SEARCHLIGHT: Lijadu sisters, the erstwhile twin goddess of Nigeria’s hybrid music
Music for the Lijadu sisters was an extension of their unique personality. In the early 70s; at a time when the entertainment scene had few women veering into the industry, Taiwo and Kehinde Lijadu re-wrote history and owned the space with their hybrid music.
However today, these music divas appear to fizzle out of the entertainment scene and one can but ponder why the sisters chose to lead a reclusive life away from the spotlight.
Born in the northern city of Jos, the sisters spent their childhood in Ibadan and grew with an influx of musical influences drawn from family members and music legends like Aretha Franklin, Victor Olaiya and Miriam Makeba.
The twins sang in Yoruba and English, fusing Afrobeat with disco, reggae, funk and western R and B to create distinct music genre. The Lijadu sisters are second cousins to the late Afrobeat icon, Fela Kuti, and similarly, infuse politically-themed lyrics into their music.
The Lijadu sisters’ harmonious songs were also a vocal tool employed by them to portray their strong endearment to their African heritage and love for Nigeria.
The sisters released their first single ‘Iya Mi Jowo’ in 1969 after winning a record contract with Decca Records. The sisters were also influenced by Lemmy Jackson, a music producer. They had their first international performance at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games singing alongside Salt music band drummer, Ginger Baker.
The twins worked with late Biddy Wright for their ‘Danger’ album in 1976, which was followed by the release of ‘Sunshine’ in 1978 and ‘Horizon Unlimited’ in 1979. By 1980, the identical twins were rated one of the foremost singers in the country.
Below is an interview they had with TheFadar in December 2011.
The sisters shone as exceptional celebrities, touring with King Sunny Ade’s Africa Beats in Harlem and Philadelphia-based band Philly Gumbo. They also featured in a number of music documentaries and series such as ‘Konkombe’, directed by Jeremy Marre, and Beats of Heart, a music series aired on America’s Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
Fading from the music scene
After their fourth album, Horizon Unlimited’, the sisters went silent. for a duration of five-year, no song was released by the duo hybrid music singers. They later resurfaced with a comeback in 1984 with ‘Double Trouble’ which also gained traction and was followed by ‘Orere Elijigbo’ in 1997. But their growing success was short-lived when Kehinde suffered spinal cord injuries after she fell off the stairs at their Brooklyn apartment.
While Kehinde went through her recovery process, the sisters stayed off the spotlight and went on another hiatus from music. Reports had it that during this period, the singers retreated into religious practice. Twenty years later, they resurfaced performing in London and Bristol alongside Damon Albarn, Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor and Kele Okereke from Bloc Party at a one-off concert to celebrate the songs of funk music pioneer, William Onyeabor.
The also performed on ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’ together with the Atomic! Bomb Band and proceeded on a tour to New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles in May 2014.
Where are the Lijadu sisters?
As every era has its trendy entertainer and superstars, it appears the identical twins could not keep their relevance in the contemporary music space. Before fading out of the limelight in 2014, the sisters hinted launching their record label but their plans are yet to be a reality.
With stale publications on their victory days, the once vocal twin goddess of exceptional hybrid music genre now maintain silence on topical social issues and have no social media presence. Their lyrical prowess and would have been of immense benefit to contemporary Nigerian artistes had the sisters picked up a mentoring role.
However, the Lijadus’ evergreen tracks never fail to relive a time when the twins delivered harmonised melodies enriched with insightful lyrics and delivered with undoubtedly enigmatic zeal.
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