Orlando Julius obituary

Saxophonist, singer and bandleader whose fusions of highlife and American styles helped transform Nigerian music

The bandleader, songwriter, singer, saxophonist and keyboard player Orlando Julius, who has died aged 78, helped to transform the Nigerian music scene in the 1960s with highly commercial, ground-breaking fusions that influenced Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat.

He began playing professionally as a teenager, working with leading musicians in Ibadan, a major Nigerian cultural centre, before starting his own band, the Modern Aces, in 1964. The group developed a strong local following thanks to Orlando’s experiments in mixing highlife and other African styles with American influences – and the young Fela took note. He regularly attended the band’s concerts at the University of Ibadan or the Independence hotel, and Orlando allowed him to join them on stage.

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