Highlife music in Nigeria is as old as the country itself and we can recount that we have had many great musicians who are well-renowned for giving the genre its spark and fame. However, when the name Oliver de Coque is mentioned, everyone who knows the “Highlife King of Africa,” knows that he had an amazing way of blending modern music with traditional Igbo harmonies. It is still why he is revered as one of Africa’s most prolific recording artists. The skill and talent with which Oliver de Coque sang and performed his music was exceptional and is why inlandtown has focused the spotlight on the great musician.
HE IS THE HIGHLIFE MUSIC KING OF AFRICA
His brand of highlife music involved energetic dance elements of Igbo music and the Congolese-influenced guitar style which created his unique musical style called Ogene. His career spanned over 3 decades saw the release of over 70 albums to his credit starting with his first solo release in 1976. His fame quickly spread both home and abroad after performing in London in 1973. His guitar work was featured in Prince Nico Mbarga’s 1977 album Sweet Mother. Olive de Coque is revered for his masterful guitar work and fresh take on African pop which brought him so much fame.
HE WAS BORN IN ANAMBRA STATE
One would think that the name Oliver de Coque is of French origin, however, Oliver de Coque is a prolific Nigerian Highlife musician born in the small town of Ezinifite, Nnewi South, Anambra state.
HIS REAL NAME IS NOT OLIVER DE COQUE
His real name by birth is Oliver Sunday Akanite. Oliver loved to play the draft board game, winning most of the games. He was therefore nicknamed “Game Master” which he later adapted into his name – “Oliver De Ka Okwe where ‘okwe’ means ‘draft’ in the Igbo language. With time, he incorporated the name a new spelling “De Coque” replacing ‘ka okwe’ as they sound similar.
FIRST PLAYED THE GUITAR AT AGE 11
Oliver de Coque started playing the guitar at the age of 11. Taught by Piccolo, a Congolese guitarist living in Nigeria at the time, the lad grew to love and play the instrument so well. To further hone his skill in music, he became an apprentice under Juju musician, Sunny Agaga and Jacob Oluwale growing famous in his locality as a teenager.
HE WAS AWARDED A HONORARY DEGREE
Oliver de Coque achieved and made a tremendous impact with his music so much that in 1994, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in music by the University of New Orleans.
DEATH AND LEGACY
Oliver de Coque suffered a sudden cardiac arrest which led to his death on 20 June 2008. In 2021, Google honoured the Highlife King with a doodle on his 74th posthumous birthday. De Coque’s debut album was Messiah Messiah, released in 1977. And some of his notable songs are; “People’s Club of Nigeria”, “Nempi Social Club”, “Biri Ka Mbiri”, “One Enwe”, “Nnukwu Mmanwu” and “Identity”.