Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
At exactly 1pm on Thursday October 29, 2020, Southeast’s oldest performing musician, Chief Edward Chukwuemeka Maduka popularly known as Morroco exited the earthly stage.
Morroco, being a stage name he adopted after discovering it meant ‘hooligan turned-hero’, Maduka started playing music in 1962, against his father’s wish. With a career spanning almost 60 years, Morroco, who died at 76, outlived other great Igbo musicians like Osita Osadebe, Oliver De Coque, Celestine Ukwu, Ozoemena Nsugbe, Goddy Ezike and Muddy Ibe among others.
Through his Minstrels Band, the deceased not only revolutionized Ekpili music but also toured various countries like America, China, Malaysia, United Kingdom, South Africa, Ghana and Cameroun.
Since his death was announced last week, torrential tributes have been pouring for the artiste, for his eventful life and contributions to the Nigerian entertainment industry.
Morroco hailed from Ukwulu community, Dunukofia Local Government Area of Anambra State but he spent most of his life at Awka where he had four houses including a thriving hotel business. When this reporter visited his modest home in Awka last Friday, many thronged the compound while Bridget, his wife of 52 years was surrounded by family members, friends and sympathisers.
Paying tribute to her late husband whom she often called ‘my daddy’, Bridget said Morroco “lived a good life and remains an icon that won’t be forgotten in a lifetime.”
His royal majesty, Igwe Peter Uyanwa, the traditional ruler of Morroco’s hometown, Ukwulu, said he has lost an international icon, who through his music, had put the town into national and global recognition. “We lost a great man who was not just a musician but also a great one. The most unique thing about him was that he was a promoter of peace. He used his music to teach and pass several messages across the world. We pray for the repose of his soul and very soon, we shall let the world know when he would be accorded the last respect, which he deserves,” he affirmed.
Sharing the intimate health secrets and last moments of his father, Ike Maduka, a member of Morroco’s band from when he was a young student, described the late musician as a good family man who was generous to a fault. He attributed Morroco’s longevity to his generous heart. According to him, contrary to the rumour making the rounds that his father suffered stroke before he died, he never did, what rather caused his death was diabetes, which he battled for many years.
“Many didn’t know that my dad has been diabetic since 1993. We went to a hospital in Ikoyi, Lagos last year and the white doctor marveled when my father disclosed to him the number of years he has managed diabetes. He accepted the sickness with clean mind when it was discovered and had always adhered to the diet and lifestyle changes. He didn’t drink, smoke or womanise.
“Two weeks ago, his condition actually changed. He relocated to the village and the elder in the family and I got a call from my mother that he wasn’t feeling alright. I went and brought him to Awka where we visited a private facility that used to manage him. He got better but relapsed after four days. We visited another Ivy League hospital in Awka before he was transferred on emergency to Amaku Teaching Hospital. After all the battles, placing him on oxygen among others, he slipped into coma on Wednesday and never regained consciousness until he breathed his last by 1pm on (October) 29th.
In a career spanning over five decades, Morroco recorded over 120 albums. Though, starting out with the traditional Ekpili music with local instruments, his music took a dramatic rise in the early ‘90s when he infused modern instruments like keyboard and guitar into his sound. From 1992 till he passed away, there was no stopping Morroco as he churned out hit after hit and also eulogized some rich Igbo businessmen in most of his songs. Some of Morroco’s albums include Cheta Echi, Ochuba Aku, Money Palaver, Akalaka, Ifeoma, Nke Onye Metalu, Eze Udene, Obinwanne, Ubanese Special, Osisi Oma, Udokamma, Vision 2000, and Akalaka among others.
Ike Maduka described his father’s music as a mystery, noting that he did not undergo tutelage under anybody before opting for a solo career. “There were Ekpili music crooners before him like Obiligbo, Ekwegbalu Anyanwu, Morroco Zulugo from Umuolum and Nwankwo Ayadiagu from Awkuzu, but my father set the pace as the first to use microphone and placed Ekpili music on the higher level it is today. Even some of today’s reigning hip-hop artistes copy his beats,” he explains.
Ike further disclosed that music came naturally to Morroco, as he didn’t compose his songs prior to going into the studio. “Apart from those my father eulogized in his songs, he doesn’t write his songs. He would just get into the studio, and once he gets into the mood, the music would flow naturally.”
Between Morroco and Odumeje
During Morroco’s last days, there was a trending video where he was seen performing at the Onitsha church of controversial pastor, Chukwuemeka Ohanemere popularly known as Odumeje. It was then rumoured that the pastor must have healed the musician of his sickness, which was why he stood up in reverence while singing in his church, as he used to sit down performing on stage.
Shedding more lights on what actually happened, Ike Maduka said: “My dad did not tell me before he visited Odumeje, but I saw all that transpired. It is true that he sang for about forty minutes while standing after Odumeje prayed for him, but he was never healed of his sickness because I had his medical history. I knew that no healing abracadabra would have cured him just like that. He has been sitting down while performing for some years now, because he also had a long-standing arthritis that affected his composure and spine position.”
Eddy Nawgu controversy
Another controversial prophet that formed part of Morroco’s musical journey was Eddy Onyebuchi Okeke also known as Eddy Nawgu, who was allegedly slaughtered by the Bakassi Boys in Onitsha in 2000/2002.
Morroco waxed many albums eulogising Eddy Nawgu for being a source of blessing to him. According to Ike Maduka, Eddy was a blood relation of Morroco and both shared a special relationship and understanding.
How Asili ‘98 song broke record
Morroco’s longtime business partner, record label owner and music promoter, who is also the brain behind Sammy Sparkle All Stars Records, Samuel Nwobu (Chinemeze), has revealed how the late musician and him played a two-man band, hanging around social functions for years until they mustered courage and recorded an album titled, Onye Agbana Oso in 1979.
Speaking on the success of Asili 98 album, which grossed millions in sales and placed Morroco on the global stage, Nwobu said the album was in response to the death rumour that trailed Morroco when he toured the northern part of the country. “That time, there was no GSM in Nigeria and he normally spent more than one month on such tours. Then the rumour came that he had died in a road accident, and we were in deep agony. But then, he returned home hale and hearty and we were all very happy. He later told me that the rumour also frittered to the north, and we went into the studio and came out with the song, Asili ‘98 which eventually became an instant hit,” he recalled.
Morroco was a prominent member of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), an umbrella body of musicians in Nigeria. He led the association in Anambra State for eight years and played prominent role in stabilising the body as well as promoted peace and unity among musicians.
Acknowledging Morroco’s invaluable contributions to music, the state PMAN honoured him with the title of ‘Premier, Southeast’, a non-elective title that made the deceased ‘father of musicians’ in the five states of the southeast region. In fact, there were plans by the Anambra State chapter of PMAN to commemorate Morroco’s 60 years on stage before he died. However, according to Anambra PMAN governor, Ikem Mazelli, Morroco would still be honoured with a grand concert, just like it happened when Christy Essien-Igbokwe passed on.