0 0
Read Time:11 Minute, 1 Second
By TamFiofori










London is the place for me; a line from a hit song by the popular West Indian musician Edmundo Ross, captures the essence of why musicians from different parts of the world gravitated to London in the sixties to create the Swinging Sixties on the British music scene.

London in the 1960s was a place where remarkable things were happening. It had become a world music centre; a bubbling melting pot of musical genres and cultures from the United States of America, the West Indies and Africa.

Musicians from these regions and Britain fused all these diverse musical cultures; resulting in a thriving and throbbing music industry and, scene, where unique contemporary popular music – Rock ‘n Roll, Rhythm & Blues, Ska, Blue Beat, Highlife, Afro-music, Traditional and Modern Jazz- were played live and recorded virtually every day all around London.

London was thus, in that period, musically described as Swinging London; the home of internationally-acclaimed contemporary popular music.

Peter King College of Music

The stars of and from this musical revolution included The Supremes, The Impressions, Little Stevie Wonder, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf,  John Lee Hooker, John Mayall, Georgie Fame, Acker Bilk, Joe Harriott, Johnny Dankworth, Cleo Lane, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Peter King, Osibisa.

The presence of practising Nigerian musicians on the London music scene of that unique decade, right through to the seventies, was quite robust. Paramount among them was Ambrose Campbell who owned a popular must-visit nightclub Club Afrique in Soho, London and, was also the leader of the house Highlife band. Then there was Ginger Johnson who led an African-music band, members of Peter King’s African Jazz Messengers, Fred Coker, percussionist Gasper Lawal, conga player Jimmy Scott who composed the Beatles’ hit ObladiOblada, Remi Kabaka; to name the prominent ones.

“Of the quartet, Peter King, out of necessity, has given back most to the society and profession he came from”

A quartet of young Nigerians arrived on the London academic-music scene in the sixties. They are the focus of this essay.

Adam Fiberesima, Wole Bucknor, FelaRansome-Kuti and Peter Osobu, in the 1960s, enrolled and attended one of Europe’s biggest and most prestigious schools of Music, The Trinity College of Music; an affiliate of the University of London, located virtually next door to the famous Royal Albert Hall.

This essay explores how much later in their careers, and as highly well-trained and tutored musicians, now known as Dr. Adam Fiberesima, Commodore Wole Bucknor, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti and Peter King respectively, made enormous contributions within the Nigerian music scene and beyond, to qualify them in my evaluation, as The Four Pillars of Modern Nigerian Music.

FELA, after a remarkable stint as a very talented secondary school musician and bandleader, went straight from Abeokuta to Trinity College, London. While still a student at Trinity College, he formed a band that included his mentor/friend J. K. Briamoh, Wole Bucknor and other young Nigerians. His band was in great demand at concerts and parties organised by Nigerian students.

Fela fancied himself as a jazz trumpeter in the mould of Miles Davis. He was a famed bold character noted for carrying his trumpet under his armpit and walking into clubs to jam, rather unsuccessfully, with performing jazz bands on stage.

He came back immediately from Trinity College to Nigeria, worked at the Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation-NBC, Lagos for a while. He formed the KoolaLobitos band, became politicised and revolutionary, then formed the Africa 70 band in 1969 and it became his vehicle to pioneer and establish AFROBEAT MUSIC; a genre of popular music that has rightly made him a world music icon!

Fela Anikulapo Kuti

WOLE BUCKNORalso came back to Nigeria immediately after his education at Trinity College. He joined the Nigerian Navy and he became the first Director of Music of the Nigerian Navy. He completely revamped the musical direction in the Navy. He recruited professional musicians into the Navy Dance Band; making it one of the most sought-after bands of the Armed Forces. He ensured that musicians in the Navy were sent abroad for advanced musical training.

Commodore Wole Bucknor, (late), Commandant of the Nigerian Navy Band..

DR. ADAM DAGOGO FIBERESIMAwas a bit of an enigma. Why would a Nigerian decide to study classical music and then devote his career writing Operas and Symphonies?

Adam Fiberesima

He was not  Nigeria’s first classical musician; that honour belonged to Christopher Oyesiku. There were other Nigerian academic musicians; some in his age-group and others slightly younger – Dr. Sam Akpabot, Dr. Akin Euba and Dr. Laz Ekwueme, but Fiberesima chose to become an accomplished first at the highest level of classical music.

In conversations with him in the early seventies, he articulated the need for classical music in Nigeria and redefined local perceptions about opera and classical music.

He believed that it should not be “dance, dance all the time.” There must be moments for reflection. “We should be able to innovate and introduce new ideas hand-in-hand with our traditional music. We should be able to come up with a music that fits the times, and still retain the best qualities of our vast traditional music.”

“Opera is theatre and music,” he explained, “and our masquerade performances in the market-town square is our opera. Furthermore, the non-vocal instrumental music performed in our so-called shrines is our classical music.”

Born in Okrika in now Rivers State, Fiberesima was a musical child prodigy. By twelve he was proficient enough to play the pipe organ at St. Peter’s Church Okrika and at 19 he composed his first major,The Rascals. At Okrika Grammar School he composed musical plays like Bulumiaye and formed a band The Sky Rocket Orchestra.

He obtained his L.Music London at Trinity College in 1964. Like Fela, Wole and Peter, he too performed with pick-up Highlife and Jazz bands whilst still at Trinity. He became a Fellow of Trinity College [FTCL] in Composition in 1971. He worked for the External Service – Radio Nigeria of FRCN and in 1980 obtained a doctorate degree in Music Education from Rutgers University in the U. S. A.

