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All hail Benson Idonije @ 80

AGOZINO AGOZINO writes on BENSON IDONIJE, ace broadcaster and first manager of the Afro beats legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, whose 80th birthday is being celebrated by the art community this week.
Given the peculiar nature of arts, when a veteran elevates his craft to a higher level, has a multitude of  followers and, possibly, has some grey hair in every visible place, he earns the tag ‘master’, but, such appellation does not just come as a result of age, years of practice or number of people trained by the master.
In the case of veteran broadcast icon and revered music critic, Benson Idonije , his career shows an impressive record of practice backed by the ability to stand out as a source of inspiration to generations of music enthusiasts, this record singles him out as a master.
Since Thursday, this week, there have been celebrations in the art circle. It is, particularly, so for friends and colleagues of the writer and music critic.  The veteran, who had written insightful articles, more than any other person,  on the Nigerian music scene, is 80 years old.
To mark the birthday, friends, music lovers and associates of the hard-working writer have been celebrating him at the slightest opportunity. Part of the ongoing event is a Special Interactive Music Stakeholders Session in honour of Idonije, entitled Great Ben J. The event, holding tomorrow at COSON Garden, 25 Omodara Street, Awuse Estate, Off Ajanaku Street, Off Salvation Road, Opebi Street, Lagos (Ipm through 4pm), will also feature unique genres of music, especially,  the type Idonije is known for as well as other  memorable highlights.
Idonije, a committed music critic and remarkable art icon, was a broadcaster with  the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, (FRCN) before his retirement and his continuous promotion of music continues to infuse a new lease of life into the music and arts sector and inspire many budding artistes today.
Meanwhile, a workshop with music students from the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos, which kicked off the celebrations yesterday, was an interesting one. It was a session of tributes, which held at the Agip Recital Hall, MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos. Later, three books by Idonije, were launched at the same venue. The books were Dis Fela Sef, a personal account by Idonije on Fela; The Great Highlife Party; and All that Jazz, a collection of pieces on jazz music.
Today, organisers will hold another conference to be adressed by the respected writer on highlife music, John Collins, on the topic, ‘Highlife, The Evergreen: Looking Back, Looking Ahead’.
A discussion with the theme: ‘Music Forward: Deconstructing, Reconstructing’ is also in line for the celebration. Keynote speaker is Ayeni Adekunle, former journalist and head of the PR firm, BHM. A concert tagged ‘A Toast to Grandad’ will end the celebrations. Headlining the concert is popular artist Burna Boy, a grandson of Idonije. The celebration is being arranged by the Benson Idonije at 80 Committee, a group of Nigerian journalists and culture activists.
Born in Otuo, Owan East Local Government area of Edo State, in 1936, where he also started elementary school, it seemed some symbolic development about his background of the man popularly called Ben J by friends, predisposed him to accomplish what he is today. Idonije studied Communications Engineering at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, after his Cambridge School Certificate at Holy Trinity Grammar School, Sabongida Ora.
He joined the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (later Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, FRCN) in 1957 as Engineering Assistant but moved to mainstream broadcasting in 1960 when, among other roles, he became a producer and presenter of such famous programmes as The Big Beat and Stereo Jazz Club, eventually participating in setting up and pioneering Radio Nigeria 2 (now Metro FM) in 1977.
The high point of his career in broadcasting was his transfer to FRCN Training School, where, for eight years, he became principal lecturer and Chief Training Officer, Programme Production from 1984 to 1992  when he retired.
After retirement, Ben J, as he is fondly called, contributed critiques, opinions and commentaries to many major arts-related journals in Nigeria and abroad. In 1996, he was formally invited by The Guardian Newspaper to write for it; and he maintained three columns every week Evergreen (Wednesdays), Sound and Screen (Fridays) and All That Jazz (Sundays).
He is, perhaps, the only columnist with any Nigerian newspaper with such frequency and resourcefulness. The well-researched columns are, individually, widely acclaimed, attracting,  mostly, commendations from all over the world. The hundreds of articles have been collated into volumes for publication.
A  2012 recipient of the Life Time Award for Journalism Excellence from the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism, Ben J is also a Fellow of Adam Fiberesima School of Music and Conservatory, University of Port Harcourt.
Idonije, with his over 50 years of cognitive experience in the Nigerian music industry is an authority.
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