Thursday 30 May 2024


Sonny Okosun was a pioneering Nigerian musician who rose to prominence in the 1970s and 1980s for his socially conscious music that addressed issues of Pan-Africanism, freedom, and human rights abuses.

Born on January 1, 1947 in Benin City, Nigeria, Okosun came from the Esan ethnic group and grew up in poverty.  As a young man, he was inspired by Western rock and pop acts like Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, and The Beatles, but he felt that songs needed a stronger message.

Okosun formed his first band, The Postmen, in 1966 and later joined Victor Uwaifo's Maestros band, where he honed his skills in musical composition.  In 1972, he formed his own band called Paperback Ltd., which was later renamed Ozziddi, a synthesis of Afrobeat, reggae, and funk.

Okosun's music often addressed social and political issues affecting Africans, such as apartheid in South Africa, liberation movements, and black pride. His 1977 anthem "Fire in Soweto" protesting apartheid was one of his best known songs.  Other notable tracks included "Papa's Land" (1977) and "Holy Wars" (1978).

In the 1980s, Okosun's popularity began to wane, but he reinvented himself as a gospel performer in the 1990s, releasing the successful album "Songs of Praise" in 1994.  He also founded his own church, the House of Prayer Ministries, in Lagos in 1998.

Okosun passed away on May 24, 2008 at the age of 61 from colon cancer while visiting the United States.  He was eulogized in both the Nigerian and international media for his pioneering role in African liberation music and his influence on a generation of musicians.

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