Dr. Prince Chijioke Mbanefo (Eze-Egwu) is one of the most successful African highlife songwriters and artists of all time. He started singing professionally since 1999 but his breakthrough didn’t come until early 2005, after the release of his first hit album “Ije Nwa Ogbenye Na Ogaranyaa” . He is best known for his bestselling albums “Onye Mmacha” and “Achakegom” which gave him worldwide recognition. He has performed in stages and concerts worldwide including in countries like Japan, Malaysia, Dubai UAE, South Africa, Benin Republic, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Ghana etc. He has recorded an astonishingly over 50 albums and counting. It is on record that he is the highlife musician with the highest number of albums.
Dr. Prince Chijioke Mbanefo was born in Onitsha 10th October 1983 into the Royal Family of Umuoniha, of Abilibaose Village Atani in Ogbaru Local Government Area of Anambra State. Happily married to his wife Mrs Ngozi Francisca Mbanefo, a leading gospel singer and chorister in popular Nigerian church; Mountain of Fire Ministeries. It is safe to say that the music gene runs in the family as the union produced His first son, Prince Ebuka, a budding highlife musician with his first album soon to be released. Dr. Prince is blesssed with 7 illustrious children; 4 sons and 3 daughters. Dr. Prince Chijioke did his primary education in his hometown Atani before moving over to Nnewi where he did his secondary schooling. An accomplished academic guru, Dr. Prince Chijioke made all distinctions in his scholarly results. Due to his family’s financial constraints, he left to Lagos where he learnt a trade. He was awarded a honorary doctorate degree by the Institution of Chartered Economics, Kaduna in 2016 .
Foray into Music
Like most musicians of his time, his early days in music was very tough. In an interview he recollects “After my studies in Nnewi, I went to Lagos to learn a trade. I did business for a while but in my innermost man, I knew music was my calling and passion. In 1999, one day i woke up and told myself that i must face my destiny which is my musical career. I had to sell all my properties and goods in my shop and invested the money in music”. He continues, ” In the studio i met some men that worked with Late Chief Osita Osadebe, I did the recording of my first album with them in 1999″ . “You want to know the two things that really inspired me?
Love and Boredom,” Chijioke declares. “I was looking at the music industry in Nigeria and I was absolutely bored by the highlife genre. Everyone is doing the same thing. It’s all about dance-able beats and microphone. That’s why Osadebe came out and blew the world up because he brought back the entertainment and inspiration factor. He gave me something to be inspired by other than a person standing on stage singing a song with a bunch of sexy dancers. What Osadebe has done for the High-Life community is what I’m hoping to continuing doing for the HighLife world and music in general.” Dr. Prince Chijioke concludes.
Elaborate concepts aside, at its core, artists that influence his music, beautiful melodies and a voice that’s as supple as it is powerful: “I like listening to a lot of old school Osadebe,” he says. “Musicians like Ali Chukwuma, Captain Mudibe, Celestine Okwu, Sunny Ade, and Ebenezer Obe. Osadebe didn’t just make songs. He made inspirational songs and that’s
what I’m always striving to do.” Dr. Prince Chijioke Mbanefo asserts about other artists that influenced him
His style of music is highly influenced by the Highlife Legend , Late Chief Osita Osadebe who is coincidentally also from his hometown. In several interviews, Dr. Prince Chijioke has acknowledged that Late Chief Osita Osadebe is his role model.
Early Struggles in Music 1999-2005
After recording his first album “Eziafakaego” in 1999,he went to his mentor Osadebe for blessings. Late Chief Osadebe gave him his blessings and prayers to succeed in his music career. But despite, the fatherly anointing and local acceptance, Dr. Prince Chijioke still couldn’t find a marketer willing to market and distribute his album because he was just an upcoming artist. Between this period he was performing underground.
In 2005,during one of his underground performances, Dr. Prince Chijioke met with Nigerian Popular Music Duo of mega superstar status; Danfo Drivers. His lifeline came when he performed after Danfo drivers in a show and he thrilled the crowd. After then, Dr. Prince Chijioke started getting shows and calls from different quaters. He later got acquainted with late Mr. Chigozie Okoye who introduced him to the CEO of Sunny General Music, Mr Sunny Ibe. Sunny General Music marketed Dr. Prince Chijioke’s second album “Ije Nwa Ogbenye na ogaranya” which he released in 2005. The 4-track album was an instant hit nationwide. He later released the video for the album in 2007
This was when his career was propelled to high echelon. When asked how he’s evolved as an artist, Prince Chijioke’s answer
was simple: “I’m not afraid anymore,” he said. “When you’re
first starting out you try so hard to get in the business and
get noticed and when you finally do get in, you don’t want to
step on anybody’s toes. You’re afraid you might get kicked
out and locked out.”
