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My Biafran Story

My Biafran Story .org website is a collection of eye witness accounts of the Nigerian-Biafran civil war.

A Music Colossus Dies

B_20200702-184210_1 Berkley Jones Ike

A post on Berkley Jones Ike’s Facebook wall was one of three stories that birthed the idea of My Biafran Story project. 

It was in June 2016, the 49th anniversary of the start of the Nigeria-Biafra war (1967-1970). Facebook was vibrating with talk about Biafra, and Ogo Ifey-Ibeme had shared photographs of her parents’ wedding in the thick of the war. Earlier on, Chibuihe Achimba had talked about how his parents met in a Biafra refugee camp.

A few weeks later, it was Berkely’s birthday and someone posted a tribute on his wall. I don’t remember the author but he was recounting Berkley’s role in a music group that toured Biafra during the war and later on, in Lagos. Part of the tribute said, in these exact words, ‘...As the war raged, the music played.’ 

I won’t ever forget this sentence. I was intrigued; I didn’t know people played gigs during wars. I wanted to find out more, but how do I go about it? A few days later, I summoned up courage and sent him a Facebook message asking if he’d like to tell me about his experiences playing music during a war. I included my phone number in the message. He called me immediately. I didn't expect that. We had been friends on Facebook for some time but had never communicated outside the platform. We spoke for a long time as he recounted his story. I reminded him I wasn’t recording and would like to schedule a proper interview. But he declined, saying he was not good at remembering details. However, he knew people who would be glad to speak to me about that time. He gave me a list of names and so, on January 4, 2017, one of those contacts, Chyke Maduforo, a member of the original Funkees group, became the first person to grant me a full interview for my Biafran story project. Read the story here: http://mybiafranstory.org/index.php/read-stories/the-entertainers/music-in-a-time-of-war-part-1.html 

On Sunday 28th June, 2020, Berkely posted a photo of his son whose birthday it was on that day. I reacted with the love button. Less than 24 hours later, Facebook started buzzing with news of his death. 

What a shock! 

I didn’t realize how great his legacy was until his death. I didn’t know how much of an impact he made in the music scene, including at the international level. I have since read the tributes on his timeline and some of the comments after them. I have watched Youtube videos of him. I have marvelled at his talent. I feel privileged to have known him. 

This is my public thanks and acknowledgement of the role he played in My Biafran Story project. My sincere condolences to his family.

 Rest in peace, sir.

 

 

 

 

 

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