Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Maduka Morocco is a household name especially in the eastern part of the country where he held sway with his Ekpili brand of music.
He started his music career in 1962 against the wishes of his parents who wanted him to be a doctor or lawyer. He was rejected at home but later blossomed, crowning his career with a ceremonial title of Eze Egwu of Ekpili.
In this interview, Morocco who recently turned 76, speaks on his successes and challenges, as well as his plans to celebrate 60 years on stage. Enjoy it.
Who is Nwamaduka (Maduka) Morocco?
I am popularly known as Morocco Maduka but my mother named me Chukwuemeka. I started playing music in 1962 after my secondary school. I was in the secondary school when I started but my father was not okay with it, he thought I would be a hooligan. He never expected me to play music but to go to school and become a lawyer or doctor. As God would have it, I came out from school and started playing music. All the musicians around here ordained me as Eze Egwu of Ekpili, which means King of Ekpili Music.
My name, Morocco, which I picked from the dictionary, means somebody you thought would be a hooligan, later became a hero. When I started playing music, not only my father, everybody in this town thought I was mad, and that I was going to be a hooligan. Later, God blessed me with popularity and money, which some people said it was too much, and then concluded that I must be a member of a (secret) society. But the truth is that I don’t know of any society to make money. God has blessed me with music and money. I have gone round so many countries to perform. I am a member of the Igwe’s cabinet in my town. There was a time they unanimously made me the leader of my village, I did not contest any election. But I ruled the village for 10 years. Nobody stopped me; I only decided to discontinue. When I was ruling, I told the people there would be nothing like levy, that we’ll contribute and I’ll do the rest. And that is why they nicknamed me Osisioma.
I am happy that my music was not in vain; being a musician does not make me a hooligan. I have gone to America, Malaysia, China, South Africa, London, Cameroon, and Ghana. My promoters are in London led by Eddy Esibor from Delta State. Some people bought me cars because of music. When I released Asiri ‘98, Ubanese gave me a car. Nwatakwuocha from Orlu in Imo State also gave me a car because of that record. In whatever I do, I give glory to God. I am 76 but some musicians died at 60. Oliver De Coque died at 61, Osadebe died at 72, Mudi Ibe died at 60, Ozoemene died at 70. But God has given me long life. I am 76 and still playing.
When you started music, your father and even some people in the community were opposed to it. At what point in your career did you have a turn around that everybody accepted you?
My father thought that when I finished secondary school, I would go to the university, graduate and become a lawyer or doctor. But they felt disappointed when I started playing music. That time, musicians were regarded as hooligans, because they didn’t do things that will make them look good. Some people regarded me as mad; they felt I had disappointed my father who spent money for my secondary school education. When I made some money and bought a bicycle, it was a luxury that time, it was a status symbol. I ran to Mgbafu and made some money through music, I bought a bicycle and came back home hoping that my father would take me as his best son, I didn’t know that he still had a grudge (against me). People were praising me but my father rough handled me and almost killed me, saying that I have been going about misbehaving. But God made me a musician; that is why I sang Akalaka.
Your dad never accepted you and your music?
In 1965, my father died. He was not alive when I succeeded. When I came home with money and started building a house, four rooms and a parlour, people started praising me but some enemies said that I had gone to a native doctor for money rituals. Nobody expected me to become somebody, but I knew that my destiny made me to be like that.
My mother’s father was a great musician; so I knew that music was in my blood. Osita Osadebe played music and made it. Rex Lawson played good music but did not make money out of it. Celestine Ukwu also played good music but did not make money. That time, musicians did not sing to make money, they played music for passion and frolicked with prostitutes. But these days, musicians sing for money. Osadebe made big money from music and I said I would also do so. I built four houses at Awka and my enemies said I belonged to a (secret) society where they make money.
When you are not playing music, what else do you do?
When I was in school, I used to play football. That’s why I like to watch sports on television. Apart from music, I love to be where people are having conversation.
You made a lot of money through music, in your heydays, what stood you out among your peers?
God has given me a golden voice. If my music is played here, you will enjoy it. So many people like my music and I make money from selling records. I don’t play instruments, I only sing. I have a guitarist, drummers, kongarist and keyboardist who back me up.
Is any of your children taking after you or are there people you are grooming?
My first daughter used to sing gospel music but she has not released many records as myself. Nobody regards her but she has a golden voice like mine. I have been calling her but she is a married woman. I have four male children. My first son has no intention of being a musician; he is now in America. My second son is in Abuja doing business. My third son is in Malaysia doing business. My fourth son is in South Africa also doing business. I take it to mean that God has not given them (to play music); whatever you are doing, if God does not give, you cannot bring your wisdom into it.
As the King of Ekpili who has spent 60 years on stage, how would you rate the music industry?
Some young men are now playing Ekpili music. I was playing like that before but I found out that I.K Dairo transformed apala music into juju music. Now Yoruba musicians are playing juju music as their own brand of highlife. Osita Osadebe introduced a kind of highlife, which our men are playing but instead of following them, I transformed it to Ekpili music. We were playing Ekpili music with only maracas and wooden gong but I transformed it by putting keyboard, guitar, bass and other instruments to make it to be like highlife. That is why many musicians are calling me Eze Egwu Ekpili meaning King of Ekpili, because I am the one who transformed Ekpili music to higher level.
At 76, do you feel fulfilled?
Do you have any regret?
I cannot regret anything because God has given me the way of my life.
At the passage of a musician, his music is forgotten…
(Cuts in) I know where you are going. So many young musicians are playing like me; they have started emulating Morocco music, which is why I am proud.
In the South East, we have young musicians like Flavour, Patoranking and a host of others, how do you see their music?
I am enjoying their music, and I like them; that is why they unanimously, without election, gave me the title of Premier of PMAN, South East. I am the current Premier of PMAN in the South East.
You have performed in many countries, which one is most memorable to you?
I went to America and played at Atlanta, New Jersey, Harrisburg; I did not play in New York but I went on holidays there. The money I made playing in Baltimore made me to look at myself as a successful musician. I regard that as the most memorable place that I’ve performed because the people sprayed me lots of money.
What is your advice to young musicians?
They should play their music with passion and love because when we started, there was no love in the music industry. I must praise myself for volunteering to bring peace into the music industry. That is why they made me ‘Premier’ in the South East without going through election. Nobody contested against me; all the musicians unanimously gave me that position.
Musicians like enjoyment, how do you enjoy yourself?
There are so many ways to enjoy yourself. For me, I don’t take alcohol; I only take water.
How many wives do you have?
I have only one wife and I have no intention of marrying more wives. My wife loves me and I love her. Marrying two wives means more trouble. Ladies love musicians, they like to be around us, so if you are greedy, you will end up marrying two or three wives.
What is your favourite food?
My favorite food is ‘swallow’ with plenty meat. Yes, I like meat. I like ‘swallow’ with Ogbono soup, Onugbo soup, and Egusi soup. But now I am tired, I don’t eat meat any longer because of my age.