Friday, 24 May 2024.

Top 5 This Week

Related News

The Story Of Prince Nico Mbarga (Sweet Mother I No Go Forget You)

Prince Nico Mbarga (born Nicholas Mbarga or Nico Mbarga) as he was fondly called made a living by playing music every Sunday night at Onitsha Plaza Hotel, though not many knew this story. There is probably no street or building named after him. And when Nigerians list the legends of this country, Nico’s name doesn’t make the cut. But on the board of the most sold singles in the world (1998) – where Elton John’s Candle In The Wind, Celine Dion’s My Heart Goes On, etc., were captured – only one African, with over 13 million copies sold, made the list. And that was Nico Mbarga.

You see, Nico was the child of a Cameroonian father and a Nigerian woman from Mbembe (Obubra LGA, Cross Rivers State.)

The Story Of Prince Nico Mbarga (Sweet Mother I No Go Forget You)

He was born on 1st January 1950 in Abikiliki, present-day Ebonyi State and raised in Ikom – present-day Cross River State. He started fishing as a boy, and his father, who sawed timber, was a nice man. He bought his boy a secondhand Philip Radio, and the boy became addicted to highlife music. He couldn’t stop listening to Bobby Benson’s ‘Taxi Driver.’ But the death of his father when he was still too tender made his mother, a peasant farmer, the sole breadwinner.

The mother suffered a lot, but the boy wasn’t a prodigal. He moved from one bar to the other doing what he loved – singing. Sometimes he got a little pay, others didn’t pay at all. In his 17th year, the Nigerian–Biafra war broke out. And while his mother stayed back in Nigeria, Nico found his way to Mamfe – Cameroon. That’s where he met Lucy. Both lovers were so poor they couldn’t afford a pot of boiling water. But Lucy married Nico anyway.

The Story Of Prince Nico Mbarga (Sweet Mother I No Go Forget You)

In 1970, the Biafran Nigeria War come to an end, and Nico and Lucy without a penny to their names, or passports traverse “the bush way” to make it back to Nigeria, settling in Onitsha, a trading town on the Niger River. And why the choice of the town Onitsha?

Onitsha was booming, literally. And it was there that God blessed Nico. He became a darling of the town. He built a band named Rocafil Jazz. There, EMI – a record company, signed Nico and Rocafil Jazz. In 1971, Nico released his first song, ‘I No Go Marry My Papa’ – inspired by his wife, Lucy. The song helped him to build his brand, and he remembered that there was one song that was in his memory. The words were: ‘Sweet Mother, I no go forget you, for this suffer you suffer for me…’

The Story Of Prince Nico Mbarga (Sweet Mother I No Go Forget You)

But the EMI record that liked the song initially later thought that it was childish and didn’t produce it. But Sweet Mother wasn’t just a song to Nico; it was his life, his autobiography. So, wherever he went with his band, he sang the song. It was while he was singing the song at a joint that an Onitsha Independent Record owner, Romanus Okonkwo of Rogers All-Star, heard the song, and that encounter led to Nico breaking off from EMI.

Romanus Okonkwo would produce ‘Sweet Mother’ and release it through his fledging label. It was an instant hit. The story had it that the song became an anthem. It got every Nigerian to their feet, belting ‘Sweet Mother’ at the top of their lungs.

The Story Of Prince Nico Mbarga (Sweet Mother I No Go Forget You)

The song took them to Ghana, Togo, Kenya. Nico became larger than the Nigerian Market. They even went on a London Tour. But you see, the fame and money as recorded came too fast for Rocafil Jazz. The band fell apart, made up, then folded up and never made any music together again.

But in Rocafil’s prime and the years thereafter “Sweet Mother”, with the bite of pirated copies sold more than 13 million copies. Yes, Prince Nico Mbarga’s “Sweet Mother” has sold more copies than “Macarena.” And even The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

The Story Of Prince Nico Mbarga (Sweet Mother I No Go Forget You)

But the story has not ended of what became of Prince Nico Mbarga and his sweet Mother. According to David Zabinsky in his articles on the life and time of Prince Nico Mbargas noted that Nico on his way to Ikom probably to see ‘Sweet Mother,’ his biological mother, Nico’s car ran out of petrol and had some mechanical issues. So he hailed down an okada, a local motorcycle. But while on top, an accident sent Nico flying while trying to buy spare parts for his car along the ever-busy Mayne Avenue Road in Calabar. He hit his head badly. Nico died two weeks later in the hospital on 24th June 1997 in Calabar, present-day Cross River State.

Never able to play “Sweet Mother” one last time. Or say goodbye to his mother.

Back in Ikom, when Nico’s mother now elderly heard the news, she fell in shock. She’d never get back up, either. She died shortly after.

Nico Mbarga was survived by 10 surviving children; Nico, Descrow, Estelle, Slimphilz, Pauline, Joan, Lillian, Lucy, Lionel, and Nicoline. In 2011, Pauline, one of his children passed on following a brief illness making nine remaining children. Among the nine Mbarga’s surviving children, only Nico, Descrow, Estelle and Slimphilz are actively involved in music and working to promote their late father’s ‘panco’ style of music. Joan, Lillian, Lucy, Lionel, and Nicoline are said to be either currently engaged in doing business or working white-collar jobs at the Nigerian Civil Service Commission.

Watch “Sweet Mother” by Prince Nico Mbarga below…

Watch “My Pikin” by Prince Mbarga belowBelow …

Nsan Ndoma-Neji
Nsan Ndoma-Neji
Nsan Ndoma-Neji is a conventional journalist whose career started as a student in a Cross River University.

Latest News