‘Sweet Mother’ crooner, Prince Nico Mbarga, immortalised in Calabar

Nico Mbarga's statue

The children of the late Nigerian music legend, Nico Mbarga, have erected a statue in his honour in Ikom, Cross River State.

The deceased, better known as Prince Nico Mbarga, was a highlife musician, renowned for his hit song “Sweet Mother”, recorded with his band Rocafil Jazz.

Sung in Pidgin English, “Sweet Mother” became one of the top sellers in the history of Nigerian music. The statue is sited on the border road of Ikom and overlooks the road heading towards the Nigeria/Cameroon border, a symbolic message to the music legend’s dual nationality of the two countries.

The late singer’s son, Nico Mbarga jnr., who made this known in a statement said the statue in Ikom reiterates the fact that the late singer lived and did business in the locality while fostering his music career.

He said, “The statue was erected at a concert tagged ‘Nico Mbarga 20th Anniversary’ held at Jandged Resort in Ikom to mark the 20th anniversary of the legend’s unfortunate demise.”

The high point of the event, he noted, was the launch of the Nico Mbarga Sweet Mother Foundation to relive the values Mbarga stood for.

“The concert also provided upcoming musicians the opportunity to perform archival songs from the music Mbarga recorded. It also attempted to reunite members of the Rocafil Jazz musical group, but only Francis Mbu, one of Mbarga’s lead back-up vocalist among the five still living, could make it to the concert.

”Mbu performed alongside Nico Mbarga jnr., Slimphilz Barga and Estelle Mbarga attempting to mimic the exact performance style and voice of the late music legend drawing afresh memories of the late singer as the show’s danced to familiar tune.”

Meanwhile, Mbarga jnr, who is the executive director of NMSMF, disclosed that he and his siblings are planning a full rebirth of their late father’s Rocafil Band with particular interest in promoting the late icon’s ‘Panco’ genre of music.

A member of the band, Louisiana Tilda, reportedly moved to Paris while the location of the other three members is unknown.

Born on January 1, 1950, Mbarga had an active music career from 1970 until he died after he was involved in a motorcycle accident in Calabar on June 24, 1997. He was reportedly rushing to catch up a visa collection for a tour of 50 states in the U.S.

As at the time of his death, he was survived by 10 children. However, Pauline his eighth daughter died in 2011 after a brief illness.

Among his remaining nine children, four (Nico, Descrow, Estelle and Slimphilz) are actively involved in promoting their late father’s ‘panco’ style of music while the other five (Joan, Lillian, Lucy, Lionel, and Nicoline) are engaged in business and in the civil service.

He only recorded one significant hit, Sweet Mother, in 1974, which sold more than 13 million copies. It was a song about his appreciation for his mother, which he did after becoming tired of romantic music. It was rejected by EMI for being ‘too childish’.

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