“I really want to drive home the fact that I’m a true artist. I’m
done playing in the junior league and graduated to the big
time, 100 percent an expression of myself, with no apologies
made and no more playing it safe”.
Discography of his Music Career
Dr. Prince Chijioke Mbanefo has recorded over 50 albums and counting. Its on record that he is the highlife artist with the highest number of albums.
His first album “Eziafakaego” was recorded in 1999
“Ije Nwa ogbenye na ogaranya” 2005
Sunny General Music distributed 4 albums for him, others including;
“Nwanne malu nwanne ya” 2006.
“Onwu Osadebe; Tribute to Osadebe” 2007.
“Boys Golibe” 2007.
Vinosco Music distributed the “Onwu Obiajulu” album he recorded in 2008.
In 2010, Dr. Prince Chijioke recorded his worldwide monster hit album “Onye Mmacha” which was distributed by O.Jez Music ( one of the biggest marketers at the time, also distributing for fellow music industry heavyweights like Tony Tetuila, Majek Fashek, Daddy Showkey, Sunny Nneji ). Dr. Prince Chijioke was the first highlife artist under O.Jez music. “Onye Mmacha” gave him worldwide recognition and acceptance.
Afterwards he recorded ;
“Ije Dinta na Nwa agu ” 2010
“Eze Odineke” 2011.
“Ife eji malu obodo” 2011.
“Adi asi ndo” 2012, which contained a track released to console the people traumatized by the tragic Floods of 2012 that hit various coastal towns in Nigeria.
He released “Wazobia Highlife King” in 2012.
“Ome ogo Adi afu njoo” 2012 ,to console patients of the dreaded Ebola disease.
Dr. Prince Chijioke’s super star hit album “Achakagom” was released in 2012.
“Ewu akpu akpu” 2013
Dr. Prince Chijioke Mbanefo was awarded the title “Eze-egwu” ( King of Highlife) after he recorded the album “Willie is Working” in 2013.
“Akpulu Onye nwee olu” 2013, which he recorded as a tribute to his late mother who died in 2013.
Dr. Prince Chijioke also did a tribute to Highlife legend, Late Chief Ozoemena Nsugbe who died in 2014, titled “Onwu Ozoemena Nsugbe”
“Item Agbawago” 2014
In 2014, Dr. Prince Chijioke travelled to Capetown South Africa where he recorded ” Prince Chijioke Mbanefo “.
In 2015 he recorded ” Ndi ogbo oto”.
“Uwa enwe mmeta” 2015.
“Oku n’agba Ozalla” 2015
“Peoples Club Special” 2016
“Anambra State United Association of Nigeria Japan” 2016
“Ndi Chitalu Jessy” 2016
“Prince Chijioke Mbanefo in Malaysia” 2016
“Agha Egbuna Ndi Igbo” 2016.
“Odogwu aburo Guy name” 2016.
“Ndi Amuma Asi” 2017.
“Owu SA Nwa guy” 2017
“Onye na akaraka ya” 2017
“Enu uwa bu akpi” 2018
“Ndi oso afia” 2018
With more to be released.
On Collaborations with other artists
Dr. Prince Chijioke once worked with Late Chief Osadebe.
Dr. Prince Chijioke recorded a joint collaborative album with Popular Highlife musician; Prince Elogood.
Dr. Prince Chijioke also recorded a joint collaborative album with Popular Highlife musician; Captain Otigba in 2014.
Awards and International Recognition
Dr.Prince Chijioke Mbanefo bagged an honorary doctorate degree in 2016.
Dr. Prince Chijioke was given an award of excellence in 2013, with the title King of Highlife.
Internationally, Dr. Prince Chijioke is widely accepted and has performed in various countries.
Dr. Prince Chijioke has toured countries like, Japan,Malaysia, South Africa, Dubai UAE, Ghana, Senegal,Ivory Coast, Benin Republic etc.
In an interview, Dr. Prince Chijioke Mbanefo once revealed that South Africa is a second home to him.