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Veteran highlife singer Orlando Julius is dead

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Veteran highlife musician Orlando Julius is dead.

The 79-year-old ‘Jagua Nana’ singer was confirmed dead Thursday night. 

His wife, Latoya Ekemide, said, “Yes, my husband passed on late last night. There was no indication that death was coming. He was not ill. He only slept and died in his sleep.”

Also confirming the news of his passing, is Evergreen music promoter Bimbo Esho, who explained how he stumbled on the message of the singer’s death early this morning, stated, “‘Bimbo, daddy has passed on….’This was the message I stumbled on waking up at exactly 3:00 a.m. to peruse my WhatsApp page. It was a message sent to me by Orlando Julius’ beautiful and supportive wife Lady Latoya.”

She added, “Orlando Julius, a native of Ijebu Ijesha, succumbed to the cold hands of death and breathed his last few hours ago at the age of 79. We shall miss one of Nigeria’s fathers of Afro/Highlife Music, a gentleman and a fine Saxophonist. May daddy Orlando Julius’ soul journey well. To the entire Ekemode family may God give you the fortitude to bear this irreplaceable loss,” Bimbo Esho posted.

The ‘A Dara A Dara’ crooner who celebrated 60 years on stage in 2021, was a saxophonist, singer, band leader, and songwriter. He was born in 1943. His first music teacher was his mother who would dance and sing, while he played drums.

He recorded his first single ‘Igbehin Adara’ in 1960, with a mission “to put traditional music that I started with, and add a little bit of horns and guitar, and then do my own thing.” 
He formed Modern Aces in the early 1960s and began incorporating American pop, R&B, and soul into music. They played regularly at the Independence Hotel in Ibadan, where the late Fela Kuti would attend their performances, and Julius would sometimes bring him on stage to play. 

According to Julius, it was because of him that Kuti learned to play saxophone.

In 1970, after being disappointed with the state of Nigerian music post-civil war, he travelled through Europe to the U.S., where he eventually settled down in Washington D.C. in 1973 and formed the band Umoja which went on to tour, opening for American high-profile acts like Herbie Hancock, The Pointer Sisters, and Grover Washington Jr. 

Over time, he met and played with several prominent American musicians like Lamont Dozier, James Brown, and The Crusaders.