Sunday, November 18, 2007

Now I know my Naija 80s babies gonna feel this one...

I think it was sometime in late 1985 that I first heard that Yvonne Maha was dead.

Two years earlier, she had been the sensational talent find of 1983. Her Sonny Okosuns-produced debut Child For Sale had been a smashing success--the toast of the primary school hit parade, the soundtrack to many a preteen birthday party and family roadtrip. She had blown into our lives like a whirlwind of adorableness and goshdarn it, the public was sucked in. Now two years had passed since anybody had seen or heard anything from her. Two years can feel like a mighty long time when you've been alive for just over a decade yourself, and people started to wonder and speculate as to why she hadn't come out with another album.

And then the news of her fate hit the national gossip network: Yvonne had gotten pregnant. Tried to have an abortion. Something went wrong. She died.

Now this puzzled the hell out of me at the time. "She was having an abortion? How old was she, thirteen?"

"Yes," my aunt replied sternly. "That's why she died. She was too young and her body could not withstand the pregnancy. And the moral of the story is: Don't have sex before marriage! You hear?"

Well, however well-meaning the moral may have been, the story itself was soon discredited as pure fabu(lism): Some people knew which secondary school Yvonne Maha went to and confirmed that she had never been pregnant and was certainly not dead. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief and went back to waiting for her follow-up to Child For Sale.

About two years later, the rumor mill once again reported again that Yvonne Maha had died.

"I thought they said she died two years ago!" I groaned.

"That was just a rumor," my aunt clucked. "She didn't die back then, but she's dead now. This time it's true."

"How did she die?"

"Complications from abortion."


"And that is why you should not have sex before marriage!"

After that, the "Yvonne Maha is dead" story would resurface anew every few years. And with each new iteration, its peddlers would firmly assure you that yes, this time she really was dead and that yes, she died during an abortion. As recently as 2005 I heard people telling that story.

Well, for the record: In 2007 Yvonne Maha is alive and well and living in Brazil. But the persistent reports of her demise do kind of beg an interesting question: Why did the public seem to so desperately want--almost need--Yvonne Maha dead? And from an abortion, of all things? And why is it that as years have gone by and Yvonne Maha has receded somewhat in the public's memory, the "death by abortion" story has been passed on to early-90s preteen singer Tosin Jegede? (For the record: Tosin Jegede is not dead, she's a sculptor.)

Could it be that these little girl singers represent purity and innocence, and so the thought of them growing up into womanhood and inevitably engaging in womanly activities such as sexual intercourse is so unacceptable that we must create these myths where their sexual precocity leads to their destruction?

> shrug < Shit, I dunno.

Anyway, if you were a kid in Nigeria in the 80s, you almost certainly know this album inside out. Listening to it now, I'm surprised at how well it holds up for me--I mean, even if twee cutesy-kiddie stuff like this makes your molars hurt, you can't completely front on the music itself, can you? This was the period when Sonny Okosuns could do no wrong and his Ozziddi band was on the way to becoming the Ozziddi brand. The tasteful instrumental performances and production on this album are very much on par with great Okosuns albums such as Fire in Soweto and 3rd World. I remember really loving the backing vox on this record, and they still sound pretty good to me, too.

The song "Don't Treat Me Like a Child" still makes me slightly uncomfortable, too. I used to love this song back in '83, when I first realized that I loved ballads, but even then I thought it was a bit on the creepy side. It was so obviously a ventriloquist number with a grownup putting these supposedly cute/coy words into a little girl's mouth, but what made it particularly discomfiting was the video: Yvonne and some boy sitting on a bench at Apapa Amusement Park, dressed in their best birthday party duds as she serenades him. Both of them look ungodly embarrassed by the whole affair, especially the end where she reluctantly slides over (you can actually see her blushing as she looks off camera at someone who is obviously goading her forward) and hugs him, singing "Wait for me to grow up... Then I will kiss you, too... Then I will kiss you... Wait for me to grow up, then I will love you... too."

And the worst thing about it was that rumor had it the boy was her brother!

Keyboards - Johnny Woode & Tony Edmonds
Drums - Geoffrey Omadeboh
Bass - Willie Nfor
Lead guitar - Yakubu Daniel
Rhythm guitar - Nelson Tackie
Congas & percussion - Patrick Oziegbe
Trumpets - Big John & Robert Ngumu
Saxophone - Becks Abeke
Horn arrangements - Luke Tunney

All songs written by Sonny Okosuns with the exception of "Wings of a Dove" by Millie Small and "Layo Layo" which is traditional and arranged by Sonny Okosuns.

Album produced and directed by Sonny Okosuns.
Album arranged by Ozziddi led by Johnny Woode Olimah.
Download the ZIP , or track by track:

1. Wings of a Dove
2. Don't Treat Me Like a Child
3. Diocha

1. Lagos Town
2. Going To School
3. Layo Layo


John B. said...

There's something universal about this story. A few years ago the kids were saying the same thing about Hilary Duff. Now it's Myley Cyrus!

