Prince Nico Mbarga wrote one of the biggest-selling singles in world music history, but you’ve probably never heard of him.
PRA Productions’ latest documentary for the BBC World Service tells the beautiful, tragic story of Sweet Mother, with DJ Edu.
Prince Nico Mbarga and Rocafil Jazz’s 1976 recording Sweet Mother is estimated to have sold 13 million copies in markets and record shops across Africa – that is more than The Beatles’ biggest-selling single I Want To Hold Your Hand. Yet outside the continent, it’s barely recognised.
On the 20th anniversary of Prince Nico’s early death in 1997, we’ve travelled to remote parts of Nigeria to track down the people closest to Nico.
DJ Edu tells the incredible story of this one-hit wonder. Hearing from musicians and producers, as well as Prince Nico’s friends and family, he visits the town that Nico called home and the label where he recorded his masterpiece, after it was turned down by others for being ‘too childish’.
DJ Edu traces how a Nigerian artist, born to Nigerian and Cameroonian parents and schooled in Zairian rumba, came to craft a truly African anthem – a homely message in pidgin English lyrics and rhythmic staccato guitars. He finds out how pockets of West African communities outside Africa still hold the song close to their hearts. How is it possible for a song that sits comfortably in the top 20-selling singles of all time to remain so little-known outside the region it came from?
You can listen to the documentary, produced by the PRA’s Sami Kent, here.
And you can read more about Sami’s trip to Nigeria, along with photographs, here.
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