By HENRY OKONKWO
Being the son of an acclaimed and popular Highlife king of Africa, could be a bag of mixed feelings: pleasure and pressure. The above scenario is what the children of the late musical maestro, Chief (Dr) Oliver Akanite, aka Oliver De Coque are faced with. Countless people envy and adore them merely for being the children of a legend. Yet on the other hand, as sons of a musical icon, the society hugely expects them to step into their father’s big shoes. The expectation could be high and daunting. But Oliver De Coque’s sons seem up to the task.
Since after Oliver De Coque’s death on June 20th 2008, some his sons that have taken to music have held their own. At present, four of the late icon’s sons are already proving their mettle in different aspects of music. His first son, Solar De Coque is based in Spain, trying to enthrone Highlife music in Europe. Another of the icon’s sons, Darlington Akanite aka Safin De Coque, is also into music. He is based in Lagos, Nigeria. He has released a number of singles, and presently, the Hip-hop infused remake of his father’s popular song- ‘Biri kam biri’ is already being broadcast in many television stations across the country. Also Chinedu Akanite aka Edu De Coque, just like his father, is doing core Highlife music, and is based in Owerri, Imo State, South Eastern part of the country. The fourth is Ikenna Akanite. He is not a singer like his father, but he shows the musical ingenuity he learnt from his father in the aspect of sound production and cooking beats for a hit song.
For Safin De Coque, one of the things that have kept him going is his father’s words of encouragements and the musical impact he received from him when he was alive. “As a little boy, my father was always taking me along during his tours. People call me his hand bag. He bought me an acoustic guitar when I was only 14 years old. I played with it and when he saw I was improving, he then taught me how to make music with it. He further sent me to a musical school at Badagry,” Safin said.
Pains, gains being the son of a legend
How easy has it been for Safin stepping into his father’s shoes and veering into a terrain his father ruled and held sway until he died? “I’ve had so many memorable experiences being Oliver De Coque’s son,” he answered. “I went into music as a Hip-hop artist. But each time after I go to shows and perform rap music, fans would call me aside to say they would prefer I do Highlife like my father. So I’m gradually moving into doing Highlife songs, and doing more live shows since I can play the guitar very well.
“Also there was a day I went to tour with him in the east. His fans saw me and started calling me ‘Oliver De Coque’ and asking that I should go on stage and play a song for them. I declined saying that I am not Oliver, and that I’m only his son. I was only in my early 20s then. But when my father came out, and heard what happened, he asked me to go on stage and play for his fans. I wasn’t prepared for it but I had to do it. So I went on to play ‘Biri kam biri’, ‘Identity’ and ‘Ogbana’. After my performance, he told me that if I was called Oliver De Coque, I should not be afraid to climb the stage and play his songs.
What many probably don’t know about my father
“When my father was growing up, he was so good at playing ‘okwe’ (draft). He was like the champion. So people started calling him ‘Oliver dika okwe’ (Oliver is like draft). So, that was how he became known as Oliver De Coque.
“Again, before my father became famous, he was a petty trader. He started out as a drycleaner, he then sold shoes, handkerchief and engaged in a lot of menial jobs to survive back then on the streets of Aba. He went into music when he saw himself in a dream playing a guitar, and people came and were spraying money on him. I believe that was how he discovered his potentials. So he started saving money until he bought himself an acoustic guitar and started teaching himself how to play it. From there, he would go to various shows whether invited or not to perform. People would hear him play and give him a little money. That was how he saved enough money to record his first album – Messiah-Messiah. He dropped the album under the Oluomo Records. That was how his story changed.
Oliver the Coque is not dead
“Occasionally I see my father in my dream. On those times he comes out singing and cracking jokes with me. But few weeks ago, I saw him in my dream. He appeared unhappy with me. I asked why was angry with me. And he now asked, ‘why should you be saying that Oliver De Coque is dead?’ And truly, I usually say it and I address him as the ‘Late Oliver De Coque’. But he told me that I should stop addressing him as such, because he doesn’t like it at all. Since then, I stopped. Though, he is gone physically, his spirit still lives on.”