PAUL ODI: Discussions on the Igala Legend

Dear Atayi

PAUL ODI I personally would love to see a poll on who is the greatest Igala musician of all time on this forum. I love Kaka Odogomu, infact she and I have a familial affiliation, but truth be told, greatest musician is greatest musician just like a most valuable player in the game of football can either be a goal keeper, defender, or striker. I think audience appeal, originality and content are what make a musician great and greatness transcends genres. Most musicians-Ikani Ajabiti, yahaya Agbogodo, paul Oj”okweje, Ayoki, and even a few of the olele musician have biopsied Paul odi’s lines at one time or the other.

However, a poll will suffice as a study in musicology will not help us determine who the public think is the greatest just like grammy awards are not based on the judgement of a few music producers but also on audience appeal and sales. – Dr Zakari


Dear Atayi

Paul Odi took Agwomu and Agale and weaved them into what became his music which makes it an Igala iconic music.  Ugworo originated from the Hausas and Nupes, a tradition of social entertainment during the Ramadan.  This was then popularized to what we know as Ugwolo today.


Agwomu and Agale were sang at various occasions most popular was on market eve, market evening and the day after market like in the case Ejule Market and at Anyigba evenings after the market.  They entertained the business and traders that came for the market eve through the night and those that stay until the day after the market.  One of the leaders of the group I can remember was Ichefu Obalachibu from Agbeji and a host of others from all over Igala land.

Yes, there are various music types and tastes in Igala land but when you consider their contributions in recent times to classical Igala music taking into consideration the crafty use of Igala language, story telling, use of Igala idiom and proverbs – Paul Odi stands tall and this has been acknowledged by the other Igala musicians.  Paul Odi is an Igala music Icon and should be accorded as such. There rooms to accommodate others as icons too.  I still have a dose of various Igala music everyday -Paul Odi, Anwere, Yahaya, Omata etc. They are all our icons but Odi stands tall.

Thank you all,


Dear Babs

Thank you for bring this to my attention. Odih musical genre is characteristically Agale. Although Agale, Ichakala and Ugwolo music share in the same philosophical root, namely, social existentialism  and some element of bourgeois entertainment, they are however different in rhythm and style. The Agale music is generally not accompanied with the “talking drums”…Ukelegwu..- Martin Ahiaba 

Music like language is purely human endeavor to interpret and interact with reality. And as such I will argue that on this philosophical level…no music is superior to the other… in so far as it achieves the sole purpose of interacting and interpreting reality. Music is synonymous to the use of proverbs…eju ki y’ita ki kp’ ita…ita in’Oma ofen.  Igala music is categorized according to genre…you have ugwolo, ibele, alo, iya-oye, olele, chabada,ogba, iya-chekpa etc. From this purview, I argue that there cannot be measuring standard across these various genres of music. Neither does the number of listeners/admirers of a particular genre make that genre better than the other.

I can agree with you that Paul Odih is the best Ugwolo musician Igala has produced in recent times. Why? Because comapring his style to the other Ugwulo muciasian he is simply outstanding. But does his ugwolo music encapsulates the entire Igala worldview or expresses this worldview better than other genre of music? In my graduate and doctoral studies I have found a combination of Odih (ugwolo), Labija Ogbaje and Idachaba Oma Lametu (Ibele), Joseph Abu (Alo), Rekiya Odinewn (Olele) and Iyoma Akpelu (iya-oye) very helpful. – Martin Ahiaba

Dear Atayi

I beg to disagree with the subject topic (that Paul Odi is the best all time Igala musician) and agree with Martin thus that ” Paul Odih is the best Ugwolo musician Igala has produced in recent times. Why? Because comparing his style to the other Ugwolo musicians he is simply outstanding”.

Before proceeding futher it is worthy to clarify & note that there is no particular music type that is called “IGALA MUSIC” because there are various music types and forms of “MUSIC IN IGALA LAND” which exist by various names e.g. Agwomu, Abele, Alo, Agale, , Ogwu, Ogba, , Olele, Idologo, Ibele,,Sabada, lgba, Iya Oye, Anukikpo, Oganyi etc. these are all MUSIC OF IGALALAND and not IGALA MUSIC. At this point I’d like to refer you all to my book “THE CONCEPT OF MUSIC IN IGALALAND”,I think the moderator has copies or a private mail to me would get you a copy.

Research and works on the music of Igala land are scarce and various attempts by  scholars especially non musicologist have done great injustice to it, focusing only on a single approach – ‘the purely musical characteristics” – not much emphasis is placed on the extra musical significance of music in Igala land and this does not reflect the ongoing wind of ethno-musicology, which is a complimentary study that attempts a balanced presentation of musical traditions as a symbol of human experience and musical structure.

In Igala land, musical performances are an integral part of the total culture of the people as an extra musical (socio/sacred) activity and a united sub-unit in the total culture of the land. It takes places within the context of other performing art elemtents (e.g. Dance, drama, costumes, make-up e.t.c) the Igala musician is a library of history, philosophy and literature; he (the musician) communicates this knowledge to his audience through the specialized medium of his musical art. A full and thorough understanding of the intricate Igala culture is presented to the listeners through the indigenous traditional music of Igala land and that is what PAUL ODI did with his music.

But does that make him our all time best? Like Martin Ahiaba again,I beg to disagree with this postulation, PAUL ODI can not be our all time best. In “Ugwuolo” genre maybe he is, but as a proud Odogomu man,Paul Odi can never be better that Kaka Odogomu & her Olele style.

