Cardinal Rex Lawson - Hail Biafra (Audio)
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Uploaded on Jul 1, 2009
Cardinal Rex Lawson by John Beadle
Until his untimely death in the 1970s, Erekosima (Rex Jim) Lawson was a standard-bearer of the Nigerian highlife scene whose tunes achieved popularity across Africa. Of mixed Kalabari and Igbo parentage, he was born in the town of New Kalabar in present-day Rivers State, and got his start in Port Harcourt's Starlite Melody Orchestra, led by "Lord" Eddyson.
By 1960 he was leading his own group, the Nigeraphone Studio Orchestra of Onitsha and had played with the "big names" of Nigerian highlife - Bobby Benson, Roy Chicago, Victor Olaiya and others. With his second group, the Majors Band of Nigeria (variously called the "Mayors Band," and in later years the Rivers Men), he scored innumerable hits over the sixties and early seventies, notably "Jolly Papa," "Adure," "Ibi na Bo," and many others. Of these, the biggest was "Sawale," in pidgen English, which has become an African music standard and been remade numerous times by various artists. Lawson's fluency in various languages and dialects has only enhanced his appeal across class and ethnic lines in West Africa.
In the 60s during the thick of the Biafran war and to boost morale of the Biafran people, Cardinal Rex Lawson released an album titled Hail Biafra . Lawson was latter detained by Nigerian Federal Government troops and questioned about this pro-Biafran record: "...He proudly and courageously responded: 'I did the song to uplift the rebels.' Lawson died tragically in 1971 in a car accident on his way to play a show in Warri, Nigeria.
A highly emotional and deep musician, Lawson was known to weep and shed tears while singing his own songs, notably the haunting 'So ala teme.' Lawson is famed for his infectious gregariousness, his musical vision, talent, perseverance and individuality.
After Lawson's death, his backup group 'The Rivers Men' reestablished themselves as the Professional Seagulls Dance Band and recorded several LP's of their own in the 1980s.
His music is loved to this day in Nigeria. His songs are regularly performed and danced at live band shows in Nigeria, and a number of young musicians have resang some of his old hits, and his relevance continues to be felt.
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