to play a Television weekend show on WNTV for a few quarters. The producer for the show was Segun Shofowote, during this time he met and worked with Ambassador Segun Olusola and many other TV house producers like Orlando Martins. Also Orlando was contracted to play on “Bar Beach Show" on channel 10 in Lagos, were he worked with producer Art Alade and others where he and his band played for two quarters. Between the years of 1963 and 64 Orlando and His Modern Aces continued to play many engagements including Havana Festival at the University of Ibadan and all Universities in Nigeria, including Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s birthday, Chief Rotimi Willams 25th anniversary, to name a few of the many “Big” engagements.

Orlando never stopped writing and arranging his creative style of music. While living in Ibadan, Orlando performed in the Independence Hotel. It was the talk of the town. As he experimented with his new style his modern highlife took a form of more contemporary style of high life, fusing modern highlife with jazz and also soul. Fela-Ransome Kuti And Orlando first met at the Independence Hotel were Orlando featured Fela playing trumpet. Also many big names at the time played at Independence Hotel on Orlando’s invitation like I.K. Diaro, Rex Lawson, Paramount 8 from Ghana ,Eric Akaeze,Bola Johnson, Biodun Bakare, Tunji Oyelana and others. Jimi
Sholanke was Orlando’s first vocalist from I.K.’s band, Eddie Fayehun played trumpet, Moses Akanbi on trap drums to mention a few.

1967 was when Orlando changed the bands’ name to Afro-Sounders, since his music had a sound of it’s own with the Afro and the Soul, he thought that Afro Sounders was a more appropriate name for the band. More hits like Topless, Ijo Soul Ololufe, Ese rere; were out at this time.

1968 to 1970 Orlando Julius and His Afro-Sounders dished out more powerful music with Alo Mi Alo, Sweet Home, Erora Miliki, Amin Ase, Erora Yio Sida, Psychedelic Afro Shop and James Brown Ride On. Orlando met James Brown when he came to Ibadan with his band the JB’s he also had Bootsie Collins with him. Orlando and his band had a serious jam session in 1969. Orlando and His Afro Sounders continued to play engagements and club dates east, north ,west and south. Hakeem Kareem was with Afro Sounders in the beginning.

In 1972 Orlando traveled to Germany, London, Swisserland, and also U.S. on Polders invitation., with whom his album was released. Orlando’s band continued to Play even as he traveled, Club Chicago was the spot for the Afro Sounders in Surulere, also Gondola night club, Bata Koto,and many others in Lagos.

Orlando finally left for the U.S. in 1974 after recording Disco Highlife and Children of the World, featuring Dora Ifodu. Orlando lived in Manhattan, New York, but soon moved over to Washington D.C.. While in there, he worked with Melvin Deal in arts in residence program, during this time Orlando wasted no time in forming a band. The groups name” Umoja” ,with Gboyega Adelaja,Stanley Todd, Frankie Todd, Asante, Harry Opoku,and Glenn Warren, (The son of Guy Warren, the greatest drummer in Ghana).Umoja has played with Isaac Hayes,Chaka Khan & Rufus, Gil Scot Herron, the Ojays,Gladys Knight & the Pips, Harold Melvin and the Blue notes, Staple Singers ,Curtis Mayfield . Ron Hood was the promoter and manager of Umoja, he loved African music and he really did his best to promote Umoja and book them with the best the west had to offer. Orlando and Umoja would always be grateful for Ron’s efforts. When Hugh Masekela came to Umoja’s rehearsal, he was instantly excited about working with the band after hearing Orlando’s” Ashiko”. Umoja toured and recorded with Hugh Masekela,Orlando took a big part in the production of the albums “The Boy’s Doing It” and “Colonial Man”.

In 1975 , after the success of Hugh Masekela’s The Boys Doin It, the band toured the U.S,Canada, Hawaii, Ghana, and Liberia . They Played with Grover Washington, Sara Vaughn, Isley Brothers, Miles Davis, Nina Simone,Herbie Hancock,(At the Carnigie Hall) ). Orlando played with Hugh Masekela for two years, recording and producing with Hugh Masekela, and performing with his band “Ojah”, backing Hugh. He left Hugh Masekela after being disappointed with producing credits, and once again formed the band ”Ashiko” in Washington D.C. the band played East coast and Midwestern states, before moving to California.

In 1977 Orlando met Lamont Dozier through producer Stuart Levine, and co- produced “Going Back to My Roots”. Although Orlando’s music was used from his hit Ashiko, and the chants and chorus and percussions was all of Orlando’s arrangement, Lamont Dozier and his producer only gave OJ translation credits, instead of composition, arrangement and performing credits. The song was the first time that A Nigerian artiste would record, in his own language with an American counter part on commercial radio in U.S. ,the song was a big success. The song was also done by the London Group “Odessey”, taking the song to number five on the world chart. Orlando Julius also had the oppourtunity to appear in the classic movie “Roots the Next Generation., through OJ.Simpson, the famous Footballer. He worked with James Earl Jones, Shamsi Sarumi,one of Ambrose Campbell’s musicians, also Peter Badejo.

