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Reliving almost forgotten legacies, Nico Mbarga’s children move to immortalize dad

Statue erected in honour of late Nico Mbarga cited along border road of Ikom overlooking the road heading towards the border between Nigeria and Cameroon. Photo credit: Obaji Abung-Akpet

By our Reporter

Late popular African singer, Prince Nico Mbarga will be happier more than ever where ever he is in his death as his children are putting everything in their best to immortalize their late father.

Mbarga, a leader of the Rocafil Jazz music group and founder of the Panco system of music remains a celebrated African music figure known for his timeless popular ‘sweet mother’ song that still sweeps across the Africa and beyond till date.
Estelle, late Nico Mbarga’s daughter performing songs from her father’s collection during the Nico Mbarga’s 20thmemorial anniversary in Ikom. Photo credit: Grace Casty
At the time, Mbarga’s ‘sweet mother’ song sometimes dubbed ‘African anthem’ was suggested to be the top twenty bestselling songs in history and voted as Africa’s favourite song by BCC readers and listeners in 2004, even years after the music legend had left the surface of the earth.

Born in January 1, 1950 with an active music career from 1970 until he met his untimely death in Calabar on June 24, 1997 while heading to catch up visa collection for a tour of 50 states in the U.S.

To canonize their late father, the late music legend’s children in conjunction with well-wishers rallied around months long of activities including erection of a statue of Mbarga, organizing a music concert and lunching a foundation in the music legend’s name.

The statue is cited along border road of Ikom overlooking the road heading towards the border between Nigeria and Cameroon, which strikes a very symbolic message to the music legend’s dual nationality of the two countries; while erecting the statue in Ikom reiterates the fact that Mbarga lived and did business in the locality while fostering his music career.

The concert tagged ‘Nico Mbarga 20th Anniversary’ was held at Jandged Resort in Ikom to mark the 20thanniversary of the legend’s unfortunate demise.

Apart from the platform the concert provided upcoming musicians to perform archival songs from the music late Mbarga recorded while on earth, it also attempted to reunite members of the Rocafil Jazz musical group, but only Francis Mbu, one Mbarga’s lead backup vocalist among the five still living could make it to the concert.

Louisiana Tilda is said to have since moved to Paris while the location of the other three members of the popular Rocafil group is not clearly known.

Mbu performed alongside Nico Mbarga jnr, Slimphilz Barga and Estelle Mbarga attempting to mimic the exact performance style and voice of the late music legend drawing afresh memories of the late singer as the show’s danced to familiar tunes.
Nico Mbarga jnr (L) and Slimphilz (R), late Nico Mbarga’s children performing songs from their father’s popular collections. Photo credit: Grace Casty
High point of the events was the luncheon of the Nico Mbarga Sweet Mother Foundation (NMSMF) to relive the values Mbarga stood for during his sojourn on earth.

Meanwhile, Nico Mbarga jnr, the executive director of NMSMF, in a release to the press disclosed that he and his siblings are planning a full rebirth of their late father’s Rocafil Band with particular interest in promoting the late icon’s ‘Panco’ genre of music.

Nico Mbarga after his death in 1997 was initially survived by 10 children, but Pauline, his eight-daughter passed on after a brief illness in 2011. 

Among his nine children still living, four (Nico, Descrow, Estelle and Slimphilz) are actively involved in promoting their late father’s ‘panco’ style of music while the other five (Joan, Lillian, Lucy, Lionel, and Nicoline) are engaged in business and undertaken to white collar jobs in the Nigerian civil service system.
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