Today’s Doodle, illustrated by Lagos-based guest artist Ohab TBJ, pays tribute to Nigerian musician Oliver de Coque on his 74th birthday.
Crowned the “Highlife King of Africa,” he is widely revered as one of the continent’s most prolific recording artists. Born on this day in 1947 in the small town of Ezinifite in southeastern Nigeria, Oliver Sunday Akanite first took up the guitar at a young age, and as a teenager, studied the traditional Igbo music of the region and Congolese soukous.
In 1970, at a performance by the popular Sunny Agaga and his Lucky Star Band, Akanite convinced Sunny to let him stand in as their guitarist; he was hired on the spot, providing a massive boost to his young career. Also, a skilled player of the Nigerian board game okwe, Akanite became known as “Oliver de ka Okwe,” which he later adapted into his stage name, Oliver de Coque.
De Coque famously infused the modern West African highlife genre with a Congolese-influenced guitar style and the energetic dance elements of Igbo music he grew up with, crafting a unique musical style, which he called Ogene. Beginning with his first solo release in 1976, de Coque’s music only grew in popularity at home and abroad, as he put out album after album featuring his masterful guitar work and fresh take on African pop–over 70 throughout his lifetime.
In 1994, in recognition of his prodigious music achievement, de Coque was awarded an honorary doctorate in music by the University of New Orleans.
Thank you, Oliver de Coque, for strumming your way into the hearts of listeners around the world!