Had he been alive, renowned music impresario, broadcaster and artiste manager, Steve Omodele Bankole Rhodes would have been 94 years old. But, even in death, his legacy still shines brightly.
Fondly called Uncle Steve, he was born to the family of Bankole Rhodes, a Nigerian judge and Mabel Jones Rhodes on April 8, 1926, and his interest in music was kindled at a very young age. At the tender age of seven, he started getting piano lessons from Kofo Abayomi and then was a choir boy in the Christ Church Cathedral choir under T.K.E. Philips.
For his formal education, he attended a few secondary schools, including CMS Grammar School, Dennis Memorial School, Onitsha and Enitonna High School in Port Harcourt. He then enrolled at Oxford University for politics and economics program. It was while he was a student at Oxford that his destiny with music was charted when he met a German music teacher who promised to give him lessons if he moved to Germany, Rhodes obliged and moved to Germany where he was taught music history, conducting and orchestration. To survive, he played in quartets, jazz clubs and worked with the British Forces Broadcasting Service.
After his sojourn abroad, He returned to Nigeria in 1956 and started work with the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation, NBC. At NBC, he organized a radio orchestra called NBC Dance Orchestra, a big band that was also a dance music repertoire. Having left his mark, he left NBC in 1958. In 1961, he took up an appointment with the Western Nigerian Television as a programme director.
In 1971, he formed the band The Voices, which later became the Steve Rhodes Orchestra. Rhodes originally started The Voices as a church band after a pastor of the Christ Church Cathedral, Marina asked him to create a musical band that can be a crowd puller which he did successfully.
He was also a manager to the afrobeat legend, Fela Kuti in the 1960s and was a source of inspiration for many Nigerian musicians who started in the 1960s and 1970s.
He passed on to the great beyond on May 29, 2008, in a London hospital, where he had been admitted following a bout of illness.
To immortalize him, his family set up an endowment — the Elder Steve Rhodes Award for the Best Graduating Music Student from the University of Lagos. The first award was presented during the University of Lagos Convocation ceremony on February 20, 2018.
Also, on the 20th February 2018, Freedom Park in collaboration with the family displayed a photographic exhibition (initially displayed in 2014 to mark the 6th anniversary) and the public had the opportunity to view the exhibition as well as watch a short documentary titled Metamorphosis directed and produced by Femi Odugbemi.
As friends, families mark his 94th post-humous birthday, it is safe to say that even in death, his musical legacies lives on!