1978 Orlando moved back to the Bay Area near San Francisco. To further his knowledge in the recording field, he studied audio engineering and production in Bear west Studios and also studied film production at the Berkeley Film Institute. Orlando also attended Lanely College for photography, television production and also some music courses. While studying he was still performing and creating a world beat movement in the Bay area Orlando took his brand of music and taught American musicians much about world beat rhythms and Afro Beat music. Under his tutelage Many “World Beat bands formed through out the Bay Area and in San Francisco. Orlando played Colleges ,clubs dates and festivals with his friend C.K. Ladzekpo, from Ghana, who is a professor of music in U.C. Berkeley.

Orlando taught many American musicians in the Bay Area, Highlife, Afro Beat, Percussions and more. He also had dance and drum workshops while on the road at many community centers and universities .Many of his students also played live gigs with Orlando and went on to form their own bands, namely “Big City”, “Freaky Executives”, “Zulu Spear” and more. Also at the “Scarab Club” in Berkeley ,California ,Orlando and His band “Ashiko” would feature with musicians from different popular groups, like the Escovedo family,including Sheila E,Coke Escovedo and also Pete Escovedo. He continued to play in U.S. on the same bill as John Lee Hooker, B.B.King, and Art Blakey at the Keystone Corner, in San Franscico. All this took place between the years of 1980 –1983. By the next year Orlando would return home To Nigria to record his album “Dance Afro Beat”,at EMI Studios in Lagos.

Orlando Julius along with Prof. C.K. Ladzekpo from Ghana both came up with the name “WORLD BEAT MUSIC” that Santana management: Bill Graham help them launched at the GREEK THEATRE in Berkeley California. And today “World Beat Music” is one of major Gammy Awards thanks to The Legend Orlando Julius & Prof. C.K.Ladzekpo.

1984 after returning from Nigeria, he finished the production of the album Dance Afro Beat, and released it in California. With the success of the album, Orlando decided to return once again, to Nigeria to produce Dance Afro Beat video and release the album in Nigeria. The video “Adara “ was recorded in the Osun Shrine ,and “Dance Afro Beat” was recorded in Badagry at the beach. The video “Ishe was also included, many young artistes remember the song “Ishe" and said that it inspired them to work hard and to be responsible. The video was shot by Cinecraft ,director of photography Tunde Kelani, sound ,Wale Fanu and produced and directed by Orlando Julius. The music videos were a huge success. The medis houses played them over and over . It was the videos that set the pace for home videos, and also music videos because of its professional production and the fact that it was done in Nigeria, showing the beauty, nature and the hard work of the people and the land. With the hope of sharing this beauty and music abroad, despite the fact that Orlando had many musicians to work with in the U.S, he embarked on a project and took 21 musicians in 1985 to the U.S. for a musical tour.

Orlando continued to tour with the Nigerian Allstars, although the band had different musicians the music remained the same, Magic! People were and still are very tripped with Orlando’s style of music. While playing in Boston at the “Night Stage” Orlando did a drum and music workshop for the “Berkely School of Music”, he brought students from the workshop to the Night Stage that night and they had great fun.

By the year 1987 was the first year OJ Ekemode and His Nigerian Allstars played the New Orleans Jazz Festival, he went to play again in 1989 and 1992. He also record the album “Sisi Sade”in 1989 and “We Pray for Peace” in 1991.under his own label Ashiko Records.

1992 Orlando and his Nigerian Allstars toured heavily in the states featuring in many festivals with many big names. As Orlando says,” some things you just can’t buy with money and the experience of playing and meeting so many big names, like Ray Charles B.B.King, The Temptations, Smoky Robinson, Ohio Players, Sun Ra, and playing many World Beat Festivals, Reggae Festivals, like Reggae on the River is something that I will always cherish, not only to play the same bill but to meet and get to know many great musicians and artistes that loves my music “.They treat you with respect like the International Star and want to know more about Nigeria and its music. ”That makes me happy”. Also while in California Orlando record two music videos for His Big Brother the late Chief Isaac Kehinde Diaro MBE. Also Carlos Santana personally selected Orlando and his Nigerian All-stars to accompany him to Hawaii to play his annual festival. While in Hawaii,The Nigerian flag was flown very in front of the stage along with other flags of artistes’ countries who participated in the concert. This also made Orlando very proud not only for himself but also for Nigeria.

