Opinion (3`/07/2021): Where Has Feladay Gone With His Guitar? By Tony Okoroji

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It was just a month ago. On Wednesday, June 30, 2021, Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON), the nation’s biggest copyright collective management organization, had rolled out the red carpet at the magnificent COSON House in Ikeja to honour the quintessential drummer boy and widely respected musician and producer, Richard Cole who attained the biblical age of 70 years on that day.

Family, friends and colleagues of Gentleman Cole turned up in large numbers to sing and dance the night away in an unprecedented celebration of a good man with various genres of live music titillating the very elated audience as the kaleidoscope of lights and colours at the COSON Arena performed magic. On stage was another good man, the guitar wizard, the handsome Felix Odey, known to many as Feladay.

I had personally invited Feladay to show up at the event with his guitar so we could have a real live music jam. I did not think it was alright to celebrate a true musician like Richard Cole with canned music. Feladay showed up both with his guitar and his beautiful wife and an elated spirit.

The great impressionist, Koffi Tha Guru, was expected to be the MC at the event. Koffi showed up alright, did the red carpet, took photographs with many but had to leave because there was an urgent telephone call. I had just come directly from the hospital where I had been administered with six injections less than an hour before. I was a little groggy but in the absence of Koffi had to become an emergency MC.

When Feladay mounted the stage, struck his guitar and began the first stanza of ‘Hey Joe’, the iconic song made famous by the terrific Jimi Hendrix, there was sudden stupendous electricity in the Arena. The performance mesmerized everyone. The sickness in me disappeared, I forgot the injections I just had and flowed with the music in awe of a maestro at home with his instrument and his art.

And then the master of the guitar struck the opening chords of “Fuel for Love”, the evergreen song by Wrinkars Experience and the audience went wild and there was absolute commotion on the dance floor. From “Fuel for Love” to “Love Adure” and the many old favourites of Rex Jim Lawson, the audience sang along and danced to the virtuoso performance of Feladay who was joined on stage by Endee Ikeji. The show was easily one of the most exciting shows I ever witnessed at the COSON Arena.

Thereafter, I talked with Feladay about the possibility of having such a jam regularly at the Arena to lift the spirit of many who are traumatized by the madness happening in our country.

Felix Odey was not just an incredibly gifted musician who played with many-many musicians across the nation, he was a great guy with a great personality, lighting up wherever he went with jokes and spreading love along the way. You were unlikely to find Feladay engaged in the stupid gossips, conspiracies or the many plots to smear everyone. Feladay was also not one of those beclouded by tribe or ethnicity. His friends were from every tribe and everywhere. He loved the music industry and always wanted the industry united.

When a few days ago, I learnt of the passing of Feladay, I was numb. I could make no sense of it. I found it impossible to even make a comment. I could neither type nor write. My hands were frozen. What is happening to the tribe of Nigeria’s great guitarists?

At the beginning of July when I learnt of the passing of another fantastic guitarist, a good man and great colleague of mine, Hon John Udegbunam, I wept like a child. In the same month of July, I was informed of the passing of another great guitarist, Jackie Moore Anyaora, the renowned guitarist of Sweet Breeze fame who with Dallas Kingsley Anyanwu played with me in the group, ‘Life Everlasting’, the first band I ever played in. In the June 30 celebration of Richard Cole, it was in fact Feladay that informed me of the passing of another great Nigerian guitarist, Dan Ian Mbaezue, the author of the great songs, ‘Fuel for Love’ and ‘Money to Burn’. This was not long after the loss of BLO’s iconic guitarist Beckley Ike Jones. I learnt that Kayode Dosunmu who played the staccato guitar in Bongos Ikwue’s ‘Still Searching’ and went on to play with King Sunny Ade has passed on too. In quick succession, we have lost the great instrumentalists who made the music scenes of the 70s and 80s rock in Nigeria. Where are they all going with their guitars?

On June 30, 2021, when King Feladey held all of us spell bound at COSON House and wowed us with his guitar, he performed like a guy possessed. It was a last performance and a grand performance and he used the opportunity to remind us several times that he had turned seventy years old this year. Little did we know that he was telling us that he had run his race and that we should not forget what a grand musician he was. How can I ever forget the incredible Feladay, a true master of the guitar who spread love everywhere?

Bye-bye my friend.

See you next week.

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