Umu Obiligbo’s “Signature”, Furthering a Philosophical Legacy – Michael Chiedoziem Chukwudera

The band, Umu Obiligbo, undoubtedly makes some of the most meaningful songs in the Nigerian music industry. On account of the depth of their craft, people who don’t understand Igbo enjoy their music, even if they miss out on the storytelling prowess of this quintessential highlife band that has brought back that pure and unadulterated highlife sound closer to mainstream Nigerian music.

Umu Obiligbo’s latest musical project is the album, Signature, which contains 10 songs that build on the philosophical storytelling culture which pure highlife music is hinged on. The philosophy of the songs spans the challenges of the average young Nigerian; from trying to eke a living, down to issues such as love. The album does this through storytelling, the employment of Igbo proverbs and even anecdotes.

The album opens with a song titled Chisom which begins with a shout out to God as is typical of many Igbo songs and as should be expected from highlife songs, goes on to talk about many other things including how youths from these parts struggle to travel abroad to make money.

Other songs in the album which explore important topics include Oga Police featuring Zoro which reminisces on police brutality; Respect which explores the Igbo philosophy which holds that “greatness comes only to those who revere those who achieved greatness before them”; Know Your Friend whose title is self-explanatory and They Must Talk.

The album also includes a trio of interesting tracks like Aka Chineke (ft Bube), On God (ft. Victor AD) and Amara— all of which take a positive outlook at the world in the popular Nigerian culture of worshipful philosophy.

Umu Obiligbo makes music from which you can learn, reflect on and the same time dance to. This is a difficult feat to achieve across many other genres of music

Umu Obiligbo, therefore, it would seem, are through their various achievements in Signature, proving the superior quality of highlife music with what can be achieved in a single song.

Umu Obiligbo has built on the Igbo philosophical culture of deep reflections bordering on a religious outlook of a physical life that is unavoidably hinged to spiritual influences. 

This is mirrored in the mu na chi philosophy which avers that one goes through life enabled by the guidance of one’s personal chi. The influence of this belief in their music is reflected in the number of times they sing: “O kwa mu na chim so a ga.”

They have successfully combined the philosophical element of highlife music to the groovy tendencies of present day mainstream Nigerian music.

Umu Obiligbo has further advanced the modernization of highlife music which artistes like Flavour Nabania began over a decade ago. They have succeeded in bringing alive the old sounds almost in their entirety and through it have charmed the sensibilities of contemporary times. This is something which has, in the dynamism of the times, taken a series of radical turns.

Signature is a great continuation of the legacy began in wonderful projects like Ogu Ajoka, Udo Ga-adi and Ife Di Mma. Signature adapts more and more to the times with shorter tracks and an increased number of songs in a single album while retaining its philosophical background. It is difficult not to be excited with the beauty that is served by this new band which has impressed many with their  unique style.

The album, Signature,  is a successful attempt in furthering a unique philosophical legacy in contemporary highlife music.

Rating 7.3/10

Michael Chiedoziem Chukwudera is a cultural critic, and journalist and can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ChukwuderaEdozi.

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