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The genre is primarily guitar-based music, with rare characteristic blend of horns and vocal rhythms. Igbo highlife lyrics are sung mostly in Igbo with occasional infusion of Pidgin English. One of the most influential composers and performers of the music is Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe whose career spanned over 40 years.
Osadebe’s discography comprises numerous popular songs including the 1984 hit “Osondi Owendi” which launched him on the world stage as a pioneer of the Igbo highlife genre.
Singer guitarist Oliver De Coque is considered “one of the prime exemplars of and chief innovators in contemporary Igbo popular music.” Coque was responsible for the increasing popularity of Igbo highlife with a style influenced by Congolese guitar flavor.
Among his best known hits are “Biri Ka Mbiri”, “Ana Enwe Obodo Enwe”, “Nnukwu Mmanwu” and “Identity”, all of which were largely successful throughout the 1980s.
Other early performers in the genre who have made significant contributions to its development are, Bright Chimezie, Sir Warrior, Celestine Ukwu, Nico Mbarga, Oriental Brothers.