Monday, 3 August 2009
Zeal Onyia was one of the architects of professional popular musicianship and bringing popular musicians into unionism in Nigeria.
A consummate musician with a wide taste for a variety of musical idioms. In one of his unique compositions of 1958, titled: "Egwu Jazz bu Egwu Igbo" (Prim-pri-ya-prim-pri-ya) he traced the history of Jazz to Igbo Land. Among his other top hits are Vicky yem Afum'u'o, Dibia A'buro Chukwu, and Odiasi (all on Decca West Africa Records). Zeal Onyia was without doubt an accomplished musician and trumpeter.
When Louis Armstrong on his visit to Nigeria in 1961 heard Zeal at the National Stadium Suru Lere playing a welcome tune for him, Louis lost no time in recognizing a protégée. "Who is that hip cat?" he enquired. That acquaintance translated into instant respect and a life long friendship between the two until the great Satchmo passed on in July, 1974.
Zeal Onyia passed away in 2000.