A Nigerian LP on the Philips label I've had for a number of years, originally bought at Cheshire Street in the East End of London I think. Delightful ju ju music with xylophone and jazzy brass section.
"Born in 1940, Celestine was educated musically by his uncle who taught him how to read music and play harmonium. His grandmother was a folk musician and dancer and his father, who worked as a coal miner, was a popular local performer of igede, ikpa and ode music. His mother was lead singer for a women's dance troupe.
After Catholic primary school, where he excelled in drama and music, Celestine went to teacher training school for two years, dropping out in 1960 to join Mike Ejeagha's group as vocalist and maraca player. But he soon left to join a group led by Mr Picolo who were going to tour the Congo. Thus an early exposure to Congolese music had a huge impact on his own musical formation.
On his return to Nigeria he briefly joined a group called African Baby Party. Three months later he moved to Maiduguri and formed Freedom Jazz Band, but then he moved to Zaria and formed The Republic Knights with Charles Jebba.
But he moved again, to Onitsha, where he fronted the Niger City Starlighters. With this formation he made his debut recordings, and scored hits with "No Condition is Permanent," "Artificial Beauty," "Appolonia," and "Ije Enu." This latter song sold 200,000 copies in 3 months.
After nine months he decided to start anew and with the help of Matthias Okafor who owned the Frontline Hotel, Onitsha, and who rented instruments for him, Ukwu was able to start Celestine Ukwu & His Music Royals of Nigeria in April 1962. The band was a huge success for five years. In 1967 the Biafran War broke out and the non-Biafran members of the band fled, while Ukwu recorded "Hail Biafra!" and did his bit to boost morale during the strife. In addition to singing he also played drums and vibraphone on his recordings. The band toured neighbouring countries and even went to West Germany. In 1972 students at the University of Nigeria renamed his band the Philosophers National. In 1977 at the age of 37, Ukwu died in a car wreck."
Biography courtesy of www.musikifan.com
Tracks are - 1. Ejim Nke Onye 2. Ima Echi