By Uchenna Ikonne
Berkley Jones Ike, the guitarist of Nigeria’s first Afro- rock group BLO has died in Asaba, Delta state Nigeria on Sunday 28 June.
Jones Ike first appeared on the Nigerian music scene in the mid-1960s, as the drummer in the Port Harcourt-based teen pop group, The Figures. At the end of the Nigerian civil war in 1970, he signed on as lead guitarist in the upstart rock n’ soul band The Funkees, where his adventurous guitar lines got him noticed by talent scouts who instantly whisked him off to Lagos and installed him in the high profile rock group The Clusters.
The Clusters soon morphed into the Afro Collection under the leadership of Tee Mac Iseli and then into SALT under Ginger Baker. Eventually the group splintered, giving birth to Nigeria’s first afro-rock power trio BLO–Berkley, Laolu (Akins), (Mike) Odumosu in late 1972.
While BLO would reign as one of Nigeria’s most respected and influential rock groups throughout the seventies, perhaps Berkley made an even greater impact through his work as a prolific session guitarist, often employed by super-producer Odion Iruoje to inject additional layers of sizzle, sophistication and all-around excitement to records by Ofege, Sonny Okosuns, Kris Okotie, “Blackman” Akeeb Kareem and many others.
Berkley Jones quit the music business in the early eighties and reinvented himself as one of the country’s leading interior designers and architects, eventually as an insightful and wickedly witty Facebook commentator on current issues.
He passed away a little bit under a month away from his 72nd birthday. Condolences to his family, friends and fans. His outsize legacy lives on.