1994 Orlando and Latoya moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to be closer and to work with Ambrose Campbell, who by the way introduced Orlando to Latoya in 1978. While in Nashville Orlando continued his televison program ”AFROBEAT VIDEOS". The program presented African music videos, which was something new to Nashville, also Orlando ,along with Latoya constructed “Afro Beat Studios” in a Soho type wharehouse . there he recorded The Legend Continues ” CD. The Studio was also used for video shoots, parties, workshops etc. Disney World released the movie Lion King in Florida and Orlando and His Nigerian All Stars were chosen to play for the release because of the African theme of the movie , after the release he was invited by popular demand twice, to play for Disney World.

December 1995 Orlando and his band were contracted to play the Green Moon Festival, sponsored by Texaco, in San Andreas, Colombia. On this trip,Orlando performed with many artistes from Cuba,Zaire, Jamacia and so on, but Orlando’s music stood out the most, he was well received from the people of Colombia,because his music remined them of Africa, their ancestral home. People from Brazil came over to the festival to especially meet Orlando and sing his song “Adara” to him . Orlando was pleasantly surprised. Orlando let the people of SanAndreas remember Africa and they in returned reminded Orlando of Nigeria. That is how he wrote the song “Colombia”.The food, the atmosphere the beautiful African women .And it was also the beginning of Orlando’s return home, to Nigeria.

1997 Orlando’s home sickness become profound, and he decided to return to Nigeria. After his visit in 1997 he was convinced that no matter the situation, home is home and home is sweet. So Orlando and Latoya moved to Nigeria in December 1998.

1999 Orlando quickly set up shop in Surulere Lagos, a recording and rehearsal studio. He recruited musicians and formed his band Nigerian All-Stars. Orlando has played for Lagos State functions,(Governor Tinubu’s Inauguration ,Agbani Daregos’ visit)and featured in concerts for ,French Cultural Center. He also has featured on NTA”s “Morning Ride” programme for a few season’s, adding quality production in sound for transmission is a statement for his professionalism in production. Orlando also featured in the first annual “Black Heritage Festival”. Orlando’s original recording “Super Afro Soul” was released by Afro Strut Records, London, 2000 and has had great reviews and Sales. The album was recorded in 1965 .

Orlando spearheaded “The Nigerian Musicians Forum,” with the help of Eko FM and LTV8 in the year 2001 to tackle the existing problems of the nations ailing music industry. The forum openly discusses the issues of piracy, mechanical fees, professionalism, past problems and solutions. Also since his arrival Orlando has met up with some of his colleagues and mentor’s, and has been assisting them in recording their works. Orlando, a staunch believer in playing Nigerian music more on TV and radio has openly discussed his disappointment with the media for promoting more foreign than to help develop and promote their own Nigerian artistes in the field of music, drama, production and so forth. Orlando has done movie soundtracks for Wale Fanu “Owo Blow”,Tunde Kelani’s “Saworoide”,Tunji Bamishigbin’s “Eku Ida”,and many others. His analog studio craftsmanship attracts
artistes that like to perform live analog music ,and drumming like Ogunde’s “Erin Losa”. And many gospel artistes like Mr. Akatu Alphonsus Aloga’s “Point of Anger”.

Orlando will be celebrating over 40 years in the music industry. To support this effort he will be releasing “The Legend Continues” into the market along side his release with Premier Records, “Ololufe mi”. Orlando has been working very hard to revive “Highlife music, from the legends,he has recorded Fatai Rolling Dollar,
Alaba Pedro(Guitarist from Roy Chicago’s band), others include Tunde Osofisan, Papa J. This in Orlando’s way is one of his contributions to keeping Nigerian music and musicians forging ahead. Orlando has also challenged the younger artistes to be original and to use live music in their performances. They can do hip hop and other music with western influence, but also represent your own culture and lifestyle by doing more Highlife and Afro Beat .Orlando has also produced his singer/dancer wife Latoya Aduke in producing her works, not only in her afro soul music, but also produced her singing Nigerian music in Nigerian language.

It is very hard to put over forty years of a man’s life and times in just a few pages. This little information, I hope will assist you in your efforts and help you to know more about the man, the musician,” Orlando Julius”. He has worked very hard and has not had the easiest of times in his career, but he definitely has contributed to the Nigerian music scene in no small way and also has been, and still is a great influence to musicians here in Nigeria and also America and beyond. He is still going strong in his performances, a Master Saxophonist, songwriter, arranger; and producer. He continues to perform with his band The Nigerian All-stars to the delight of young and old.



01. a dara
02. aye le
03. ashiko
04. dance afro-beat
05. awade (here we come)
06. ishe

No comments:

Post a Comment