ZEAL ONYIA-TRUMPET KING ZEAL ONYIA RETURNS. 

Zeal Onyia-Trumpet King Zeal Onyia Returns.

Label: BBE Music.

It was none other than Louis Armstrong who upon hearing  Zeal Onyia  for the first time described him as: “the highlife hep cat of Nigerian jazz trumpet’. Like so  many others before him, Louis Armstrong  was captivated by the combination  of Zeal Onyia’s unique tone, rhythm and breathtaking power.  This combination,  meant that  Zeal Onyia  was a truly gifted  musicians who wrote his name into the history of modern African music.

Zeal Onyia was one of the founders of West African highlife in Ghana and Nigeria,  and through his career, was a hugely popular musician. One of his most memorable finest albums was  King Zeal Onyia Returns, which was recorded in  1979 after returned from Germany, where he spent much of seventies studying classical music. However,  Trumpet King Zeal Onyia Returns, which has just been released by BBE Music as part of their Tabansi Gold reissue series, was very different from the classical music that Zeal Onyia had been studying. It was the latest chapter in his career.

Zeal Onyia’s career began in the forties, when he was playing with Bobby Benson. They played  swing and dance which was influenced by Duke Ellington. This was just the start for the versatile trumpeter.

By the fifties, Zeal Onyia had changed direction and was playing classic highlife with ET Mensah. This was the start of a new chapter in the career of a  true musical pioneer.

Although Zeal Onyia spent the fifties playing classic highlife this versatile and talented trumpeter changed direction again during the early sixties. He was part of a small jazz band who were so good, that they provided  competition for Fela Kuti’s first ever band.  However,  as the sixties gave way to the seventies, Zeal Onyia left his home behind and headed to Germany where the part of his musical education began.

For much of the seventies, Zeal Onyia studied classical music in Germany, and eventually, returned home to Lagos, in Nigeria, in 1979. One of the first things he did was record an album. This wasn’t an album of classical music, it was Trumpet King Zeal Onyia Returns.

When Zeal Onyia entered the studio  in Lagos in 1979, he was joined by the Tabansi Studio Band. Together, they recorded six spellbinding tracks where Zeal Onyia showcases his unique tone, rhythm and breathtaking power. Two of the highlights are the joyous, feel-good of Zeal Anata that transports the listener to a remote Nigerian village as they celebrate  a local festival. Then Egwu Olili is stunning instrumental where Zeal Onyia and the Tabansi Studio Band show a remarkable understanding as they reach new heights on what’s a cult classic and historic recording. 

Sadly, it’s almost impossible to find copies of Trumpet King Zeal Onyia Returns. The very few copies that come up for sale change hands for large sums of money. Thankfully, BBE Music have recently reissued  Trumpet King Zeal Onyia Returns, which is a breathtaking West African highlife classic and that is regarded as a career defining performance from: “the highlife hep cat of Nigerian jazz trumpet,’ Zeal Onyia.

Zeal Onyia-Trumpet King Zeal Onyia Returns.

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