Legendary Folklorist, ‘Gentleman’ Mike Ejeagha Turns 92


A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to save them from starving. They all have food in their own homes. When we gather together in the moonlit village ground, it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so. Things Fall Apart.

We are here because we understand the importance of celebrating greatness. Onye fee eze, eze eru ya aka. We celebrate Gentleman for we know that if we thank a man for what he has done, he will have the strength to do more.

Gentleman Micheal Nwachukwu Ejeagha was born on 4th April 1930 in Enugu to Mr. Jacob and Jennet Ejeagha. He hails from Imezi-Ọwa in the Ezeagu Local Government Area of Enugu State. He attended St. Patrick’s school Ogbette Enugu, came out in the year 1948 and joined Costain West Africa Limited, a construction firm. He took to music at the early age of 14. The love he has for music made him learn to play the musical instrument called guitar from two old guitarists in their 70s who lived in his neighbourhood in coal city.

In 1950, he assembled a quartet group known as the Merry Makers and in 1951 recorded a breakable disc titled, Colliery Massacre in honour of striking Iva valley Enugu coal miners killed by agents of the colonial government.

Later in 1952, Mike in a bid to reach out to more audience approached Mr Joe Atuona, Controller of Nigeria Broadcasting Service (NBS) now Radio Nigeria Enugu National Station for an audition which culminated in Mike being chosen as one of the station’s regular artists on a programme known then as “guitar playtime” a series produced by eminent and popular broadcasters like the late Egbuna Obidike, Lawrence Emeka, Charles Ogbonna, Chjioke Abagwe and a host of others. It was in 1959 that he joined the then paradise rhythm orchestra based in a popular hotel called Phonda Paradise here in Enugu. He later became the bandleader. Throughout this period, he was carving out his own style of music in the Igbo language and stood far from the maddening crowd of Ghana and Congo music copycats of those years.

Consequently, he was able then to compose and release a number of single discs under the Niger-Phone recording company at Onitsha. These include ‘Unfortunate Lady’ ‘Ofu Nwa a Naa,’ ‘Okụkọ Kwaa, Uche Echebe Onye Ugwọ,’ ‘King Solomon’s Wisdom (don’t divide the living child),’ ‘Ụwa Mgbede Ka Mma,’ ‘Gwo Gwo Gwo Gwom,’ and many others. He also released a single album in the memory of his late wife titled ‘Nwanyị Mma Anaa’ in 1964 -65.

He joined Leisure Garden Dance Band in 1964, and in the same year, he was able to form his group known as the Premier Dance Band and bought some musical instruments with the savings he made as an artist in Radio Nigeria. Just a year before the Biafra war in 1966, Mike Ejeagha got married again to Miss Susan Titil Oti, who was working with the Nigeria prison service.

Mention should also be made that he continued participating in the Radio Nigeria Enugu National Station Igbo play programme which was interrupted by the Biafra war and in 1971, he started the Akụkọ na Egwu Series with NTA and Sunrise ESBS radio station, Enugu.
He relocated with his family to Umuahia during the Nigeria-Biafra war. Returning after the war, he had lost his musical instrument which was parked in a storeroom. He became demoralized but he knew as our people say that if the hen stops clucking, what will she use to train her children so he later started all over to reorganize his band.

Gentleman Mike Ejeagha is a household name in the east of Niger and beyond. Is it not our people that said that he whose name is called again and again by those trying in vain to catch a wild bull has something he alone can do to bulls? The dexterity with which he plays the guitar cannot be mistaken for any other musician when one listens to popular tunes like ‘Omekagụ, Onye Ndidi, Onye Nwee, ọ na-ebe, onye enwero, ọ na-ebe, jaa m mma na ndụ to mention but a few. Also note that Mike Ejeagha stands out as one of the few musicians who never used his music for praise-singing as is common with most musicians.

Indeed, he has created an identity for himself yet to be matched by any. Gentleman’s music is full of proverbs and morals that philosophize aspects of everyday people in their social environment.

Scholars and artists use his wealth of experience in music and otherwise in academic exercise and research programmes. His idioms and wise sayings are used as references in our everyday social interactions. He succeeded in institutionalizing Igbo folklore music hence, ‘Akụkọ na Egwu Mike Egeagha.’

He is blessed with — children. Unfortunately, the Gentleman buried his wife Susana and later his son in the year 2020.

He is a member of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), which was founded by Christy Essien Igbokwe and Sunny Okosun in 1984.

He is a recipient of:
Silver Disc award, Polygram Records (now premier music).
Certificate of merit award by Black Power Movement.
Certificate of Excellence award, University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
Outstanding performance award by the Ezeagu Local government council on Igbudu day in 2001, Agbaja.

Udi/Ezeagu Merit Award in 2009.

Asides from his numerous singles, Gentleman Mike Ejeagha has over 30 albums to his credit.

Here is a Living-Legend of our time, ugo chara acha n’adighi echu echu.