Osondi Owendi: The story behind the song by Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe

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Osondi Owendi is a popular highlife track by late highlife maestro, Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe.

One day in the early 80s, on a cool Saturday evening in Atani, Ogbaru local government area in Anambra State, a young man and rookie highlife musician, Osita Osadebe was hanging out at an open-air joint. He was enjoying the cool evening breeze while munching on roasted chicken with a bottle of cold beer.

American party music was banging from the loudspeakers and he was nodding to the music.

An elderly man walked past him.

Osita glanced at the man and their eyes met. The man seemed to hesitate for a moment and then walked away.

Ten minutes later, he came back.

He walked straight to Osita Osadebe.

He stood in front of him and spoke in a loud voice.

“Stop the music! Stop it!”

The barman inside stopped the music in deference to the old man.

Osita stared quizzically at the intruder.

“Ndewo” The old man spoke.

“Oga diri gi” Osita Osadebe replied.

The old man smiled at him and took a seat.

He then began speaking to Osita.

“My son, you are listening to the wrong music. The music of this generation is not good.”

Osita Osadebe studied him closely.

He was clad in the isi agu Igbo traditional dress with a necklace of red beads hanging around his neck. He wore a red cap on his head and had eyeglasses on. He held a staff in his right hand.

“Kedu ka imere” He greeted.

“Adi mu mma”  Osita replied.

“This is the song you should listen to,” The man said and struck his staff on the ground.

Instantaneously, a highlife song began playing from nowhere. The beat was irresistible and enchanting.

Osita stood up and began dancing with the man.

The environment had changed to an ethereal realm.

They were in another world.

After 15 minutes, the song faded away.

“Please sir, what song is this? I can’t get it off my ears and head” Oita enquired.

The old man smiled.

osondi owendi
Osondi owendi original album cover

“Please tell me the meaning of this song” Osita persisted.

The man took Osita Osadebe by the arm and offered him a piece of kola nut which he accepted.

“My son, what pleases a man also pleases his God. In this world, who is above God? He that is faster than his God always ends before his time.”

“That is true,” Osita replied.

The man was almost whispering to Osita as he continued, “What you like, others may not like. Some people are happy over the things of this world, others are not happy.”

“This is very true” Osita replied.

“What pleases me, pleases my God”, the man stated and continued, “My son, do not spoil another man’s thing, because the way you like your thing is the same way others like their thing”

His voice was haunting. He had assumed the status of a sage.

“Do not speak evil of any man because what comes out of the mouth reveals a man’s heart. God created us with different levels of understanding, so everybody has his/her own understanding, let’s try to understand each other”

Osita nodded his head.

“Let no man tell his neighbour to die so that he may live alone. So my children, live and let’s leave, one man’s meat is another man’s poison”

Osita remained silent as he ruminated over the wisdom in the words of the old man.

“Otue tuo izu, ogbue ochue,” The old man said in a tone of finality.

He moved away from Osita and began dancing in silence.

The music returned instantly. It was captivating, It was as if extraterrestrial creatures were playing the drums and the ogene.

Then the music stopped.

Osita turned to say goodbye to the man but he was nowhere to be found.

The ethereal setting had disappeared and everything had returned to normal.

Osita Osadebe stood up from his seat with excitement.

He had just received a song from the ancestors in the spirit world.

The next day he began recording the song.

He titled it, Osondi Owendi.

Osondi Owendi was released in 1984 and became an instant national and international highlife hit track.

Till Chief Stephen Osadebe’s death on 11th May 2007, Osondi Owendi was the most popular highlife tune that people know him by.

Ndi Abia!

Ndi Anambra!

Ndi Imo!

Ndi Enugu!

Ndi Ebonyi!

Igbo Amaka!

Igbo kwenu!


Version 2:

Once upon a time, there lived a man in Omaze village in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria. His name was Osondi Owendi. He was a farmer, a very hard working man with large farmlands where he planted yam, cassava, pumpkin leaves, corn and other crops.

Osondi Owendi was a wealthy man with four wives and eight sons who lived in his large compound. Unlike the meaning of his name, Osondi Owendi was a hard man, very opinionated and uncompromising. He believed that everything had to be done his way and that he was always right. Osondi Owendi will not tolerate any contrary opinion and would ridicule anyone who opposed him.

“I am right, I am always right!” He would exclaim when anyone offers a contrary opinion on any issue.

Once during the village meeting of men in the village to deliberate on the pending war with the neighbouring village of Abama, Osondi Owendi had argued fiercely for immediate war and called the Igwe of Omaze a weakling and coward because the man had ruled in favour of a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Osondi Owendi was chased out of the meeting venue and he swore never to have anything to do with the general assembly of men in the village.

You can imagine the situation of things in his home. His children, wives and anyone living in his house lived in fear and tension as they could not oppose him and had to do whatever he said.

“But Nnayi, this is not the right thing to do, you must learn to view things from other people’s perspectives” Adaugo, his first wife protested one day during an argument with her husband.

Osondi Owendi beat her up, black and blue and sent her back to her family where she stayed for three moons until she returned to apologize.

Because of his superciliousness and fiery temper, Osondi Owendi had very few friends. The number of his friends could be counted on the fingers of one hand. This did not worry him as he kept largely to himself and viewed other men in the village as simpletons. He put extra effort into his farming to prove his worth and the earth always rewarded him with bumper harvests.

