The Making of the Livy

“I was just out of senior secondary school and I wanted to make an album. I had this urge. Melodies used to come to me in my sleep and I would wake up and record them on my tape recorder. I would mumble sounds and write lyrics later – it was this big dream born out of dreams. My Dad was creative. He sang traditional music, so he was cool with it, as long as it wasn’t a career choice, just a hobby.

I first thought I needed a record company to sponsor the project so I travelled to Lagos dressed as a hippy with my demo in my pocket. I arrived late so, to save money, I slept under a bridge. I went to EMI in the morning to meet with Odion Iruoje but instead I met with Tony Okoroji who said, ‘we will listen to it and get back to you.’ When I didn’t hear from them, I knew I had to move on.

I was into disco and funk at the time and I was looking for a bass-driven funky sound. The entire idea was to make an album that sounded like something made in London or the U.S. so I tried to sound “American” and did some research on the LPs I loved, from the jacket cover design to the names of the session men. On my album I credited Fred Pants, John Norway, King Gusher, Kif Goods… (laughs), that was the vogue at the time! Although I wanted the album to sound like an American or British production, if you listen to the first track, ‘Get On Down,’ you can hear that we ended up with something else: a mix of American and Nigerian.

My perseverance paid off and I found myself at Goddy Oku’s Godiac 24-track recording studio in Enugu, which was the best studio available there at the time. It was amazing. Frank Izuora, a family friend, heard about my project and was equally enthused so he came down to the studio (Frank was a founding member of the band Question Mark, which was produced by Odion Iruoje in the ‘70s). Frank had since moved to the US and was on holidays back in Nigeria. So, he became involved, he played guitar and actually sang lead vocals on the title track, ‘Friday Night’.

It took about 9 months to a year to make the album. I financed it by myself so I had to resort to friends helping out with loans for session men and studio time. But the 24- track studio was great because if you made a mistake, you didn’t have to do it all again.

The original LP was released on blue vinyl and that idea came from William Onyeabor. We used his pressing plant and he sold the idea to me. It was different so I said ‘why not?’”

Livy Ekemezie


“I am from Cameroun and I am primarily a keyboard player. I played keyboards and bass guitar on hundreds of sessions in Lagos and Aba. My background is in jazz and funk – I played as a solo jazz pianist at the Sheraton in Cotonou and worked on projects spanning highlife, jazz and jazz funk. During the late ‘70s, I was employed in a nightclub in Constanza, Cameroon called Club San Francisco. There, we had to play the disco and funk hits every week so I was very popular as a session man with Nigerian musicians looking for that sound. I played on William Onyeabor’s ‘Anything You Sow,’ – there were just three of us. I programmed the drums and played bass and strings live, Dorothy Ipere sang the background vocal parts. She was a classical music singer. I worked on several projects for Afrodisia, EMI and Decca in Lagos. I worked on Odion Iruoje’s ‘Sound President’. All of this prepared me for Livy’s project.

I knew Livy from his interest in music. He came to our shows and, when he introduced the idea of an album to me, I wanted to encourage him. In those days, the keyboard player was often the arranger but this role was rarely acknowledged. The feeling was that, because you were paid as a keyboardist, anything else was part of the job.

On ‘Friday Night’, I used an analogue Moog Synthesizer, a Fender Rhodes piano and a polyphonic Yamaha synthesizer. Livy sang the vocal parts and I played the backing music and we fashioned out the parts for the other instruments on the keyboard.

Jules Elong

Interviews by Temitope Kogbe

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