Today, Bongos Ikwue is an icon of inestimable philosophical insights, business acumen, musical talent, cultural heroism and a humanist of profound imports. As eccentric as most artists, he has a uniqueness to him in that there are very few people who would say Bongos is his enemy or opponent. This portrait brings back the question of who he might really be.
The burden of answering this question and other questions bothering on the musical involvements of the family fell on Onyakeke, aka KK, his first daughter. A graduate of Education and then an MBA, all in the United States, KK is a cross between charity work, entertainment, except singing and customer service including food. She tells the story of when she was moving back to Nigeria, the fire dragging her was opening a Pre-School. That was where the passion lay. As things turned out, she has done everything else but opening a Pre-school. Those things she has done include production, development projects, business, youth and women in agriculture and solid minerals in the rural areas. She was volunteering with an organisation. Now, it has become work on a larger scale which she wants to link with education in the sense of getting people who think they are finished out of such mindset and pull them up to do something productive for themselves. “I find joy in that” is what she says.
So, who is your dad? How does he look from inside?
He puts the family first. He is very principled.
Artists are not conformists generally
He doesn’t conform but he’s principled. My father’s ideology is how to treat human beings, always about treating people fairly. Sometimes, he goes overboard. He’s the most straight forward person I ever came across.
What happens to his musical products in the wake of global media upsurge?
They are on iTunes at least
I can listen to them on Google and perhaps even download
I don’t think you can download
But I can listen and record them off Google
Well, that’s how media technology has developed. We haven’t done CD of late. I understand there are even fakes or pirated ones in the market. And some companies claim they have rights but if they do, how come my Dad doesn’t get royalties.
What of the gap between the most active years and now?
At a point we did a CD where we put his collections together. Largely because of his principles, he doesn’t want to produce anything that has not attained the standard he wants.
Are you thinking of putting these numbers, especially the old ones, on video?
We thought about it a few times but it hasn’t come to fruition. Sometimes, this requires a lot of planning. It is not dead but yet to take shape
If I were to ask you to pick the number you consider the greatest hit of your dad’s outputs, what would you say?
I can’t pick one
Pick three of your greatest hit by him
I think it is the ones done in Idoma that are my favourite. Even those who do not understand them, what is being said tends to move them somewhere! It moves you somewhere else.
Which of you is taking over if we may talk about that since we are talking of continuity?
That is Jessica Bongos. She is here. She is writing an album due to be released next month
What’s Jessica’s background?
She has got a degree in International Relations and an MA in Hospitality, all in the UK. She is going to inherit the Bongos
So, is Jessica going to take us somewhere else?
In her own way, yes
What are the other big plans?
I cannot really say. I am not thoroughly into music production but an enjoyer and lover of music. So, I may not have the details
What happened to Inale?
That’s a million Dollar question. I didn’t want to just release it in Nigeria. I started with a sales agent. In time, there will be a proper release when I have made a few changes and freshens it up. Now, I have a job I am working on. Until I get to a comfortable level on that, I do not want to look in any other direction
What’s the gist about Inale now?
It is a folk tale. It is a story significant to our culture. I don’t know if parents today tell their children the stories told them by their parents. Inale is one of those. It is about a beautiful princess who had a maid who was just as beautiful. To distinguish between the two, they had to give the maid a mark by cutting off her right ear. That gave her a mark as well as it deformed her in beauty relative to the princess. When Inale was to get married, the maid got jealous or wanted to get even. This, she did by pushing Inale into a pot of boiling water. In that process, Inale turned into mushrooms and that’s why some mushrooms are poisonous and people are warned against eating them. In the version we are producing, they are all beautiful but there is no cutting off of ears, no hurt water and no mushrooms. But I assure you we turned the story into something else. Folk tales are constructed.
You still haven’t listed the three greatest hits by your Dad in your own rating
You won’t get it