Nonagenarian highlife singer, Pa Chris Ajilo dies

by Araayo Akande

Veteran highlife musician, producer, teacher and retired rights administrator Pa Chris Ajilo is dead.

Pa Ajilo, who celebrated his 91st birthday on December 26, 2020, died at 10.30 am on Saturday at the Wesley Hospital, Ilesa, Osun State, from malaria.

One of his associates, the veteran sports broadcaster, Yomi Opakunle, who was at the 91st birthday celebration in Ijebu-Jesa, the nonagenarian’s hometown, where he relocated to several years ago, confirmed his passing to TCN.

“He died at 10.30 am this morning at Wesley Hospital, Ilesa. He had malaria, and David, his longtime caregiver, took him to the hospital in Ilesa. The good hospitals in Ijebu-Jesa were filled, so we asked David to take him to Ilesa. Papa lived a good, impactful life, so he has only gone to rest. There was nothing, only malaria,” Opakunle told TCN.

Also, speaking on Pa Ajilo’s passing, David ruled out COVID-19. “He had been battling malaria; the doctor even carried out a COVID-19 test on him, but he tested negative.”

Opakunle disclosed that the musician’s corpse had been deposited in a morgue and from conversations he had with Ajilo’s daughter living in the US, he would be buried after Lent.

Born in Lagos on 26th December 1930, Ajilo attended Saint Peter’s Primary School, Ajele Street and CMS Grammar School. 

After completing secondary school, he travelled abroad to study music at the Central School of Dance Music, West Street, London, under Johnny Dankworth, Don Randell, Jimmy Ducher and Aubrey Frank. 

He returned to Nigeria in 1955 and started his band, Chris Ajilo and his Cubanos. Because he was also interested in music production, Ajilo later worked with Polygram Records as a Staff Producer.

The musician, who was also an active unionist, became the President of the Nigerian Union of Musicians in 1960 and was part of the Independence Day Ball held at Federal Palace Hotel. 

Pa Ajilo, who played the saxophone, clarinet and flute, was a foundation member of the Performing and Mechanical Rights Society (PMRS), now known as the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON). 

Pa Ajilo’s popular numbers include ‘Eko o Gba Gbere’ which artist, Banky W covered, ‘Ariwo’, ‘Emi Mimo’ and ‘Suzie’. 

He featured in at least three Beautiful Nubia’s Emufest Music Festival before he had a domestic accident that curtailed his activity in 2016. Beautiful Nubia also facilitated the production of his album, ‘Ariwo’.

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