by Taiwo Damilola
Nigeria’s Lady of Songs, Christy Essien-Igbokwe, passed on yesterday morning, a few months before her 51st birthday. She reportedly died around 9.15am in a private hospital after a brief illness. Many who got the news, could not help but remember the last time they saw her perform at the season finale of the Nigerian Idols Show.
‘I remember the warm sensation I felt as she came on stage from behind the curtains and the rapturous ovation she got from the audience – the pride I felt was almost filial,’ said Kehinde Olusola. He is right, as the diva certainly outdid the Idols finalists that evening with her voice and her cheer.
The singer is known for her various hits which include the evergreen ‘Seun Rere’, ‘Hear the Call’ and ‘Tete Nu Na Ula’. The multi-talented Lady of Songs is also fondly remembered as Apena, the wife of Chief Jegede Shokoya in the NTA series, ‘The New Masquerade’. Christy Essien-Igbokwe was also fluent in different Nigerian languages, and was able to sing songs that would transcend ethnic and regional lines, as well as generations.
She was the first female president of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria, which she helped found in 1982. Essien-Igbokwe released her first album ‘Freedom’, in 1976 when she was just 16 and subsequently released other albums such as ‘Patience’ and ‘Time Waits for No One’ (1978), ‘One Understanding’ (1979) and ‘Give Me a Chance’ (1980). She married Edwin Igbokwe at 19 and went on to have four children.
Christy Essien-Igbokwe will not only be remembered as a wife and mother but also as a humanitarian who wasn’t content with singing about the problems in the lives of others, but chose to act. ‘Hear the Children Crying’, was perhaps her most heartfelt song till date. This perhaps, was responsible for her starting up the NGO, Essential Child Care Foundation, which is involved in child welfare needs and rights.
Do we weep over the loss of this gem or do we stay grateful for the life she lived and the legacy she has left behind? A true diva, whose star shone the brightest in an era when becoming an artiste transcended the need to be popular, Christy Uduak Essien-Igbokwe will remain in our hearts for a long time to come.
Below, is her performance at Nigerian Idols and her hit song ‘Seun Rere’, as well as a Tribute compilation*.
*Please note that this is a handheld home recording. Video courtesy of YouTube.com/PlanetOlusola