Death of The Music Man

(As published in The Guardian, April 5, 2008)
By Cletus Nwachukwu
THE entertainment world and indeed arts writer’s constituency woke up to the rude shock of the news of the death of the grand master of entertainment, Essien Ibanga Akpabio.
The late Akpabio who traversed the entertainment landscape like a true colossus, thoroughly impacted the music industry with his numerous roles as musician and bandleader, entertainment manager, promoter and patron of the industry. Described as a great son of the Akpabio clan by His Excellency, the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, Essien played immeasurable roles in the showbiz scene. And he helped to bring to the fore, the likes of Chris Okotie, Ras Kimono, Orits Wliki, Majek Fashek, Feladey, Victor Essiet of The Mandators fame, Onyeka Onwenu, Xty Essien, Alex O, Shina Peters and many others who ruled the waves in the 80s through the 90s.
Akpabio was a handsome man whose elegant dress sense and taste for the good life rubbed off on those who came in contact with him. He was renowned as one of the premier movers of night clubbing as represented then by Klass Night Club owned by the late showbiz impresario, John Chukwu.
Wherever Akpabio went, the fun and excitement followed suit and his presence was equally felt at clubs like Ozone, Deroof, Wazobia, Lords, Niteshift, Singerr’s Cruise and several others.
The 80s and early 90s were memorable and interesting periods in the history of the entertainment industry. That era was replete with remarkable musical concerts such as the Reggae Sunsplash, Lekki Sunsplash, Badagry Music Festival, Freedom Jams, Roots, Rock and Reggae Festival, Children Of Africa and Benson and Hedges concerts. All of them had huge contributions from Akpabio.
Outspoken and thorough in his quest for the best for his artistes and indeed the industry, Akpabio had always spoken against the nefarious and cheating nature of several labels and recording companies. In the interest of his artistes, he held no prisoner and gave recording companies a good run for their money.
His decision to leave Lagos, the hub of the entertainment world, for his native Akwa Ibom State, came as a big shock to his numerous colleagues, particularly arts writers who saw him as a most important tool in the discharge of their professional duties and of course, a ready ally for the writers’ lust for fun and night crawling.
But Lagos’ loss was Akwa Ibom’s gain as Akpabio helped to lift the entertainment scene over there with the establishment of his own night club at Ikot Ekpene. The amiable Akpabio has definitely left a huge gap in the industry. Yet, one can hardly say he was a celebrated figure in the industry. Save for the quality relationship he had with the entertainment writers.
Akpabio, who died at the age of 60, certainly calls to question the recognition or lack of it, he had received in the industry, particularly, by successive governments in his home state, Akwa Ibom. Like many others, he died quietly, unsung, despite his immense contributions to the entertainment industry.
It is fervently hoped that his first loyal constituency, the music industry, the artistes and his state government would endeavour to immortalise the man who, without doubt, came, saw and yes, conquered his world.

Reactions from the industry…

SEVERAL musicians who reacted to Akpabio’s death, especially Feladey, expressed great regret, saying he would be surely missed. In an emotion-laden voice, Feladey, a multi-instrumentalist, described Akpabio as a mentor to several musicians.
“I’ve known Essien for a very long time and in fact, from our days together at Aktion 13 Group, in Calabar where he was the lead singer and band leader, and I was the lead guitarist,” Feladey recalled.
On Akpabio’s impact on the music industry, Feladey revealed that Akpabio, who was instrumental to the formation of Diamond Records, touched many lives and used that platform to bring the likes of Adu Deme and Chris Okotie to the consciousness of music lovers across the country.
“When I was producing my ‘Band Boy’ album, he was always with me in the studios, encouraging me and telling me what to do. He contributed immensely to the success of that album and my musical career,” Feladey said.
He disclosed also that plans are afoot to ensure that fond memories of Akpabio, are not washed away. “We held a concert for him at his burial at Ukana,” Feladey recalls and added, “even the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio has promised to make the concert a yearly affair and next year’s concert would hold at Uyo Stadium.”
Feladey regretted that the musician’s body, PMAN, did not play any role in Akpabio’s burial but was quick to add that it was informed of the man’s passing rather late.
Meanwhile, a seven-track album entitled Tribute To Essien Akpabio has been released as part of measures to immortalise his name. According to Feladey, the carefully selected songs are some of the popular tracks done by the Aktions Band in the 70s.
“We call it Aktions Remix and it’s dedicated to Essien Akpabio. We hope that with the release of this album, music fans across the country, particularly, those who knew him, will not easily forget the great music man,” Feladey said.


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