Comb & Razor said...

not to mention the tabloids' grisly speculation about Britney's chance of committing suicide. you get the sense that they'd totally love it if she ended up offing herself.

Anonymous said...

I know that's right!

Anonymous said...

Nice one.

Anonymous said...

wow. i have not heard this album in about 15 years! my sister is gonna love this. we wore the grooves out of this record!
thanks again for the goodies.

Comb & Razor said...

at times like this, i wish i still used DivShare so i could monitor the downloads... i get the feeling that this will be the most DLed of any album i've ever posted!

Anonymous said...

as you say strictly for the Naija babes...

Comb & Razor said...

ha.... yeah, pretty much!

skateboardj said...

hey man tell me if you've heard of any of these films and if you have any reccomendations. thanks!

Undercover Black Man said...

Fantastic post! I DL'ed "Lagos Town" just to sample (wicked bassline)... now I'll cop them all. Thank you, Comb & Razor.

Now, speaking of creepy... what's with the album title??

Undercover Black Man said...

Got 'em all. Too cute, man! Thanks again.

Comb & Razor said...

wow, UBM... now i definitely would have thought this would be too cutesy for you, but hey... you never know!

(and yeah... the album title did always make me feel some way...)

John B. said...

You know, I wondered about that too. I confess I haven't listened to all of the tracks on the album, but I thought it was referring to the practice of many poor Nigerian families to "sell" children to rich ones as servants in return for the rich family paying the kid's school fees.

Comb & Razor said...

LOL nah... i definitely don't think that had anything to do with it. Yvonne Maha firmly represented the middle class!

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Still, John B.'s suggestion is nicer than what I had in mind! ;^D

Anonymous said...

it is so funny that i got in contact with Yvonne in 2004/2005 via email and we remained friends for a while till i lost all contact due to change of abode. She sure is well and alive in Brazil but aint got nothing to do with music anymore (sad innit?). Unfortunately i can not quote her words exactly but she said something like that was just a kiddy thingy. Anyway, it's a ll good, hope she gets to read this someday till i jam her accidentally Kay Allan

Comb & Razor said...

hey Kount Kay!

i think it's possible that she might have read this, because i kinda sorta got in touch with her via a third party with the intention of perhaps interviewing her...

apparently, she's not interested in discussing her time as a pop star, as it's something she's worked very hard to distance herself from... even using a different name for a while! but she said to let people know that she's not dead and she works at the Nigerian embassy in Brazil.

Anonymous said...

It is quite Amazing!

For quite some days now, I have been ENDLESSLY humming the track "Layo Layo"

So this everning, with my ragout save in the oven, and the Frankfurt skies acting like they are threatening us with a storm, I said to myself "Come on, these days, you can find ANYTHING on the internet" So I googled "Yvonne Maha" and whops! i landed here. I think this is the best day of the first half of this year. Tahnks Razor for taking time to start this discussion.

Yes! I have also ALWAYS wondered if she is alive or not.
Oh how glad I am to hear that she is alive pursuing the 40s. How wonderful!!!

I cannot remember how many times I drew that album cover, made myself clothes that looked like the ones she wore in the videos.

Even two days ago, I was wondering about the lyrics of "Don't treat me like a Child" and the widespread information that the boy was her brother, wondeing if i should tell my husband who is not Nigerian "The Story of Yvonne Maha". as I love to tell him those 80s stories and he tells me how it was with them in Europe, being of exactly the same generation.

Now I know this is not chance.

I will be telling not just my husband.
As a filmmaker, I would love to tell the world these stories MY way...dealing with my OWN emotional ansd social involvement of those times.
So if anybody is in touch with Yvonne, I would love to get her contact.

I am going to come back with my Google blog account and refer to this. I just had to let it out because I have never been so excited in my life.

Thanks Comb and Razor and please could you put up the ZIP file again?

Much warm regards to all you guys and dolls of the 80s


Comb & Razor said...

ahhh... your joy warms my heart, Arisbay!

as much as i love exposing this music to folks who haven't heard it at all, it's something else altogether when i hear from folks who share similar connections to it as me and have stories to go along with it!

ummm... sorry about the ZIP file; i kinda deleted it (along with some others) by accident this past weekend!

but drop me an email at combrazor (at) yahoo dot com and i'll send it directly to you.

Anonymous said...

I have sent you my addy!
:-) So I iwill go to bed now still humming "dont treat me like a child" which hs replaced "Layo Layo" since i found your blog.



Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you sooo much for this post. You will never understand how grateful i am! I played the songs all day yesterday, while shrieking from joy/singing siblings now think i have issues!

Comb & Razor said...

i understand, MsMak... believe me: i understand!

Anonymous said...

You have absolutely made my day with this post. The tunes have me spilling over with nostalgia .. as a 7-year old i couldnt keep miss Maha outta my head and I can comfortably say she was my first proper crush :)

Anonymous said...


I just posted a comment anonymously, but then realised that you make films too.

any chance of a peek at what films you have done? asking cause I am into that as well.

