Tributes have continued to pour in for veteran highlife musician, Julius Ekemode, popularly known as Orlando Julius, who died on Friday, April 15, 2022, at his home in Ilesa, Osun State, after a brief illness. He was aged 79.
Though his wife, Latoya, confirmed his death, when Saturday Beats called her, grief was evident in her voice as she asked our correspondent to call her back. When Saturday Beats reached out to her again, someone else picked the call and stated that Latoya was not in the right mood to talk.
Meanwhile, in earlier interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria and Tribune Newspaper, she said, “Yes, my husband passed on late last night. There was no indication that death was coming. He was not ill; he only slept and died in his sleep.”
She added, “He died in my arms at night. I thank the Lord,”
In a statement sent to Saturday Beats, the Federal Government through the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, described the late Julius’ passion for music as ‘unparalleled’. The statement, signed by Segun Adeyemi, a special assistant to Mohammed, read in part, “Despite a larger than life image, he remained a decent gentleman and a good family man. His passion for music was unparalleled, hence he excelled in his chosen field.
“By dint of hard work, he and others like him laid the foundation and helped to nurture afrobeat to global prominence. It was therefore most fitting that he lived long enough to witness the moment in which Nigerian music has taken the world by storm.”
The king of Julius’ hometown, Elegboro of Ijebu Jesa, Oba Moses Agunsoye, also described the singer’s passing as a great loss. He said, “I won’t say it was shocking because he had been down (ill) for some time. We thank God for a life well spent. He was a very good ambassador of Ijebu Jesa, Oriade Local Government Area and Nigeria as a whole. He died in the hands of his wife, Latoya, an American, in his house at Ireti Ayo, Ilesa. I was called around 3am when he passed.
“He relocated to Ijebu Jesa about two and half years ago and I decided to give him the honorary title of ‘Gbeluniyi’. He proclaimed the name of Ijebu Jesa across the globe. He was my honourary chief. I am happy I celebrated him while he was alive. I also made the wife ‘Yeye Asa’.”
Paying tributes to the late highlife maestro, the Managing Director of Evergreen Musical Company Limited, Bimbo Esho, said, “Orlando Julius was one of the last of the original afro/highlife musicians in Nigeria. He was one of the few Nigerian musicians who contributed immensely to the promotion of our music internationally. Together with his wife, Latoya, they toured different continents with original African sound. He will be solely missed for his contribution to the Nigerian music space.”
Afrobeats singer, Femi Kuti, also wrote on Instagram, “(I) just heard of the passing of Orlando Julius. Rest in peace, sir. Condolences to his family. (I’m) praying for strength and comfort for his family at this difficult time. He was a great musician and saxophonist.”
Singer, Darey Alade, commented on Kuti’s post, “Oh no! Erin wooo!”
On his part, theatre practitioner and the director of Crown Troupe of Africa, Segun Adefila, wrote on Facebook, “Let the horns blare for the triumphant homeward journey of a great bard. Sail thee well, Papa Orlando Julius.”
Dancer, Adedayo Liadi, wrote on Facebook, “Journey well, papa Orlando Julius. Thank you for the beautiful music.”
Another actor and dancer, Rasheed Ibrahim, also wrote on Facebook, “We shall miss one of Nigeria’s fathers of afro/highlife music, a gentleman and a fine saxophonist.”