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Orlando Julius and His Afro-Sounders

Langue disponible : anglais

Afrobeat saxophonist, singer, songwriter, and bandleader Orlando Julius was born Orlando Julius Aremu Olusanya Ekemode in 1943 in Ikole, Nigeria. As a child, he learned to play drums and would accompany his mother as she sang and danced. After graduating high school and the death of his father, he relocated to Ibadan to pursue a musical career. He first began playing drums or flute with local musicians. He joined bands led by highlife musicians Jazz Romero and Rex Williams, teaching himself to play the saxophone by listening to records by horn-based musical acts. In 1960, he joined Nigerian highlife legend Eddie Okonta’s band and toured and recorded a few sessions before leaving the band to pursue a solo career. Moving slightly away from highlife, Orlando Julius and his band the Modern Aces incorporated American pop and R&B into their sound. Fela Kuti was a fan and friend and, according to Orlando Julius himself, Fela was inspired to learn to play the saxophone after witnessing the Modern Aces live. Orlando Julius scored his first solo hit with the 1965 single “Jagua Nana”, which was followed a year later by the iconic album Super Afro Soul, which was an enormous hit in Nigeria. With musical and political movements changing in Nigeria, he moved to Europe and then to the U.S., finally settling in Washington, D.C. in 1973. After forming a band and playing locally, he was spotted by Hugh Masekela, who hired him to play in his band.  He toured and recorded with Masekela, playing live shows with many top R&B and jazz artists. Moving to Los Angeles, California he began a career as a session musician, finally moving up north to Oakland, California in 1978. While living in Oakland, he attended film school while also playing live shows locally. In 1979, he released the album Disco Hi-Life, which combined the classic Nigerian highlife sound with disco grooves. Orlando Julius moved back to Nigeria in 1984 and formed the Nigerian All Stars, releasing the album Dance Afro-Beat in 1985. Spending most of his musical career under the commercial radar, a 2000 reissue of the album Super Afro Soul brought attention to his long career. Further reissues and new recordings came over the next two decades.

©Copyright Music Story Stephen Schnee 2021
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