So how do I measure Olele and Ugwuolo ? There goes the big question !!! Thus when we make statements like “PAUL ODI: The greatest Igala Musician of all times” I know it is from a layman’s point of view for no music like culture is greater than the other. At the last Kogi state 21st anniversary cum Music Award,I proposed a post humors  honorary doctorate degree in the humanities be awarded PAUL ODI & till date nothing happened,I am happy  someone else has raised it here and I believe we can all push it to a logical conclusion for truly he deserves it. His contribution to Igala cultural development can not be overemphasized.

Paul Odi died poor (financially) like many Igala musicians till date are dying poor because my IGALA people still see the artiste as “Ach’iya” but in other climes this IYA is a money spinner if well utilized and managed. I beg again like I have been doing all these years,we (artiste) don’t want to die like Paul Odi before you pay us for our good works,encourage and support us,let us reap the fruits of our works like our colleagues from other ethnic groups are doing  while we are alive.

IG reggae is dead,he died very poor,so many are tired from lack of support,they have left the music scene,they have given up,they can’t cope with the digital sound the young ones are recording now. I think among my contemporaries I’m the only one still standing,many young ones have come up looking up to us for encouragement,at the last Ajaka festival sponsored by Saidat Lami on Christmas day,our fisherman Ruben Inaju & Atayi Babs saw the raw talents and wondered what can be done. I am still wondering what can be done o….IGALA MUST NYOGBA. – Baba JFO


“Ewuka Ayegba ji owumetuyi ile”
(What Ayegba had bound together our generation is untying it )
-Paul Odi

Musicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez summarizes the relativist, post-modern viewpoint: “The border between music and noise is always culturally defined and that implies that, even within a single society, this border does not always pass through the same place; in short, there is rarely a consensus … By all accounts there is no single and inter cultural universal concept defining what music might be.”

”Enwu kemali, ellen”
(What you don’t wish won’t come your way)
-Paul Odi.

PAUL ODI is no doubt an enigma,  is a bit of the artisan and the hero as a man can well be.

The character of Paul Odi as he is popularly called, stands quite by itself. Its not a character marked by strength of will or even passion but by refinement of thought and loquacious voice when he sings to the accompaniment of the local “kelegu” (lyrics).
As a young and pricely voice, full of high enthusiasm and quick sensibility, the sport of circumstances, questioning with fortune and refining on his own feelings forced him from the natural base of his Aija clan in the ancient city of Idah. Odi carved a niche for himself in the world of traditional music. Unlike other local musicians like Commander Abdul Ayoki, Joseph Abuh, Ufana Ajaina, Hajia Anwere Abalaka, Echa, and so on, Odi’s brand of music is ABALE, a music that is solely centered around a vast and good knowledge of Igala cosmology.

No wonder Odi once declared in his music thus;

”…..awokooo akanya ita”
By this he meant everybody want to sing but the biggest obstacle is that of “proverb”.

Like the proverbial Okonkwo in Chenua Achebe “Things Fall Apart” Odi started his art as a young novice but he systematised and sustained his art (What he knows how to do best) through dedication and devotion. His fame, analogues to that of Achebe spread throughout the ‘nine’ villages in Igalaland. The person of Paul Odi has came a long way both in life and death he has no rival hitherto,many did try but none like him.
In the thinking of some Igala people, if Odi were to be a Mamman Shata or Kollington Ayila, heaven would have been the limit for him, but this man of innuendos and comics is by accident of birth an Igala man.

In recent years, we have witnessed an astonishing rise in the price paid for Western music, both of old and modern musicians. It has been a rise sensational to a degree hardly ever equaled in the past, especially in this age of compact disc. Naturally, one wonder for such a development, and this leads to a feelings of uncertainty and inferiority complex about the real value of our own cultural heritage and art as propagated and nurtured by the like of Paul Odi in his “Agale” music.

”Ajo omi, ajomamanya ge”
(The rain maker may stop the rain but he can’t even attempt to stop lightning) – Paul Odih.

The issue is not that we should necessarily have to bother about the prices of the locally produced music, with their material value, but we should concern ourself with their aesthetic value, their quality, this is where we see the usefulness of Odi’s music.

He deserves our praises, if we (Igala)have a good quality judgment of our art, I see no reason why Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa man or anyone will not cherish it. After all Odi makes use of the local drum that Adewale Ayuba and Fela Anikulapo Kuti used in their music. Why the difference in terms of wealth and international recognition? This is but a puzzle.

Our local musicians are impoverished at the expense of the studio owners and hungry distributors, Odi with all his clandestine wisdom was not spared of this ugly scenario. Some account of the part he played in establishing the interest and validity in thinking about the cultural events and values of the Igala people should be given a place in our hearts.
It wont be too much to recommend to all like-minded Igala folks that a monument or a statue should be erected in honour of Odi at Anyigba, Idah and Ankpa. In addition, he should be posthumously awarded an honorary degree in our University at Anyigba.

Odi Malima (1929-1996) was a wizard when he showed the tortoise in him over his piracy phenomenon, hear him;
”…agwalo le wewele lema kopi…..olele le wewe lema kop”.
(Ugwolo copies his, olele does too).

According to Atayi Babs, “Paul Odi is the greatest Igala Musician of all times”

Addition to Arome Ikani work(2001).

Sule Isa Akagwu,

Akagwu Foundation,


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