I could remember when watching the tail end of the first season of Nigeria idol, Christy-Essien Igbokwe and Naomi Mac (one of the final contestant) took the stage and sang the song “Seun rere” as a rendition to close one of the shows. For days, the song remained in my subconscious and at times I found myself humming to the tune, which left me dazzled that despite the generation gap of this age and when the song was released, it is evergreen.
Such is the lingering thought of Christy in our heart as she passed to the world beyond at the end of the first half of the year.
Although, many might see her death as a sort of tragedy but in a sense I do not. Do not get me wrong, I feel so sad but at the same time, I as well as those who share my school of thought believe that death is a debt that we must pay in full measure. Thus, we all mourn the death of the lady of songs.
Christy came to us as a gift and she was taken that we may value her more.
Born a few weeks after Nigeria independent on November 11 1960, her journey to Stardom started at the age of seven when she was dancing for drama groups such as Uka Onu’s and Unikoko in school in Abia State. Her musical career started in NTA Aba on a programme called “New Sound.”
In 1976, she starred in a satirical NTA series- The Masquerade, where she played the role of Akpenor. Her short role in this TV series brought her into limelight and at the age of 17, she launched a professional music career with her first album- “Freedom.”
Her most successful album till date is her 1981 album “Ever liked my person?” produced by Lemmy Jackson. The album featured her most popular song “Seun rere.”
Most of her songs are in English, Yoruba, Ibibo, Igbo, and Hausa language. Indeed, as Anambra State Governor stated, “We have lost a cultural Ambassador.”
Christy Uduak Essien Igbowkwe will be fondly remembered for some of her contribution to the music industry and the society at large. She is credited to have:
- Put Nigeria’s name on the world music map with her evergreed track- “Seun rere”
- Initiated the first meeting that brought about the formation of Performing Musician Association of Nigeria (PMAN) in 1981. A year later, PMAN was officially launched with her serving as the first National Treasurer.
- Became the first PMAN female President between 1996- 1999
- Always at the forefront of issues affecting women and children, she played remarkable role featuring in some of the early Nollywood flicks such as scars of womanhood and Flesh & Blood- both of which address issues of child abuse and female circumcision.
- Founding member of the performing and Mechanical Rights Society (PMRS).
- Chairman and M.D. of Soul Train entertainment limited
- Contributed to nation building through the theme of her songs- peace, moral uprightness etc.
- Fought relentless battle against attempt to include the Federal Road Safety Corps into Police Force.
- Her relentless campaign led to creation of Akwa-Ibom State and the cancellation of the on shore-off shore oil dichotomy during Obasanjo’s regime.
- Composed a sort of state anthem for Akwa-Ibom “Akwa Ibom mini” (my Akwa Ibom)
- Philanthropist who deployed the royalty of her music work to charity.
Some of her awards include:
- As the grand dame of Nigeria Pop music, she was popularly called “First Lady of Songs”
- Received Africa Music Mother Award- 1984
- International Special Achievement Award- 1983 (World Song Festival award, Los Angeles)
- Outstanding achievement in female uplifting- Lagos 1996 Association of Theatre arts practitioners.
- Freedom 1977
- Patience 1978
- Time waits for no one 1978
- One understanding 1979
- Give me a chance 1980
- Ever liked my person 1981
- Taking my time 1986
- It’s time 1988
- Hear the call 1990
- Mysteries of Life 1994
In short time Christy spent here on earth, she has left a lasting legacy through her songs and art. She will continue to influence and serve as a reference to youngsters and adults who are determined to make a lasting impact in life.
Enjoy this remix of the lyrics of her popular song “Seun rere” written from my reminiscence:
Nigeria e seun rere
Africa e seun rere
Ti yin a dara o
My child do good
Nigeria do good
Africa do good
And yours will be better (or well).