Veteran highlife musician, Chris Ajilo dies at 91


Veteran highlife musician and producer, Christopher Ajilore, popularly known as Pa Chris Ajilo, is dead. He passed away today after a brief illness at the Wesley Guild Hospital, Ilesa, Osun State, yesterday morning. He was 91.

Ajilo, who was renowned for his hit tune, Eko Ogba Gbere, was for many years a producer at Polygram Records now Premier Music.

Born December 26, 1929, at Okepopo on Lagos Island. Growing up was difficult and fun at the same time. He lost his father when he was nine leaving his mother to cater for the three boys and two girls left behind.

He attended CMS Grammar School, Lagos, where his passion for music was developed. When he went to England, he started an engineering course at the Birmingham Technical College and I also joined a youth club. While watching bands playing, he felt the desire to pursue a career in music. He began his music education at the Central School of Dance Music, West Street, London under Johnny Dankworth, Don Randell, Jimmy Ducher, Aubrey Frank and many others. He finally made up his mind to go into music fully in August 1955.

Ajilo, who released his last album at 83, was not just a recording artiste; he did other things in entertainment.

At a time, he was a producer at Polygram Records where he groomed artistes. When the Performing and Mechanical Rights Society of Nigeria was started, he was the first general manager, a position he held for 14 years. He retired in 2007.

One of Ajilo’s greatest moments was the Independence Day’s performance at the Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos. He led the national band, comprising musicians from various parts of Nigeria, including the late Chukwuwetalu Arinze and Victor Olaiya. Then, he was the president of the Nigerian Union of Musicians, which is now called the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria.

“It was not easy to perform on Independence Day as the celebration committee members wanted to bring in bands from Europe. The union refused and insisted that we didn’t need a foreign band to perform on our Independence Day. We said we could form a national band and we rehearsed for almost six months before the celebration. The Independence Day’s celebration was a thrilling experience, I must say. For the celebration, we came together as a national band,” he had told the media in an earlier interview.

For the late producer and performer, the quality of today’s music cannot be compared with the past. He believed that most of the younger ones are fond of making a noise and they call it music. “They feel that the more noise they make, the more people enjoy their music. There is nothing like a song that cures or gives hope to a dying person. You can only get that from good lyrics and I don’t think the new generation of artistes is capable of doing that,” he once said.