One day Osondi Owendi made his way to the farm very early in the morning, at the third crow of the cock. It was a very cold morning and the harmattan winds blasted through the village with unwavering fury. It was a very tough time indeed for anyone to be out walking on the long and narrow earthen pathway that leads to the farmlands of the Omaze people.

Before that day, there had been an instruction that no one should venture outside till the sun was up in the sky because the ancestors from the spirit world were visiting the earth to conduct a cleansing ritual. Osondi Owendi had dismissed the instruction as rubbish and had decided that he would step out two hours before his usual time to head to his farm.

As he walked slashing some shrubs with his machete, Osondi Owendi heard a sound that made him halt suddenly as a cold chill ran through his spine…
“Stop there! Thou earthling!” A voice rang out.
Osondi halted.
“Where are you going to at this time?” The voice interrogated.
“I am going to my farm” Osondi replied in a surprisingly calm voice.
“Are you aware of the instruction that nobody should venture outside?”
Osondi kept quiet as his heart raced. Despite the cold breeze he was sweating.
“Are you not aware of the instruction?” The voice thundered.
“I…yes, I am, forgive me” Osondi begged.
“Are you the only farmer in this village? You love your farm more than your life, prepare to die now!”
“Please, don’t kill me, please, I have a family at home” Osondi pleaded as he fell to his knees.
“What is your name?” The voice inquired.
“Osondi Owendi”

There was an eerie silence for a space of two minutes, then the voice spoke,
“One man’s meat is another man’s poison. Osondi Owendi, return to your house right now, run and don’t look back!”

Osondi Owendi took to his heels.

Ever since that day, his attitude to life and his family changed. He became less serious, more playful and carefree. Nobody knew what had happened to him and the kind of encounter he had experienced. All his wives and kids knew was him running back home that morning, banging on the door demanding to be let in, shaking like a leaf and sleeping off in his bedroom.

Watch the Youtube Video of Osondi Owendi:


Play Audio

What are the lessons from Osondi Owendi?

  1. Life and let live. Allow others to have their choices and exercise their rights
  2. Live peacefully with other people. An atmosphere of peace brings about success in life.
  3. Don’t despise the culture and tradition of your people.
  4. Quality music never dies. Osondi Owendi is ageless and will remain evergeen for generations to come. Every musician should have at least one evergreen song.

Lyrics of Osondi Owendi

Ife sozili onye sozi chi yá
Na enu uwa nke a anyi no nu
O bu onye ka zi Chukwu
O gbanari chi ya na oso nu
O na ebukwa chi ya uzo anaba nu
Ife na aso gi
Okwazi ya na aso zi onye ozo nu
Mana afa egwu a m na etizi nu
Osondi owendi
Maka Ka Ife uwa aso ndi ufodu nu
Etu a Ka o na ewezi ndi ufodu

Osondi owendi

Ife solu mu na osolu chim na uwa
Osondi owendi

Nke solu gi na osolu chi gi nu
Osondi owendi

Emebi kwana nke onye ozo
Osondi owendi

Etu nke gi di gi mma o
Osondi owendi

Etua ka nke onye ozo dikwazi ya mma
Osondi owendi

Ka o na aso gi Ka ona asokwa onye ozo na uwa
Osondi owendi

Ekwutozina nke mmadu
Osondi owendi
Onye bu Chukwu
Osondi owendi

Maka na okwu ekwuru na onu o
Osondi owendi

Ya bu Obi mmadu afuziri anya
Osondi owendi
Osondi owendii

Ife solu onye solu chi ya na uwa nu
Nke solu mu na osolu mu na obi mu nu
Nke solu gi na odi gi mma nu o
Onye na azozi nke ya na uwa nu
Odizia ka obuzi ajo mmadu ka obu nu
Mana okwazi ka chi so kwu nu
Ka anyi na ekwu nu
Na Ife di onye mma adiazi ibe ya
Mana onwerozi onye bu Chukwu nu
Ka ekelu gi, ka ekelu gi nwa
Okwazi obi Ka Chukwu ji wee kee anyi nu
Obi chi ji keezi onye obula di na iche na iche
Onye puta owelu nke ya nu
Ma onye asina ibe ya nwuzie nu
Ka so ya bili nu
Maka na Ife na aso ndi
Okwazi ya na ewezi
Ndi nu
Ife m na ekwu gbasalu ife na emezi na enu uwa nu o
Ife na aso onye di iche nu
Nke na aso onye ozo di ozo
Nke solu gi na oma so m
Nke sozi gi mana odiri mu mma nu
Obu onyezi Ka anyi ga eje chukwudo nu
Na Chukwu keziri Ife na uwa nu
Nke solu onye na oma aso ibe ya
Nke solu onye na oma sozi onye ozo zi
Anyi wee na agwa zi nu nu
Ife na aso ndi
Oma sozi ndi ozo nu
Anyi ga ejisi ike na aghota nu
Maka na ofu Chineke zi nu
Mana uche o na enye di n’iche n’iche

Osondi owendi

Ekwutozina ibe gi na uwa
Osondi owendi
Mmonwu amalezi biawanu o
Osondi owendi
O by onye buzi Chukwu n’uwa
Osondi owendi
Ife solu gi na osorozi munwa nu
O bu ya ga abuzi nu okwu
Osondi owendi
Nke solu m na osoro gi
Osondi owendi

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