DANCE FOR THE STALLION – Onyeka Onwenu
Even now, I can still hear them, clinging to the edges of my memory, those nostalgic tunes, brimming with the carefree cadence of childhood innocence.
Such beauty they paraded, such gaiety they produced.
I still hear them and hum them, as I type this tribute, running my fingers across my computer keyboard, while tapping my feet to their sonorous sequence.
ONYE GA GBA EGWU
The rise and fall of the beats that accompanied these words, the energetic voices, laced with the carefreeness of a blissful childhood, wraps my heart with deep fondness.
The song, formed by these words, an invitation to dance, drew the people of the Igbo community where it gets its origin, to the village square, to tap their feet and shake the waist, the hips of women pulsating with the jangle of the native jigida beads, casting a halo of happiness on the land.
Onyeka Onwenu breathed life into this song that was woven into the rhythm of the typical Ibo community folksongs.
This celebrity songbird, with the elegant frame and signature low-cut, takes pride of place in this piece that I pen today.
I ponder as I pen these lines, what manner of woman this songstress is.
I take a dip into the archives and unearth the treasures that lie buried in this human vessel.
It was in the early years when the Nigerian nation had just stepped into an independence well-deserved. Creative minds strolled out from once-hidden eaves and showcased the rich culture of a nation brimming with endless possibilities.
Onyeka Onwenu was one of such creative minds. This lady with the golden voice still struts the media, entertainment and music industry in Nigeria like a colossus, engraving footprints of note in the hearts of all who watch her meteoric rise.
I took a peep into my classmate, Chido Nwakanma’s tribute to Onyeka and uncovered a world of wealth in the life of this woman.
Many see her familiar footsteps in the music industry, but do not know the trail that took off from the media scene, with her involvement in the NTA family, featuring her as a TV presenter, hosting the shows, ‘Contact’ in 1988 and ‘Who’s On’ in 1993. This gifted maiden has long been spreading her talents to bless humanity.
A graduate of International Relations and Communication from Wellesley College, Massachusetts, obtaining an MA in Media Studies from the New School Social Research, New York, working as tour guide before her return to Nigeria, to take part in the NYSC programme at her place of primary assignment in NTA, Onyeka was as visible as stars on a dark night.
She was a woman in her prime, gazing at a future that teased her with its musical rhythm and she waltzed to its magnetic pull, churning out an array of at least fifty lyrical tunes, original songs that established her as a singer of repute.
From the song, ‘You and I,’ which scores well as many people’s favourite, to the melodious ‘Ekwe,’ spilling to the ‘Halelluya’ chorus, ‘African Woman’ and ‘Mama Africa,’ in celebration of womanhood, moving onto Odenigbo which featured in the movie adaptation of Half of A Yellow Sun, other traditional tunes like ‘Ochie Dike,’ ‘Keredim,’ ‘Chibuzor,’ ‘Onye Bu Nwanne,’ ‘Egwu Ekene,’ ‘Bia Nulu, (the heartfelt cry to those concerned, to listen to the voices of the people), ‘One Love,’ her statement of peace and unity,’ before she moved on to ‘Dancing in the Sun,’ and the rhythmic, popular track, ‘Iyogogo,’ Onyeka spilled her musical prowess, to subdue and rule over the Earth.
Onyeka used her musical skill to garner support for Goodluck Jonathan’s election, urging him to run for office, confident that his life was in God’s hands and joined the celebration chorus to extol Winnie Mandela’s virtues.
This gifted singer scored well in her duets with King Sunny Ade, bringing to life two songs, ‘Choices’ and ‘Wait for Me,’ which became theme songs for Planned Parenthood Federation of Nigeria, in support of family planning methods.
From the secular stage to the Gospel music scene, Onyeka spun her delightful musical pieces and etched her name in the hearts of Nigerians and other people of the world.
Her versatility came to the fore when she showed she could be a super-actress, starring in many Nollywood movies like Conspiracy, where she sang one of her songs, Widow’s Cot, which won her an African Movie Academy Award for best actress in a supporting role, Rising Moon, her touching portrayal of the pains of childlessness which gave her a nomination for best actress in a leading role and Half of A Yellow Sun, among others.
Who can forget her 1984 internationally acclaimed BBC/NTA documentary titled A Squandering of Riches, which beamed a spotlight on the challenges of corruption in Nigeria and the environmental degradation of the oil-rich Niger Delta Region.
Onyeka, still not done with her forays into many sectors of human existence, joined the league of authors when she wrote a book titled My Father’s Daughter, a compelling story of strength, determination and integrity. Ngozi Osu, a literary consultant describes the work as a riveting narration of her journey through life, from the heart-warming affection of her father, the anguish of the Nigerian-Biafran War, diverse experiences from her childhood, travails of being a performing artiste, personal encounters with eminent personalities and lessons learned that shaped her life, taking the reader through the agony of her dark moments, thrill of her successes and her unwavering trust in God. In descriptive and pulsating language, Onyeka in the book talks about being a wife and mother, tells of her relationship with her father, the qualities she inherited from him and the strength of character of her mother.
This legend, Onyeka Onwenu wears her low-cut as well as she dons her elegance and inner strength.
She is indeed her father’s daughter, a phrase that is intertwined with the tag of ‘Elegant Stallion,’ often attached to her name. This tag is an oxymoron of some sorts for it juxtaposes two contrasting words. A stallion is a male horse, especially the one ready for breeding, evidently the symbol of masculine strength, which does not conjure the image of elegance. Yet the phrase suits Onyeka well, for it points to her strength of character, a legacy from her dad, which is embedded in her elegant feminine frame.
That’s the elegant stallion who takes the dance floor today, as she attains the biblical age, labelled as ‘the days of our years,’ in Psalm 90:10. By reason of strength, the years may shift beyond that number and those who are inspired by the life of this woman of worth, hope for this extension, for she still has within her, more creative juices to sweeten the world.
For Onyeka Onwenu, the elegant stallion, there will be a dance at the village square, folksongs ringing in the cool air, as those who relished her movie appearances, found healing in her musical tunes and extracted wisdom from the thoughts she shared in her autobiography, will sway their hips to the dance steps of a new tune.
They will dance the dance of the stallion, for the elegant stallion, to honour this bionic woman.
There will be accolades shared, testimonies poured forth, tributes too numerous to collate, for Onyeka Onwenu, the elegant stallion, who attains the biblical age of 70, as penned by the psalmist.
She will watch the praise party, with that amiable smile playing around her lips, her eyes full of stories of past glories which still animate her today and sprinkle hope on many more bright tomorrows.
The dance of the stallion shall take precedence this 31st day of January, when Onyeka Onwenu burst into the world from the warmth of the maternal womb.
This dance will linger, her smile will not waver, that sonorous voice will not lose its vitality.
The elegant stallion will still take her place, in this earthly space.
©️ Ify Omeni – The Tale Weaver