Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe (March 1936 – May 11, 2007), often referred to as just Osadebe, was a Nigerian highlife musician from Atani.
Full Name: Stephen Osita Osadebe
Also known as: Osadebe, The Doctor of Hypertension
Born: March 1936
Birth place: Atani
Origin: Atani, Colony of Nigeria
Died: 11 May 2007 (aged 71)
Death place: St. Mary’s Hospital Waterbury, Connecticut, United States
Genres: Igbo Highlife
Famous as: singer, songwriter, record producer
Years active: 1958–2007
Labels: Polygram Records Nigeria
Albums: Kedu America, Ana Masi Ife Uwa, Onu Kwube, Ndi Ochongonoko, Ife Onye Metalu
Children: Patrick Okwy Osadebe, Onyinye Osita Osadebe, Stephen Osita Osadebe, Jr.
Early childhood and music career
Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe was born in March 1936 in Igbo town of Atani in Southeastern Nigeria. He came from a line of singers and dancers in Igboland.
It was in his high school years in Onitsha, a major commercial city near Atani, that Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe grew interested in music.
Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe started his career singing at nightclubs in Lagos in the southwestern region of Nigeria.
He had been a part of The Empire Rhythm Orchestra, led by E. C. Arinze in which he had learned much of his music skills.
A prolific composer, Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe released his first album in 1958, and went on to write over 500 songs; half of which were released commercially.
His career spanned over 40 years, and he is one of the best known Igbo highlife musicians and king of highlife music.
His best-known hit was the 1984 single “Osondi Owendi” (Igbo: One man’s meat is another man’s poison.), which established him as a leader in the highlife genre and was one of Nigeria’s most popular records ever.
After stints with the Stephen Amache Band the Central Dance Band, in around 1964 Osadebe struck out as a bandleader with his group the Sound Makers.
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Style of music and instrument
As he became better established, Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe style matured to include social commentary, similar to, but not as confrontational as Fela Kuti.
His genre, Highlife, encompassed Igbo and traditional musical elements. Along with this, calypso, samba, bolero, rumba, jazz and waltz were also present in Osadebe’s musical style.
Personal trials and tribulations was usually the main topic of his commentaries.
Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe often extended his tracks for his audiences enjoyment, allowing room for ‘people on the dance floor’ to indulge in the songs.
“Osadebe succeeded in breaking away from the conventional big band format established by the pioneers of the music, a format that favoured melodic progressions that were in the common meter, church hymnal tradition. He succeeded in completely transforming highlife into the call-and-response pattern of African music.”
The decline of highlfe
Following the Nigerian Civil War in the late 1960s, the massive exodus of the eastern peoples of Nigeria (especially the Igbo) out of western Nigeria had caused the death of the Highlife’s prominence in the then capital, Lagos.
During the war and after the war Osadebe maintained his scheduled live performances.
Jùjú music and later Afrobeat took precedence in Lagos, and in the 1970s James Brown and various other music forms became popular in the city.
Family, personal life and death
In this same decade Osadebe’s career had reached its zenith. After turning 50 in 1986, Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe started to give priority to fatherhood and gave more of his time to his son Obiora and his other children from his wives. One of Osita Osadebe’s last album’s is Kedu America.
Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe died in St. Mary’s Hospital Waterbury, Connecticut on 11 May 2007 after suffering from severe respiratory difficulties.