Prince Nico Mbarga

Prince Nico Mbarga Biography / Profile

Prince Nico Mbarga was born on January 1, 1950 to a Cameroonian father and a Nigerian mother in Ebonyi State, Nigeria. He was raised in Ikom, Cross River State.

Prince Nico Mbarga Age

Prince Nico Mbarga would have been 70 years old, if he were alive today. May his soul rest in peace.

Prince Nico Mbarga Early Life

Prince Nico had a tough childhood. His father died of a sudden illness, leaving behind a wife and 4 children.

During the Biafran war in 1967, Prince Nico, aged 17, crossed the Nigerian border into Cameroon, where he learned and mastered the guitar. 

Prince Nico Mbarga Career

His first ever instrument was the xylophone, which he learned to play from his father. He went on to re- invent variations of it with dried-out plantain skins and scooped bark.

His first gig ever was acting as an assistant for a Congolese cover group in Mamfe (Cameroon), where he learnt the rumba and taught himself the conga, drums, bass and congolese electric guitar.

Prince Nico’s first band ‘Rocafilz Jazz’ was created in Onitsha in 1972 and they played every Sunday at the Onitsha Plaza hotel. It was there he met legends, Osita Osadebe and Bobby Benson.

After releasing a disappointing single in 1973, Mbarga and Rocafil Jazz had their first success with their second single, which he recorded for EMI in thesame year titled ‘I no go marry my papa’. It was inspired by Lucy, who was his first love and her parents’ refusal to allow her marry him. He was later dropped by EMI for lack of more commercial hits.

‘Sweet mother’, his greatest hit was recorded in 1974. It was a song about his appreciation for his mother, which he wrote after becoming tired of romantic music. It was rejected by EMI for being ‘too childish’.  It was released two years later, with help from veteran producer, Rogers All Stars in Onitsha. The single ‘Sweet mother’ went on to become one of the greatest selling songs of all times,selling more than 13 million copies dwarfing any hit by the Beatles. It became a hit through broadcaster, Benson Idonije, Burna Boy’s grandfather. It made him a continental star.

Between 1975 to 1981, they recorded nine albums none of which surpassed 'Sweet Mother'. While he continued to appear with Rocafil Jazz, Mbargar also performed with London-based highlife band the Ivory Coasters and Cameroonian vocalist, Louisiana Tilda.

Money disputes broke up Mbarga’s band Rocafilz Jazz in 1979. Although they reformed many times, but they had lost their winning vibe.

The money from ‘Sweet Mother’ was used by Prince Nico to build a hotel named ‘Sweet Mother Hotel’ in Ikom and later 'Hotel Calabar' and then he turned to managing the hotel. He settled and married in that small town.

With his soulful vocals set to the light melodies of his acoustic guitar, Prince Nico created a unique hybrid of Ibo and Zairean guitar playing and uplifting highlife rhythms. He was the founder of the Panco system of music. Nico Mbarga was influenced by the pre-war Highlife wave which included hit songs such as Bobby Benson’s 'Taxi Driver', to EC Arinze’s 'Saturday Night', and Rex Lawson’s 'Yellow Sisi.

'Sweet mother" was voted as Africa’s favourite song by BCC readers and listeners in 2004, years after the singer's death.

Prince Nico Mbarga Personal Life

Prince Nico died on June 24, 1997 from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident on his way to collect US visas for a planned tour. His mother collapsed on hearing the news and never got back up. She died shortly.

Nico Mbarga left behind a wife (Esame), a concubine (Lucy) and 10 children.

His children in a bid to keep his legacy alive, recently organized a concert tagged ‘Nico Mbarga 20th Anniversary’ which was held at Jandged Resort in Ikom to mark the legend’s unfortunate demise.His children who were happy that their father’s still remains an iconic and respected musician in Nigeria, believed the only way to keep his legacy alive is to do something like a musical jamboree, which stands to immortalise his good works.

Prince Nico Mbarga Net Worth

His net worth is not available.

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