Legendary Nigerian Musician, Peter King Dies at 85

Peter King

Legendary Nigerian Musician Peter King Dies at 85

It is another end of an era in contemporary music for Nigeria as the news of the death of legendary musician, Peter King at 85 spreads across social media. Born in 1938 as Peter King Adeyoyin Osubu, he was best known for combining Afrobeat and Jazz and his Miliki sound. He attended St. Gregory’s College where he had his first major encounter with music education. His professional history can be traced to 1957 when he joined Roy Chicago band in Ibadan. Then, he was assigned to play the maracas and conga drum. He later joined other bands in Ibadan where he began to play the alto sax amongst other musical instruments.

In 1961, he proceeded to the Trinity College of Music to study music, grooming his turf with associates such as Mike Falana and Bayo Martins form the African Messengers Group. They performed gigs and served as backup band for acts like The Temptations and Diana Ross.

Upon King’s return to Nigeria in 1969, he performed at the War Front but would later return to the UK in 1971 for a tour with his group called Shango. Peter King had joined a band that backed up Boney M on their first tour of Europe. On his part, he has composed songs for soap operas on NTA and recorded three albums.

The story of how Afrofunk and Afrojazz as  distinct music genres evolved will be incomplete without considering the impact Peter King made on the music scenes over the decades. The 1970s was dominated by funk and Afrobeat. Peter King’s proficiency and mastery of the African sound made him such an influential figure in popular music.

A master composer and multi-instrumentalist with no fewer than nine studio albums in his kitty, Peter King had also worked with several highlife musicians including Victor Uwaifo, Sir Victor Olaiya and Fela Anikulapo Kuti. He would be remembered for his huge contribution to music education in Nigeria. In 1982, he founded his own School of Music in Maza Maza starting with about 30 students. With the help of Canadian musicians and French government, the school grew into a lasting phenomenon, providing grants certificates while preparing students for professional music examinations of Associate, Licentiate and Fellowship of the Trinity, Royal and London Schools of Music.

Arguably, he was one of the wealthiest musicians in Nigeria. His net worth is estimated to be $5million as at 2023. Although he was a private person, his life and career had been a subject of interest to the cultural historian, critic and documentary photographer, Tam Fiofori.

He wrote: “I started writing about Peter King in numerous Nigerian publications and West Africa magazine after he finally came back to Nigeria to settle following FESTAC ’77 where he performed with his group Shango as part of the United Kingdom contingent. On his return to London, he was invited to Germany to become the musical director and bandleader for a TV series by the world-famous group Boney M. he had also recorded six well-received albums before his return.

“Since his return, as a friend and admirer, I have keenly followed Peter King’s mammoth achievements and contributions particularly towards the development of the Nigerian music industry. I sincerely believe, and it’s on record, that Peter King has had an extraordinary career as a Nigerian musician, preaching his gospel of AfroJazz which has strong Nigerian rhythmic and melodic roots, all over the world for many years. Without a doubt, Peter King remains the model Nigerian musician who has given back most to the Nigerian music industry and Nigeria itself.

“He has done this, emphatically, by establishing and running the Peter King College of Music Workshop…’’

More details about his death and funeral will be announced later.

-Written by Yinka Olatunbosun, a culture journalist.

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