How A Couple Nigerian Teens Made A Psych-Rock Classic

Read An Excerpt From The Liner Notes To Ofege’s ‘Try And Love’

On November 7th 2018 » By Vinyl Me, Please Staff

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Long overdue for a reissue and sought after by crate diggers, Ofege’s Try and Love — a psych-rock classic by the hottest band in Nigeria in the ’70s, who were all teenagers when they recorded it at EMI Nigeria — is out on vinyl again thanks to Tidal Waves Music. Vinyl Me, Please is selling an exclusive color version of the record in our store, which you can grab right here.

Below, read an excerpt of the Liner Notes from the new edition of the album, written by one of the band’s members about how the group formed and recorded Try and Love.

The school was St Gregory’s College (Lagos-Nigeria) in the early 1970s. In class 1 my friend Paul Alade and myself, Melvin Ukachi Noks, had passion only for music. While other students were doing regular school activities, during which we always secluded ourselves twanging away on our box guitars, Paul on bass, I on rhythm, rehearsing my composed and written songs.

There was the school’s band with electric amplified instruments we would beg to be let into, borrowing their drummer who was bluffy all the time. In one of the times with the musical instruments, a shy, quiet, strange and completely unknown and unseen classmate of ours appeared from nowhere and sat on the drums and played. I was bowled over at the end of the song. I asked him, “Who are you, what’s your name and where have you been?” It was how Mike Meme automatically became the drummer of the ”Hitch Hykers,” a name Paul and I called ourselves. This went on till class 3 in 1973 when I needed a keyboardist and handpicked another classmate, Dapo Olumide, taught him the keyboard and kept him. By this time, we had got to class 4 in 1974 and I had handpicked a junior member in class 3 to make us 5 as the lead guitarist. He was Eelix Ijeh.

At the end of a good rehearsal, I talked to my boys and said, now that we are approaching final year and exit from the school, I would like us to approach a recording studio and appeal to them to record us and wax for us 5 copies they could give us each as souvenirs. At the studios they asked us the name of our band, as ”Hitch Hykers” was old fashioned, what should we tell them? Mike Meme retorted “Ofege.” “Good,” I remarked. From now on, “Ofege” is our name, our game and our way. Recording studio here we come!

“Ofege” meant something in the military called French leave or AWOL. This was coined out of a yoruba word Ofo, meaning he has jumped, then the English word Gate. Ofo-Gate. During lights out in the dormitories, the housemaster on a roll call will demand the whereabouts of an absent student, everyone will announce – “Ofege!”

Of course we did not jump the high school gate,we passed through it and sneaked out one Saturday morning without an EXIAT (permission slip from the housemaster) to meet an Audition appointment with Decca WA Ltd. At the end of which they told us: “Go back to school and read your books, this is not a children’s playground.” We sneaked back solemn and heartbroken, but didn’t give up.

The next Saturday we “Ofeged” out again, this time to EMI Records [Nigeria] to meet another audition. Odion Iruoje was so amused at the souvenir idea. He said, “Don’t you worry boys, I will give you your souvenirs alright and even much more. But let’s have you lot back here next Saturday, you must be TIGHT for the recording.” We went back ecstatic. Finally we got a deal!

More ecstatic at EMI again, on seeing IN SESSION-OFEGE pasted on the door with the red light. Odion drilled us like a sergeant at arms in a military camp until he achieved what he wanted. Bouncing out but weary the next morning from the overnight recording session, Odion Iruoje called us to his office and slapped a contract on his table and said SIGN. When we all did, he ordered us to come back next Saturday again for photo shoots, which we obeyed. At the end of which he said: “See you after your long vacation.” I remember that long vacation in my father’s paint shop, I was glancing through the Daily Times and right on the centre spread, a big advert-OFEGE Try And Love. It took me by surprise.

Back to school at the end of long vacation, it was a sensation, we were already celebrities. Of course at EMI records, we were given our souvenirs, one album each. Many years after we left school, EMI went out of existence, leaving Ofege albums floating without control and free meat for pirates ever since.

MELVIN UKACHI NOKS (Ofege, in his own words - September, 2018)

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