Onyenka Onwenu: Queen Of African Pop Music


Onyeka Onwenu was born on the 17th of May, 1961 in the city of Onitsha, She originally trained as a journalist earning a Masters’ degree in America. Despite her interest in journalism, she had far greater love for music. In 1981 with the aid of late Sunny Okosun released her self-titled debut album Onyeka.

With the success of her first album, she has gone on to release quite a number of albums. Onyeka Onwenu has an illustrious recording career that only most artistes dream about. Her evergreen song ,One Love is regarded as one of the all time great Nigerian songs.

Onyeka Onwenu is unarguably one of the foremost Nigerian female artistes in history. A graduate of Wesley College in Massachusetts USA, where she obtained a (B A) in international relations and communication and the new school for social research in New York (M.A) Media studies. Ms, Onyeka Onwenu has scripted some of the most memorable songs in Nigeria’s entertainment industry.

The multifaceted artist, singer, song writer, / actress, social critic and politician is dubbed the “Elegant Stallion” by the Nigerian Press.

She worked for many years at the United Nations before returning to Nigeria in 1981, where she did her National Youth Service Corp with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) in Lagos.

However it was in 1982 that Onyeka took her first and mighty step towards Music with the release of her first album, Endless Life, produced by the late Sunny Okosun. Endless life was an instant success.  This was followed by For the Love Of You in 1983. In The Morning Light, her third album was released in 1984. it featured the theme song of the BBC/NTA documentary  (In The Morning Light) Onyeka’s fourth album One Love was released in 1986 .

The reception was astonishing and the track One Love became a second national Anthem in Nigeria as sales figures were put at over half a million copies. The following album Dancing In The Sun  was released in November 1988, and has remained a chart material since then.

Aptly called the Queen of African pop music, it was no surprise that Onyeka was awarded the performing Musician Association Best pop Artist for the year 1988.

Onyeka stands out as the only musician to have crossed pop with juju music and highlife. Her Dancing In The Sun album featured a duet with King Sunny Ade with the track title Wait For Me, which has been hailed not only for its innovative creativity, but also for her ability to break new grounds.

The reaction from the duet Mada Wolohun (Let Them Say) was tremendous, and fans demanded for more. And in response, Onyeka joined Sunny Ade in Wait For Me and Choices which were composed by OnyekaOnwenu and produced by Lemmy Jackson.

Unlike Let Them Say, which was a love song, Wait For Me and  Choices carry very strong social messages. The theme was family planning, sex and birth control-topics that are taboo in the Nigerian society but very important for a healthy and virile nation
A woman of many parts! Yes, that is what Onyeka Onwenu is. Broadcaster, singer and actress rolled into one. From the onset of her broadcasting career with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) in the 80s, to singing career and later Nollywood, Elegant Stallion (as she is fondly called), ranks among the best artistes that Nigeria has produced.

As if all these were not enough for one woman, Onyeka is at it again. This time, along with other notable female artistes, she is sweating it out in the studio to release an album in support of the anti-HIV/AIDS campaign. Also involved in the project are Uche Ibeto, Salawa Abeni, Esse Agesse, Judith Nwachukwu and others.

When she was asked by online nigeria.com about her family, she said, “I wish you knew my father. He usually took me along whenever he went for his political meetings. He would hand me over to (Dr. K.O.) Mbadiwe, when it was his turn to speak. He was an orator, that if he speaks before anybody, the next speaker would find it difficult to say anything. The late Tafawa Balewa called him ‘The Old Teacher.

“I was only four and a half years old when he died. But his memory is still very fresh in my head. I was the closest to him. He was a member of the House of Assembly. He died in a motor accident.

“He was a very charismatic man. If he enters a place, the whole neighbourhood will liven up with shouts of D.K. At their meetings, heavens help you if you had to make a speech after him. As a matter of fact, they made sure he spoke last, because if he spoke before you, nobody would wait to listen to you. He was incredibly an honest man. But when he died, those he had helped deserted us. Those he had given scholarships, or sent abroad.”

Of all the movies she has starred in, either as lead character or support, the one most memorable to her is Conspiracy Like two or more of her movies, Onyeka played the role of a widow, who suffered in the hands of her in-laws. “My mother was widowed, when I was only four and a half years old,” she said.

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