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‘Jagua Nana’ crooner Orlando Julius dies at 79

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-Pam Jenny /

The Entertainment industry has yet again been thrown into mourning as news filtered in that veteran highlife crooner, Orlando Julius Ekemode professionally known as Orlando Julius has died.
He was aged 79.
The passage was relayed by his widow, Latoya, through music promoter and Evergreen Music boss, Bimbo Esho.

Esho noted in an early Friday Facebook that the message from his wife read

“Bimbo, Daddy Has Passed On…”
From his Wikipedia profile, Julius was a saxophonist, singer, bandleader, and songwriter closely associated with afrobeat music.
He had his first hit in 1965 with the song “Jagua Nana”, the name applying slang for Jaguar cars to a woman. On the success of that song they went on tour around west Africa. As new kinds of music became popular in the region, Julius formed new groups to keep up with trends, for example the Afro Sounders and the Evelyn Dance Band. According to AllMusic, his 1966 album Super Afro Soul was a “dramatic, highly melodic incorporation of soul, pop, and funk” which “made him a national celebrity in Nigeria” and influenced American music.

In the 1970s, in post-civil war Nigeria, Julius was disappointed by the state of the music industry. The civil war had a negative impact, but so did the influx of Western music. With a vague sense that something was missing, he decided to travel to better understand production. He traveled through Europe first, and then went to the United States in 1973, where he decided to stay. He took up residence in Washington, D.C., formed a band named Umoja, and played in local nightclubs. A break came when Hugh Masekela attended one of their rehearsals. Masekela had split with his band, Hedzolch Soundz, and formed a new group with Julius, including some members of both bands. They recorded the albums The Boy’s Doin’ It and Colonial Man and went on tour, opening for high-profile acts like Herbie Hancock, The Pointer Sisters, and Grover Washington Jr. Over time, he met and played with several prominent American musicians like Lamont Dozier, James Brown, and The Crusaders. He says they noticed his distinctive style of playing the saxophone in a minor key, owing to the Ijesha way of playing. Though they were successful, he left Masekela on troubled terms, both because he wanted to be a bandleader again and because of disputes over royalties. Expectedly, tributes have been pouring in, with many describing his passing as a colossal loss not only to his family but the music world.
He’s survived by his American Latoya Ekemode, children and grandchildren.

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