Bongos Ikwue, the music legend was born in Otukpo, Benue State, Nigeria, on the 6th of June 1942. In 1956, he attended St. Paul’s Secondary school in Zaria, Nigeria, where his friends called him “Forge” because he was always making up (forging) and singing his own songs. In 1962, while at Okene Comprehensive Secondary School, he formed a group called Cubana Boys with two other young boys, after he went for further study at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Kaduna State, where he studied Business Administration.
While in ABU, he created his own band, called UniBello Brothers and also sang in a folk group, which was made up of university lecturers during which time, a chemistry lecturer, Mrs. Harmony taught him some Irish songs. In 1967, he founded and headed the Groovies band, which became extremely popular in the 1970’s through to the 80’s.
He was married to Josephine and had five children, four girls and one boy named, Oyankeke, Elamei (Omei), Jessica, Onyew and Igoche, in that order. He is a devoted father and enjoys singing in the company of his children. Bongos would often call two of his daughters, Omei and Jessica, to sing in the presence of guests.
Now, after several years of absence from the music scene, during which time there was a lot of speculation regarding the man, he is set to release a new album with remakes and remixes of his old classics as well as some new songs, but the most intriguing aspect of his return is that he is returning with his family members; featured on this new album are two of his daughters who he has been working with for quite some time now.
Born: June 6, 1942 in Otukpo, Benue State, Nigeria
The most popular of his songs are: Cockcrow At Dawn, Still Searching, Amen, Otachikpokpo and a host of others. His dedication to his music was obvious due to the high quality of the albums he churned out, and due to the sheer elegance and the electrifying energy of his live performances, where the band was always on key, and the musician himself was always true to every note. His ability to stay on the right note is an indicator of his hard work as a musician.
Apart from the raw beauty of his finely honed voice, another thing that set the musical genius apart is his dedication to the promotion of Africa and African values, by his continuous use of his native Idoma language in his songs. He is well loved by a vast majority of Nigerians with a fan base that cuts across language barriers and ethnic tension; he also has an international fan base.
Bongos Ikwue was always original; he never tried to imitate any artist, local or international and focused on perfecting his chosen genre. The icon never rushed to produce any song and it is this consciousness that ensured that he produced hit after hit without fail.
Bongos achieved the greatest sales in 1978 with over a million disc of the album ‘Still Searching’ sold; he was then 36 years old. Bongos; himself had this to say about the song, “You know, some songs that become hits, you can ask a lot of artistes, they have always wondered why. At the time of writing, if you ask me to pick all the songs, I probably would have picked that song as number five out of seven or eight songs. But, it became the number one. Everybody is always searching. I think at that time I was a very young man and I wasn’t married. So … What else could I be searching for? But every artist have their own favourite songs. And some of my favourite songs are the ones that nobody listened to or didn’t care to buy. But I guess that’s the way of the world. The songs that you expect to be the biggest hits are the ones that nobody buys, and then the ones you don’t expect anybody to care about become the hits…. It’s interesting, but that’s life!”
At 76 years, he said, “There is a whole lot of work I am trying to do but I don’t like pre-empting myself. I like to do before I tell the people. I would like to sing moralistic songs which are going to be my own way of preaching. I am going to be using the blues medium to, instead of the blues country style to do the job. If you hear what we are doing now, “Bye-bye Lagos”, “Love of my life”, “Christopher and Mustapha”, “Wake-up” “Nigeria has come to stay”, “Your God is my God” “Bartholomew”. All these are serious work I am doing now slightly upgraded from what I had previously done. It is much, much mature sound…..”
He was the Head of the Groovies Band.