Updated: Jun 13, 2020
From the settling dust of post-war Nigeria arose one of the most dynamic and sensational music groups to ever hail from the continent. The Oriental Brothers International Band of Owerri, formed in 1971 by the union of the musical talent of two friends, Godwin ‘Kabaka’ Opara and Ferdinand ‘Dansatch’ Emeka Opara, would eventually define an era and become the golden standard for West African Highlife in the decades to follow. As time would tell, their ingenious superposition of the rich and colorful Igbo language along with its wealth of proverbs and wits against an orgasmic whirl of familiar, traditional Igbo sounds and modern guitar would deify them in the pantheon of Igbo Highlife.
In their humble beginnings, the duo had embraced music as an occasional pastime in an effort to keep themselves busy in the postwar years. In their spare time, they would convene and casually play a few numbers for the entertainment of friends and small groups of people. Being a small underground group, it became clear that they were in need of a skilled vocalist in order to set themselves apart.
Word soon reached them of a young Mbaise-native named Christogonus Ezewuiro Obinna, a Biafran veteran who was renown during the war for his uplifting and moral-imbuing battlefield songs, and whose exploits on the frontlines had won him the name “Warrior”. Kabaka and Dansatch invited Warrior to record with them, and the combination of his vocal brilliance, their exceptional guitaring, and the instrumental talents of other prominent Orientals who formed the Aka Ise (main five) such as Nathaniel Ejiogu, Prince Ichita, and Hybrillious Akwela Alaribe proved a recipe for success.
Almost overnight, they were at the frontlines of the Nigerian music scene and had signed with Decca West Africa and later Afrodisia, a premier Lagos-based recording label. On weekends, they drew crowds numbering in the thousands at their performances at the Unicoco and Ambassador hotels of Aba, the then main cultural hub of Eastern Nigeria, and in 1975 they released their smash hit “Ihe Oma”.
With fame came quarrels. In 1977, Kabaka, the leader of the band, feeling that Warrior, their star vocalist, was garnering a disporportionate amount of wealth, left the group and founded his own Kabaka International Guitar Band. In the early ‘80s, financial matters again split the band into two. Dansatch, who inherited leadership after Kabaka’s resignation, maintained ownership of the original Oriental Brothers Int’l, while Warrior left to establish his own Dr. Sir Warrior and His Oriental Brothers Int’l Band.
The split heavily favored Warrior, who having been the main vocalist and voice of the original Oriental Brothers, maintained his fanbase. Warrior became tremendously successful and began travelling overseas to perform. In the ‘90s, he was accused of involvement in international drug trafficking and after avoiding a prison sentence abroad, returned permanently to Nigeria where he battled with his deteriorating health. Upon his return, he, Dansatch, and Kabaka temporarily reconciled and recorded the song “Orientals Anyi Abiala” (The Orientals have arrived). In 1999, he died after a protracted illness and his death signaled the end of the Oriental Brothers era. Today, the original Oriental Brothers is still owned and managed by Dansatch, who although does not produce new music, is currently engaged in digitalizing many of their vintage records. Among the greatest hits of the various factions of the Orientals are: Nwa Ada Di Nma, Ihe Oma, Ofe Owerri, and Onye Si Nani Ya Biri.