All roads will lead to the Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja, Lagos on Sunday, January 27, 2013, as 83-year-old Chris Ajilo, the legendary Nigeria’s musicologist of highlife genre, launches his autobiography.
To an avid follower of happenings in the Nigerian contemporary music scene, his name, undoubtedly, rings a bell. He is reputed for such hits like Eko o Gba Gbere, which was an anthem among Lagosians in the 50s, Oju Rere at'Emi Mimo; Iku Eko; O ti lo waju; Oh Christiana; Ladies Beware; Sussy; Only You; Anna's Trick; Orilonise; Irin Ajo; Gbo Temi Sisi and Ariwo, Tete De; Oro Re; Ayesoro; Afufu; Ode to Muritala (The Fallen Hero); Oju Oloro Re; Olomo kilo f'omo re; Lafia Jump and Angola, to mention just a few.
True to type, Chris Ajilo, in virtually all his recorded works, has manifestly displayed his passion for and fanatical attachment to Lagos. It was not surprising, therefore, that Ajilo has, at one time or the other, won for himself Platinum Awards and other awards of Excellence in the course of duty. Records also show that he has been widely honoured for bringing to limelight young, talented Lagos-based artistes, whose various albums he had willingly produced, in his commitment to further grow the industry in the country.
From all indications, there is no hiding the fact that he is one of Nigeria's foremost living legends of Highlife, Dance music and Jazz, having contributed indelibly to the steady growth, development and consequent professionalism in the nation's entertainment industry.
An icon of sort, Chris Ajilo actually opened the eyes of most upcoming artistes in the country to what it takes to make it big in the music industry. In doing this, Ajilo would always shed the toga of selflessness as he carefully guide, to the topmost level possible, any identified seeming star, most of whom are today calling the shots in the industry.
It needs be mentioned, at this juncture, that Chris Ajilo not only studied music as a chosen career from one of the best music schools in the United Kingdom, he also took pain to establish similar institutions in Nigeria in his determination to impact professionalism in younger ones, on arrival in the country. For emphasis, Chris Ajilo attended the famous Central School of Music, later known as the Eric Gilder School of Music, London, from where he studied both the theory and composition of music, before returning to Nigeria in the 50s.
Having formally commenced musical playing in Lagos, Nigeria, on the formation of the West End Cool Cats Orchestra, after which he launched the Chris Ajilo and His Cubanos on August 1, 1955, it is worthy of mentioning that Ajilo gracefully led the Band on playing tours to several cities and towns in Nigeria and the West African Coast in the same year of formation. He eventually embarked on a global escapade from where he bagged international fame and laurels. Between 1955 and 1958, Chris Ajilo was a notable recording artiste with Decca West Africa Limited.
At Nigeria's Independence on October 1, 1960, Chris Ajilo led the 25-piece National Orchestra comprising musicians from all over the Federation, which was commissioned by the Federal Government to perform at that historic celebration.
Ajilo later sat aboard the Performing and Mechanical Rights Society (PMRS), presently known as the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), as the General Manager between 1967 and 2007. The PMRS was the body officially recognized by the Nigerian government to collect royalties on behalf of artistes in the country.
At 83, even though Chris Ajilo may have retired his Band, the Cubanos, and now fully engaged in the professional training and management consultancy aspects of the industry, he remains a force to be reckoned with as a Nigerian pioneer musicologist of the highlife genre. He still comes to Lagos occasionally from Ijebu-Jesa, his home town, where he is presently domiciled, to perform at high brow concerts and allied events, just for the pleasure of it.
Born on Thursday, December 26, 1929 in Lagos to the renowned Ajilo family of Ijebu-Jesa ancestry, young Chris attended Saint Peter's School, Faji, Lagos (1935-1940); Christ Church Cathedral School (1941-1942); C.M.S. Grammar School, Lagos (1943-1946) and Birmingham Technical College, England (1947-1948). Between 1949-1954, he was at Central School of Music / Eric Gilder School of Music, West Street, West End, London studying theory and composition under world renowned Composer, Eric Gilder. For clarinet, he under studied Aubrey Frank; saxophone under Johnny Dankworth, Kenny Graham and Don Randell.
He later played with Kenny Graham, an Afrocubist band, Arthur Rowebury Band in Nortingham. Chris Ajilo returned to Lagos in 1955 and led the West End Cool Cats Orchestra. He later formed the Cubanos Band and toured many cities and towns in Nigeria and the West African coast the same year.