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Evi-Edna Ogholi: Nigeria’s Queen Of Reggae

Uuuuuuh yeh, very very many happy returns

Silver and gold have I not
So I give you my token gift
The card is small, the card is cheap
But I know you will appreciate

Chorus 2x
Uuuuuuh yeh, I wish you happy birthday
Uuuuuuh yeh, very very many happy returns

You look so good
You look so bright
Everyone is talking about you
Birthdays come once in a year
And I know you want to celebrate

Repeat Chorus 2x

Tinkle tinkle goes the clock
And good morning everyday
Chatting, laughing happily
What do we do, we have to survive

Repeat Chorus 2x

The world is big
The world is deep
Today is just like another day
Too many people, all around
And for you today, your special day

Repeat Chorus 2x

Tinkle tinkle goes the clock
And good morning everyday
Chatting, laughing happily
What do we do, we have to survive

Repeat Chorus 2x

Tinkle tinkle goes the clock
And good morning everyday
Chatting, laughing happily
What do we do, we have to survive
Repeat Chorus till fade ….

ENJOY the video of Happy Birthday here:

Take it or leave it, if you are a Nigerian and you celebrated your birthdays while young without playing Evi-Edna Ogholi’s Happy Birthday for the entire neighborhood to rock and your friends in flashy and bulbous wears, that does not count as a birthday, it is a baidei and you need to do it again. LOL! Well, while I was growing up, her audio cassette was a constant feature in the home (I still remember her smiling face on the cover). Whether there was baidei or not, we always enjoyed the tune of this Isoko talent.

EVI-EDNA OGHOLI, Nigeria's Queen of Reggae3

And the birthdays (or baideis as the case may be) too then were not bad, a few bottles of Mirinda or Sprite which must show in the pictures or the photographer would be in hot soup, a very wide circular cake that looked like a South African World Cup stadium with your name boldly written on it as if it was a national award, and from the middle stuck out a giant knife that was more of a cutlass. Well, we enjoyed ourselves, ate white rice with stew (and fried chicken, was that not the definition of Paradise then?), had sweets, chewing gums, (took 90 pieces of Cabin biscuits to school the next day for classmates), took pictures (atimes special treats at Adams Foto Studios), danced to Evi, King Sunny Ade, Obey, Onyeka Onwenu, Barrister and many others (Dbanj? Who’s that?) LOL!

EARLY DAYS
Evi-Edna Ogholi was born on the 6th of July 1965 in Isoko, Delta State (then Bendel State) to the household of Reverend R. O. Ogholi.

EVI-EDNA OGHOLI, Nigeria's Queen of Reggae4_Naijarchives

MUSIC CAREER
Immediately she was done with high school in 1985, she ‘escaped’ to Lagos where she hoped to have a big break in music. She entered Lagos with a demo tape of her songs. It was while in Eko Akete, the Land of Aromisalegbz that she met Emma Oghosi who was at that time a divorcee musician in the pop genre. They later got married but was initially her manager and producer. Her debut album was dropped in 1987 and it was titled ‘My Kind of Music’. This boldly signified her place as Nigeria’s first real female reggae artiste. Thereafter, she released three more albums: On The Move, Happy Birthday and Step by Step. These three albums were very popular, with each going platinum, and she even toured the West African region dazzling audiences with her performances in 1989. She was just about 23 then. Happy Birthday was released under Polygram Records (later Premier Records) in 1988.

EVI-EDNA OGHOLI, Nigeria's Queen of Reggae5_Naijarchives

Her songs were socially relevant and were of great benefit to the community at large. For example, in the late 1980s and early 1990s when she reigned on the Nigerian music scene, one of her songs was Look Before You Cross which lectured youngsters on basic road safety principles. Today, our musicians ask if you can kirun lori Express tabi lori BRT, joor o! (pray on an expressway or BRT lane) LOL! 

A master guitarist, her fans nicknamed her ‘Njoku Reggae’ as she made ‘njoku, njoku’ sounds as she struck the chords, and she sang mainly in vernacular and her native Isoko language. In addition to the ones mentioned above, these are some of her other classics:

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-Ririovara (Wipe Your Tears)
-Oghene Me (My God)
-Message to the Youths
-Jealousy
-Okioghne (God’s Time)
-One Kilometre

Happy Birthday is without a doubt, the most popular of her songs, and was played all over Nigeria (it actually became more of a national anthem) and in other West African nations during birthday parties (like mine…lol!) Till today, people still rock her songs at birthday celebrations. She got sponsorship deals from various companies like Pepsi and toured the length and breadth of Nigeria performing to millions. Listening to Evi-Edna Ogholi today is nostalgic as it brings back memories of when Nigeria worked, when things were a lot better than now. Well, it will get better.

LOVE, MARRIAGE & LATER CAREER

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Well, with time, she also surrendered to the drift of brain drain leaving Nigeria for Europe in search of greener pastures. She was not the only one who left Nigeria when things became harder and efforts of indigenous artistes were not being adequately rewarded (pirates in Alaba International Market today still do worse than those on the coast of Somalia). Other artistes who also left the shores of Naija included the Lijadu Sisters, Majekodunmi Fasheke (Majek Fashek), Ukeleke Umwubuya (Ras Kimono), Orits Wiliki, Mandators, Felix Liberty, Alex Zito and Alex O (Okoligwe). Before finally leaving for Europe, she tried to fight back the pirates, even travelled to Ivory Coast to confront some of them but later had to just leave it all. Her husband, Emma Ogosi and one of Nigeria’s fnest music producers said:

“ I think Evi left when she couldn’t cope with the sad reality that our fortune had changed. She couldn’t come to terms with the fact that the party was over.

“And after four years of having to struggle to try and make ends meet, she thought she could change things. That was when she decided she needed to take a break and travel to the West Coast to pursue some of the bootleggers who were busy pirating her works. When she left, we were in touch, until she decided to move to Abidjan, Cote D’ Voire. But I was advised not to let her go into that country because of the crisis. But before I got to her, she was already in. And for three months, we heard nothing from her and thought something had happened to her.
But knowing Evi for her resilience, I kept faith and was, therefore, not surprised, when one day, she called to say she was in Paris…..Yes, she called from Paris….she may have joined a CNN crew to escape as I gathered.”

He said he waited for her for nine years but later had to move on: I kept faith for nine years but right now there is a woman I ‘m seeing. But I have told her there is a woman whom I love and who is still my legal wife. And if she returns today and wants her home back, well… . She understands this and she is not complaining.”
Sometimes women act funny. Did Evi ever try to find out if he was seeing anyone?
“Yes, and that was eight years ago when she asked the daughter.”

Today, she is settled in Paris, France with her family. She is living on a low-key but her many fans (like this writer) still eagerly await her homecoming. Who says she cannot make a massive comeback? You don forget Pa Fatai Rolling Dollar ni? Well, I am very hopeful we’ll be seeing her concerts soon, very soon. Afterall, one of her songs has a reassuring title: There Is No Place Like Home.

EVI-EDNA OGHOLI, Nigeria's Queen of Reggae7_Naijarchives

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