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Orlando Julius Biography

Orlando Julius Ekemode

Orlando Julius Biography - Orlando Julius Soundwela

Orlando Julius Biography And Journey To Fame.

Orlando Julius Aremu Olusanya Ekemode, known professionally as Orlando Julius or OJ Ekemode, was a Nigerian saxophonist, singer, bandleader, and songwriter closely associated with afrobeat music.

An indigene of Ijebu-Ijesha in Osun State, Ekemode was born in 1943 in Ikole, present-day Ekiti State to a family of merchants. In the 1950s, he moved to Ibadan after the death of his father, where his music career took flight. He joined Eddie Okonta’s band and was able to record his first single titled, “Igbehin Adara” through the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) in 1960. Before then, he had been tutored by Highlife musician Jazz Romero. With Okonta’s band, Julius performed in many gigs and opened for the American trumpeter and vocalist Louis Armstrong.

Thereafter, he went to Ilesha where he joined the late Dr. I.K. Dairo’s band. Whilst leading the outfit, he was able to arrange some songs for the band, which included Salome, Mo F’ara Mi Fun E, and many others. Moving up, he established his 10-piece band, Orlando Julius & His Modern Aces and they performed regularly at Independence Hotel, Oke-Bola, Ibadan. He will occasionally call up Fela Anikulapo-Kuti to play on stage and in one of his interviews said Fela began to learn the saxophone because of him.

With Orlando Jr & His Modern Aces, he released his first 45 single in 1965, titled: Jaguar Nana, a popular slang where he likened Jaguar cars to a woman. He formed the Afro Sounders and Evelyn dance band releasing the melodic “Super Afro Soul” album in 1966.

In 1973/74, he moved to the United States, where he formed a band Umoja and would play with other bands, including Hugh Masakela in the 1970s. 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.

He had collaborations with both indigenous and foreign artistes, opening for the Crusaders, James Brown. He sang and wrote the chorus in the Lamont Dozier’s Grammy winning track ‘Going back to the roots‘. The track (Ka Ma Ranti Isedale Baba Awa) was the ninth on the album and was the only one that won the Grammy cutting across the world with that blend of the Yoruba spice.

He began touring internationally and, in 2014, went to London to collaborate with The Heliocentrics where they released Ashiko and a host of other songs.

Until his death, he was married to singer-cum-dancer in his band, Chicago-born Latoya Aduke Ekemode.

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