Adam Fiberesima was a composer of international repute, a master of the piano and, one of the finest trumpeters Nigeria has ever produced. His major works were mostly Ijaw-based and inspired from his immediate Okrika community. He also used folk songs from various parts of Nigeria to compose synphonies. In addition, he used historical incidents from Nigeria to create his operas which were acclaimed worldwide.

He composed over sixty major works including five full-scale operas, two symphonies, four symphonic suites, two concert overtures, choral works and several works on piano and voice.

His operas and symphonies and, where they were performed are; FULL SCALE OPERAS OpuJaja [1974] Lagos, New York, London; Oru Koro[1986] Lagos, Moscow; Edi Ke Marina [1960] Lagos, Washington;  Women’s Lib [1976] Lagos;  IbinuUkpabi [1988] Lagos, New York;  SYMPHONIES AND SYMPHONIC SUITES … Fantasia Origin [1963] London, Warsaw; Highlife Symphony [1976] London; Asiko for Strings [1980] New York; Drum Symphony [1980] U. S. A.

Adam Fiberesima had the honour of being the Guest Composer to the Guild of Composers of the former USSR, Poland, Italy, Hungary and Britain. He was a Special Arranger of the National Anthems of Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Kenya, Ghana and Sierra Leone.

In 1978 he was named Composer of The Year when the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra performed his Highlife Symphony  and his OpuJajawas sung by the BBC Opera Chorus.

He was chosen as Music Consultant for FESTAC 77. His last work was the anthem of the Ijaw National Congress – INC. He died in 2003. Dr. Adam Fiberesima remains Nigeria’s greatest classical musician and composer.

PETER KINGis the popular musicians’-musician of this famous quartet of Nigerian musicians. He was a practicing professional musician; having played with the Roy Chicago Band in Ibadan [1957], Easy Life Band, Victor Olaiya’s Band, Lagos [1958], Charles Ewegwe’s Band, Empire Band and E. C. Arinze’s Band, before he decided, aged 23, to go to England to study music.

He spent his first year at the Central School of Dance Music, London, his second year at the Guild Hall School of Music and Drama, his third year at the London College of Music and, then, Trinity College of Music for three years. He also attended two Summer Courses in Jazz Arranging and Jazz Composition in 1964 and 1965 at Boston’s world-famous Berklee  College of Music in the U. S. A.

Peter King

Peter King; the name he adopted for his professional career, was a core musician throughout his student days and way beyond. Unlike Fela, Wole and Fiberesima, he stayed behind in Englandfor decades after his school days,to pursue a very successful musical career which involved performances with his various band in North Africa, Japan, Europe and Britain.

Peter King formed The African Jazz Messengers which became one of the top Modern Jazz bands in Britain and Europe and they had a hit record Highlife Piccadillyon the British Charts.


He played regularly with visiting American jazz musicians. His recordings SOULFUL PETER KING, MOODS earned him international recognition and respect in the West Indies. His proficiency on tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone and flute and his brilliant arranging talents working and juggling with African rhythms [African Dialects] enabled him to pioneer and sustain an innovative genre of music now labelled as AFROJAZZ.

He performed music for many TV shows in Britain. He came back to Nigeria with his band SHANGO to entertain the Federal Troops during the Nigerian Civil War. He also performed at FESTAC 77

On his return to England in 1977, he was invited to Germany to form and lead the back-up band for the famous singing group BONEY M for live concerts and TV shows. The Boney M TV shows were later beamed on Nigerian TV and, Peter King is recognisable in his trademark black beret behind the singing group.

Peter King finally came back to Nigeria and, formed his P. K. Band which had a very long weekly stint on NTA Channel 10. His regular appearances on Nigerian TV brought his music to the attention of millions of Nigerians who adored his catchy tune Catch Me If You Can. He played at the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos, every weekend for three years in the early 80s.

Of the quartet, Peter King out of necessity, has given back most to the society and profession he came from. Accordingto him he was utterly disappointed and shocked that the music scene in Nigeria had not progressed and developed since he left in the early sixties.

To his amazement he discovered that nearly all the young practising musicians in Nigeria could not read or write music and as such were limited musicians. He decided to establish a school of music.

In 1982 he founded The Peter King College of Music/Workshop in a three-bedroom apartment in MazaMaza, Lagos with about 30 students.

Nearly forty years on, The Peter King College of Music is now located on vast lands in Ilogbo; 36 kilometres along the Lagos-Badagry expressway. It has a huge auditorium, classrooms, boarding facilities for both male and female students. Every semester there are about 100 students in attendance studying for two or three-year City and Guilds Diplomas.

The Peter King College of Music has trained over 2,000 male and female literate musicians and instrumentalists. One of its star students is the famous singer Asa and there is the exciting jazz tenor saxophonist Dotun Bankole.

Peter King is also, unquestionably, one of Nigeria’s finest-ever multi-instrumentalists. He is comfortable playing classical music concertos on flute as well as his newer Highlife and Afrojazz on tenor and soprano saxophones.

He is the only member of the Trinity College London quartet still alive. Now in his early eighties and confined to a wheelchair he is still very musically alert mentally as he supervises the musical education of generations of young Nigerians with great relish and passion.

C. TAM FIOFORI, April 2, 2020, Lagos.

Tam Fiofori has been writing about music since the mid-sixties and has been published in the leading music and arts magazines, journals and newspapers in the U. S. A, Britain, Europe, Japan, Nigeria and Africa. He was the first New Music/Electronic Music Editor of DownBeat magazine in 1970. He has been a Recording Engineer. His book  Sun Ra Space Music Myth will be published in 2020 and his feature documentary film Peter King AfroJazz Pioneer will be released in 2021.






0 %
0 %
0 %
0 %
0 %
0 %
Previous post The book to see you through the lockdown – the last in the Cromwell trilogy
Next post Chasing Red Baron…Getting Shot in the Chest

Average Rating

5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *