Orlando Julius, the Ijesha Man that Blended Continents and Cultures through Music

Orlando Julius, the Ijesha Man that Blended Continents and Cultures through Music

Orlando Julius, the Ijesha Man that Blended Continents and Cultures through Music

Although he is fondly called O.J by his friends and admirers, Orlando’s real names are Orlando Julius Aremu Olusanya Ekemode. A native of Ijebu Ijesha in Osun State.

He was born in Ikole Ekiti in 1943.

He started his musicianship with musical greats like J.O Oyeshiku, Julius Araba, Ademola Hastrup, Ik Dairo, etc

In 1958 he started the Modupe Band with Hasstrup in Ondo Town and it was the same year Orlando Julius played the alto saxophone for the first time on stage.

In 1959, Orlando Julius got a job with Eddie Okonta and His Top Aces at Central Hotel and Paradise Hotel in Ibadan.

During OJ’s short stint with Eddie Okonta he had the opportunity to welcome Jazz Icon Louis Armstrong to Ibadan. Louis Armstrong whose visit was filled with thrills and frills performed and gifted Eddie Okonta a special trumpet which had a golden mouthpiece.

In 1960 Orlando Julius travelled to Ijesha and joined his cousin IK Dairos Dance Band as the leader of the band.

His first single Igbehin Adara was recorded in 1961 while leading IK Dairo’s band.

In 1963 he formed his band Modern Aces and recorded songs like Ise Logun Ise and Jagua Nana on Philips Records.

After his success with the song Jaguar Nana which was inspired by the book Jaguar Nana’s daughter by Cyprian Ekwensi and unarguably Orlando Julius highest selling record under Philips he got a contract to play on a television weekend show on WNTV the first TV Station in Africa.

Orlando Julius who became the talk of the town was highly soughted for in universities across Nigeria, Social Clubs, Parties, etc. He played at Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s birthday having been in Awo’s Action Group Band at some point. He also played at Chief Rotimi Williams 25th Anniversary.

Orlando Julius met James Brown when he came to Ibadan and had few Jam sessions.

*His Tours Around the World*

Orlando is no doubt one of the most travelled Nigerian Musicians. In 1974 he finally left for the U.S after recording Disco Highlife and Children of the World featuring Dora Ifodu. When he moved to Washington DC Orlando formed the group UMOJA. The band UMOJA played with iconic names in the music world like Grover Washington, Isley Brothers, Miles Davis, Nina Simone, Herbie Hancock, Isaac Hayes, Gladys Knight, Curtis Mayfield, Gil Scot Herron, etc

Hugh Masekela who watched Umoja’s rehearsal session instantly got excited about the band and with Hugh Masekela they recorded The Boys doing it and Colonial Man.

UMOJA toured other countries like Hawaii, Canada, Ghana and Liberia.

In 1977, Orlando Julius met Lamont Dozier and Co- Produced Going Back to my Roots. The song became an instant chart burster with the song done by London Group Odyssey and taking it to number five on the world chart.

In 1978, Orlando Julius moved to the Bay Area near San Francisco, studied audio engineering and production in Bear West Studios and also studied film production at the Berkeley Film Institute.

Orlando also attended Laney College for photography and television production and did some music courses. While studying he was still performing and creating a world beat movement in the Bay Area. Orlando with his brand of music taught American musicians about world beat rhythms and Afro Beat Music, Highlife Music, etc

His band which he changed to Ashiko continued to play in the U.S on the same bill with John Lee Hooker, B.B King and Art Berkeley,etc

In 1984 he returned home to record the album Dance Afro Beat which was recorded at EMI studio with the video shot at Badagry. He also recorded Adara and shot it at Osun Shrine featuring the Lijadu Sisters.

The song Dance Afro Beat was later released in California where he met Leila Steinberg, a promoter, poet, dance teacher who was also Tupac Shakurs former manager.

Leila introduced Orlando to some schools in Northern California to share and teach music through Young Imaginations a non profit program that focused on multi cultural arts education in public schools. Together with his wife Latoya whom he met through Ambrose Campbell he toured different continents of the world.

When he finally decided to return home in the 90’s he was betrothed to his wife Latoya in Mr Femi Esho’s office. Femi Esho my dad is the living encyclopedia of Highlife music in Nigeria who has made it his life’s mission to ensure the continuous preservation and promotion of music that is truly ours.

Below are few of the Festivals of the world OJ toured

* World Drum Festival in San Francisco, Montreux Jazz Festival, Canada, USA Reggae Festival, New Orleans Jazz Festival, Birmingham Cultural and Heritage Festival, Street Scene Festival Santiago California, Disney New Years Eve, Houston African Music Festival, Beale Street Music, Rhythm of the world Festival U.S.A, Star Trek Festival Ogun state, Panafest Ghana, Faaji Agba Eko and Festival 50 Organised by Evergreen Musical Company, etc

Orlando didn’t only produce Evergreen Songs like Mapami , Topless, Jaguar Nana, Ise Owo, Boju Bari, Ololufe, Igbehin Adara, Oni Suru, Esin Tata, Stop War, Ijo Soul, Bamijo, Columbia, Ashiko, Erora Miliki, etc he has also been the brain behind the production of some movie soundtracks of award winning films like Saworoide, Owo Blow, Etc

As Orlando Julius blew his final trumpet succumbing to the cold hands of death on 14th of April 2022 , he will forever be remembered as a gentleman who blended his music across continents, preaching vehemently that music had no boundaries but a universal language for World Peace.

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