Olu (

Anonymous said...

hi folks,
I am not very sure of yvonne maha's existence, all i want is for her or any member of her family to tell us whether or not she isalive we do not want to know where she is. And for the records the girl who passed away, is yvonne oshokpekhai(shopeka as she is called) if we can take our minds back to to the children's festival 1982 where bendel state(now edo/delta won)we can remember the girl with the snake (aimiuwu).
she was dreaming taking her carrer up and was begining to enjoy the fame and to take her acting carrer serious when she died of abortion in 1986 in benin.
yvonne was a very lovely and loveling friend who was very selfless,but under a lot of peer pressure. and i remembered her 1996,2006 it's 22years now.
And most of the girls who priscribed the pills to her have gone on to living good lives with their husbands and children.
I know this because, i know her(primary and secondary school). may her soul rest in peace.We still love and miss your lovely smiles.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

YVONNE MAHA where are you??? Are you a spirit now? You better be human because one of your best fans want to watch you live with $10000000000000000000. Please show yourself. i used to listen to your song when i was 5 years old and i credited you the most beautiful girl in Nigeria then. You were very pretty to me then. I cant tell what really happen, You just disappeard.

george.duke said...

Thks for this rare LP.Good site and sure good job

Comb & Razor said...

Sure thing, George!

(You're not that George Duke, are ou? haha)

Anonymous said...

Hi Gentlemen and Ladies,

if i have understood you very well, then we actually don`t know the whereabout of Yvonne Maha for now. But i doubt that she is still alive, because she hears about the rumours and she doesn`t come out to say that she is still alive. And what does the nigeria media say about her? I mean they are actually in the position to find out her whereabouts if they want to. Am afraid really, cause in most cases where they claim that someone is dead, it usually turns out to be true. We fans may find it difficult to accept she is gone. But as long as no contrary statement is made from her or her family or the media, then we have to really let her rest in peace. What do you think Razor?

Comb & Razor said...

I believe I already stated quite clearly that I know for a fact that she is alive.

Accept that, respect the woman's privacy, move on and stop trying to perpetuate rumours.

Besides, as far as I know, the Nigerian media has never actually reported her death.

Anonymous said...


Just read your story in NEXT and I have to say that I am really impressed. As a young child, I love Yvonne so much, her sweet voice singing. Remember the guy she was with in Don't treat me like a child? she looks so cute.
I use to tell my young friends that they really did miss out on real music. Lyrics and Rhythm in music died in the late 90s I have to say.

Keep up the good work.

Comb & Razor said...

Thanks a lot! (I didn't even know the NEXT story had been published!)

prose00 said...

Somebody correct me if I'm wrong. But I vaguely recall the actual music video for this song being shot as she rode on a carousel at an amusement park. Right? I almost burst into tears of joy hearing this again after about 25 years :)

prose00 said...

Music video in question is "Diocha" btw. I use to be so jealous of that skinny ass lad in the Bala Miller performance. LOL

Comb & Razor said...

I think the video on the carousel was "Lagos Town."

842218 said...

She's living in Brasil and a good person.

Kel. said...

I just stumpled on dis site n so amazed that Yvonne is alife.I hv alway loved her music n alway feel sad any time i remember her. Can i hv her contact at least to be fully sure she is alife. Kel.

mazi said...

The download links to the songs aren't working, can somebody be a dear and send the songs to me on thanks

mazi said...

Yvonne Maha, wherever you are i think its unfair making people who love and care so much for you wonder what has become of you. Post a video online anything lets know that you are with us. Whoever made up tales against you will be pleased to see that you cowered away and broke abandoning your millions of fans. Whatever it takes just let us know you are okay. Mail me if you like, i was and still am your biggest fan (

mazi said...

Yvonne Maha, wherever you are i think its unfair making people who love and care so much for you wonder what has become of you. Post a video online anything lets know that you are with us. Whoever made up tales against you will be pleased to see that you cowered away and broke abandoning your millions of fans. Whatever it takes just let us know you are okay. Mail me if you like, i was and still am your biggest fan (

The Family Man said...

I just saw this...made good reading. I'm relieved to hear that Yvonne is still alive (or was still alive by the time you blogged this) I hope she still is, please do check!
Why am I so happy? I had a massive crush on her in those primary school days!
As a matter of fact, I might just be responsible for one of those imaginary pregnancies that killed her!! Lol!! But then, you could say the same for most Nigerians boys of our age those days.
Chukwuma Ikonne

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The 'Don't treat me like a child' song just came to my mind a couple of mins ago and I decided to google.I'm so happy to hear 'bout Yvonne after a very long time.I ws in form2 GSS Ilorin(boys only) in 1983 wen d album ws released and we all had a vry big crush on Maha then.Though I neva heard d death rumour but I'm glad is alive.I just saw her on Facebook nd my week is made!!!!!

Olajire said...

It's great to know that she's still doing fine in Brazil, but she really fall our hands here o!
It is painful that she could let go so easily, she was a darling to me. Please kindly upload the zip once again please