On what would have been his 74th birthday, Google is celebrating the life of Nigerian Highlife legend Oliver de Coque with a doodle.
The doodle, created by Lagos-based graphic artist and illustrator Ohab Tochukwu Bernard Johnbosco, also known as TBJ, honours one of Africa’s most influential recording artists, as well as one of the key upholders and innovators of contemporary Igbo mainstream music.
De Coque, who was born Oliver Sunday Akanite on this day in 1947 in the small town of Ezinifite in southeastern Nigeria, began playing the guitar at the age of 11. Piccolo, a Congolese musician living in Nigeria, taught him to play the instrument. As a teenager, he learned traditional Igbo music from the area as well as Congolese soukous.
He is best known for infusing contemporary West African highlife with a Congolese-influenced guitar sound and the vibrant dance elements of Igbo music he grew up with, resulting in Ogene, his own musical style.
His “Ogene” style of Nigerian highlife has generated hits including “People’s Club of Nigeria,” “nempi social club,” “Biri Ka Mbiri,” “Ana Enwe,” “Nnukwu Mmanwu,” and “Identity,” which stayed on Radio Nigeria 2’s Top Ten for the majority of 1981.
His music rose in popularity at home and abroad since his first solo release in 1976, as he released album after album featuring his masterful guitar work and fresh take on African pop–over 70 albums in total during his lifetime. Oliver De Coque was awarded an honorary doctorate of music by the University of New Orleans in 1994 in recognition of his prodigious musical achievement.
Oliver de Coque died at the age of 61 on June 20, 2008.