Nigeria’s 61st Independence Soirée with Yinka Davies
It was Nigeria’s independence anniversary, October 1, and the quintessential Nigerian musician, Yinka Davies, was performing at a soiree. For a guest artiste, Yinka chose Tony Okoroji. Not surprising of Yinka, bridging the past and the present.
It is a challenge describing Tony, for he is several things rolled into one. A Nigerian newspaper introduced him this way: “Ever since Tony Okoroji came to the limelight in the Nigerian music industry, close to four decades ago, he has been a perpetual presence in the entertainment industry.”
Indeed, Tony has been a perpetual presence in Nigeria’s entertainment industry, but much more as an organizer than a player. It was Yinka that pulled him out to don the garb of a singer again. And he delivered the iconic Juliana number at the soiree. “I haven’t done this song in a long time. I know only Yinka can bring me here…”, Chief Okoroji confessed almost shyly. And he did perform, sporting his ever-present smile.
Interviewed by Yinka on the show, Tony Okoroji said: “Juliana captured the scene at a time when I thought we were moving from the, the traditional, the analog, (yeah) to the contemporary. So the music was both, you know, a cross (between) the traditional and the contemporary.”
Speaking on the evolution of Nigerian music, Tony is happy about the impact of digital technology on Nigerian music production. The gap that used to exist between Nigerian production and foreign production has been bridged and Nigerian radio stations now play a lot of local music, as against the past when he had to fight them that they played predominantly foreign music.
Tony Okoroji first came to notice as a music producer; then he played his own music, with the iconic number, Juliana. Then, at the tender age of 29, he was elected President of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN) and he organized this musicians’ guild like no other had and no other has since done. Next, he moved on to become chairman of Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), a role that he executed with familiar excellence. He wrote a book on copyright which has become an authority cited by lawyers in court; he has also written on Nigeria’s political scenario. He runs a music and entertainment consultancy.