By Jayne Usen
Mike Okri stormed the Nigerian music scene in 1988 with his chart busting debut LP, Concert Fever, which signalled a change in the general tone of Nigerian pop and was hailed as a new sound. Okri, who belonged to the Nigerian pop generation of Dizzy K Falola, Felyx and Mozyx, Alex O, Alex Zitto and Chris Mba, rendered his songs mostly in vernacular and indigenous Nigerian languages, which cut across all tribes and age.
His dance skills, costumes and music videos were also captivating. Born and raised in the then Bendel State, Mike Okri was born to parents who were professional musicians. He studied Broadcast Journalism at the TV College Jos, Plateau State and appeared on the Lagos music scene in the mid-80s, working as a back-up vocalist on several albums of the era.
His debut, produced by the ace Nigerian music producer Laolu Akins, was powered by the singles “Omoge” – an ode to the ‘dangerous’ new breed of Lagos women – and “Time Na Money”, which preached about the necessity of time management and planning.
His style of music; a fusion of Afro Pop with a highlife, slant soon made him the hottest new act of the 90s. Although it featured more of computer-sequenced African rhythms, it still felt modern and very indigenous at the same time. He won several awards over the years in different categories and at different times at the Nigerian Music Awards, the Fame Music Awards and the Pan-African Music Awards in Ghana.Rhumba dance
Following the success of his first album, he became the first Nigerian singer to be signed on to CBS Records Nigeria, now Sony Music. Sony, in collaboration with the now defunct Benson & Hedges Music, released his second award winning album Rhumba Dance in the early 90s, which once again produced quite a number of hits which included the title track and its accompanying video which featured beautiful calisthenics and fireworks.
He followed up with the album Cracks in 1992 which produced the hit single “Wisdom” with the popular chorus “Hear your mama, hear your papa/life go better for you”. A few years later like many other Nigeria musicians, Okri left the scene and relocated to the USA where he released the album Rhythmystical on Global Village Records, a Los Angeles based independent record label. He also featured on rapper Sauce Kid’s “Omoge Wa Jo” in 2006, with his appearance greeted by mixed reactions from fans, many of who opined that he was old school and didn’t quite fit into Sauce Kid’s style – either way, it did put him back in the spotlight.
It was rumoured that he was a security guard and cab driver in the states, but speaking on the reason he moved to the States from his California base, the singer said “It’s hard to say in one single word why I left but in my own words, I’m here in the States because God wanted me to [be]. Nigeria is strongly on my mind and I will be home soon but I’m preparing to do it right so others could benefit immensely. I’m overwhelmed with shows here, including book & music projects, not to mention school (he refused to comment further on his school details). [I have] been a busy bee and I thank God for that.” He also had a few words for fans who have been eagerly awaiting something new. “I will be releasing my comeback album soon, which will be a gospel one, while the next one will be inspirational. That is going to be my new style of keeping my fans around the globe busy when the time comes.”
Speaking on his past music he also said, “My most popular hit album was Rhumba Dance of course but remember I haven’t achieved my ultimate yet. Watch and see! God being God.”