A Tribute to Nze Dan Chukwuemeka Orji. By Mazi E.A.C. Orji (and the Orji Chima Family of Aro-Orji, Urata, Owerri North LGA, Imo State, Nigeria)
“In the midst of life, we are in death.” The unexpected and sudden demise of Nze Daniel Chukwuemeka Orji aptly confirmed the truth of the quote above taken from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer.
In the language of literature, arts and music, Dan Orji (as he was popularly and widely known and called), was a great classical musician. The beauty of his works and the wisdom expressed in them have continued to hold out massive appeal to people of different ages and in different countries. People of all ages that have tasted the lyrics and music of his songs have continued to want to read or hear them over and over again. They never seem to get tired of discovering new beauties and new truths in the works of this artful musician, insightful composer, versatile arranger and inimitable vocalist.
Born on December 6, 1945 to Maazi Joseph Chima Orji and Orihe Cecilia Nwachi Orji at Aro-Orji, Urata, Owerri North Local Government area of Imo State of Nigeria, Danny was educated in Orji Town Primary School where he manifested great musical talent by singing at social events around Owerri. He had his Secondary education at the prestigious Saint Patrick’s College, Ikot Ansa, Calabar, where he played meritoriously in the College Band.
At the end of the Nigeria/Biafra war in 1970, he played a major role in the founding of the famous Peacocks International Guitar Band. It was while with Peacocks that he produced some of his greatest hits, including the ever popular and classical SAMBOLA MAMA, which earned a gold, and sold more records in Ghana than in Nigeria, demonstrating the wide appeal of his compositions, a further proof of the truism that music knows no boundaries, as well as the English saying that ‘ good wine needs no bush’( which translates into Igbo as ahia oma na ere onweya). When the Peacocks International Guitar Band disbanded, he founded the Skylarks Universal Band of Nigeria in 1976.
Nze Dan Orji’s abundant natural musical endowment was inherited from his mother, who was a good singer, and his maternal uncle, late J. U. Kamalu of Umuonyeche, Owere(which the British called Owerri), who played the Accordion with great skill. Danny’s natural musical endowment was enhanced by his incredible capacity for hard work that is easier imagined than described. Little wonder that he produced such classical masterpieces and dominated the music scene for more than four decades. Danny had a large and generous heart and was always quick to forgive. Although his works have been severally plagiarized, he never exercised his rights under the existing Copyright Laws to sue for compensation. Rather, he would chuckle and say that those artists may continue to plagiarise his work if that would make them survive in life. What good spirit ! What bonhomie !
Danny was a good family man, a great family builder, who would resist any temptation to compromise the peace and progress of the Orji Chima family of which he was a proud member. His talent was not restricted to music alone; he was also an accomplished builder; and this was not surprising because architecture has been defined metaphorically as ‘FROZEN MUSIC.’ Danny was also a committed farmer. Indeed, he was a versatile talent who excelled in whatever he focused his interest and attention. Full of initiative and drive, Danny had the capacity to carry anything before him.
During his lifetime, Danny was conferred with a lot of accolades. He was made an Nze with the title Aku Jeshiobi ike of Orji. During the interregnum that followed the demise of the first Eze of the Orji Autonomous Community, Nze Dan Orji served as the Vice Chairman of the Orji Regency Council. The Arochukwu Kingdom conferred its highest honour, namely, Ugwu Aro, on him. And until his death, Nze Dan Orji was serving his second term as Chairman of the Aro-Orji village meeting.
We shall all miss Danny’s wisdom which was ever spiced with humour and profound imagery. The more you saw Danny, the more you admired him; the better you knew him the greater you valued his friendship. He had the knack for knowing peoples great needs and when they needed them most. In concluding, I seek understanding; and if I appear to write with the affection of a brother, I am just one of a large number.
Danny did not live long. He did not reach the biblical age of three scores and ten (indeed, he was to have been 70 years old on December 6, 2015!). But we are consoled by the fact that it is more important to live well than to live long. The quality of life lived takes precedence over its length, for life is a matter of art rather than mere duration. “Life is not a matter of counting years. It is a matter of making years count.” Danny did make his years count in blessing. Although we shall miss Danny physically, he will continue to live in the memories of all those he has left behind.
We prefer to end this tribute therefore, with the following immortal words of United States hymnist, Ira David Sankey (1840 – 1908):-
“Fading away like the stars of the morning,
Losing their light in the glorious sun,
Thus would we pass from the earth and its toiling,
Only remembered by what we have done.”
Thank you for sharing our moment with us. Shalom.
Maazi E. A. C. ORJI is the head of the Orji Chima family. August 12, 2015