Most of Africa’s national anthems are awful. They sound like church hymns written by amateur musicians.
Nigeria’s Arise O Compatriots is one of the few exceptions, and the main reason for that is its composer, Benedict Odiase. He decided that if there was one thing a Nigerian anthem needed, it was some African percussion thundering along beneath it. And his tune sounds great for that, like a troop of drummers interrupting a brass band rehearsal.
Odiase died on Tuesday night, aged 79. Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan said, “In passing, Odiase bequeathed an indelible legacy to the nation which will continue to inspire present and future generations of Nigerians to greater heights of accomplishment.”
It’s a nice message; it’s just a shame many Nigerians would say Goodluck’s one of the people who needs inspiring right now.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Odiase once – about how he taught some of the country’s best musicians as well as writing the anthem. Annoyingly, he wouldn’t gossip about any of the musicians or politicians he dealt with over the years, but I had to admire him for not dropping to my level.
You can read a bit of that interview here. Otherwise, join Nigeria’s 160 million people and give his song a listen.