HomeHistoryHow poor health care system killed price Nico Mbarga the coroner of “sweet mother I no go forget you
March 18, 2019
How poor health care system killed price Nico Mbarga the coroner of “sweet mother I no go forget you
PRINCE NICO MBARGA was a musician of an Igbo extraction.
He was born in Abakaliki, in present day Ebonyi state on 1st January 1950.
His mother was an Afikpo woman and his father was from Cameron, but now Obubra in present day Cross River state.
Prince Nico Mbarga spoke Igbo fluently and sang many songs in Igbo language.
His most popular hits were SWEET MOTHER I no go forget you, Christiana and Aki.
He signed with Rogers All Stars, a recording company based in Onitsha, where he recorded “Sweet Mother”.
He toured England, UK in the 80s, worked with Osita Osadebe and performed many times at the Plaza Hotel in Onitsha.
Although he only recorded one significant hit, “Sweet Mother,” in 1976, which sold more than 13 million copies, Mbarga played an important role in the evolution of African music. The son of a Nigerian mother and a Cameroonian father, Mbarga embraced the musical traditions of both cultures. With his soulful vocals set to the light melodies of his acoustic guitar, Mbarga created a unique hybrid of Ibo and Zairean guitar playing and uplifting highlife rhythms. Mbarga’s musical approach was inspired by the five years he spent in Cameroon during the Nigerian Civil War of the late ’60s. Sharpening his instrumental skills while playing xylophone, conga, drums, and electric guitar in school bands, he made his professional debut as a member of a hotel band, the Melody Orchestra, in 1970. Returning to Nigeria two years later, he formed his own group, Rocafil Jazz, to perform regularly at the Plaza Hotel in the Nigerian river port city of Onitsha. After releasing a disappointing single in 1973, Mbarga and Rocafil Jazz had their first success with their second single, “I No Go Marry My Papa,” which became a regional hit. The band’s inability to break past their local following, however, resulted in their recording contract being dropped by EMI.
The label’s decision proved ill-fortuned when the band signed with the Onitsa label and recorded “Sweet Mother.” Sung in Pidgin English, the song becoame one of the top sellers in the history of Nigerian music. In the six years that Mbarga and Recotal Jazz remained with Onitsa, 1975 to 1981, they recorded nine albums. Temporarily relocating to England in 1982, Mbarga became known for his flamboyant, ’70s glam rock-inspired performances. While he continued to appear with Rocafil Jazz Mbargar also performed with London-based highlife band the Ivory Coasters and Cameroonian vocalist Louisiana Tilda. Despite launching his own Polydor-distributed record label, upon returning to Nigeria, Mbarga and the original members of Rocafil Jazzseparated after several Cameroon-born members were deported. Although he later formed the New Rocafil Jazz Band, Mbarga failed to match his early success.
When he left music, he turned his attention to managing the four-star hotel that he owned, the Sweet Mother Hotel, located in the town of Ikom just minutes away from the Cameroon-Nigeria border.
He died very early at the age of 47 on 24th June 1997 on a motorcycle accident. He would have survived but for the poor healthcare system.
He left behind “Sweet Mother” as the most popular song among Africans.
“Sweet Mother” is sometimes called “Africa’s anthem” and has been voted Africa’s favourite song by BBC readers and listeners