Cardinal Rex Lawson - Sawale (Audio)


Uploaded by planetolusola on Feb 19, 2009

The late Cardinal Rex Jim Lawson (c.1930 - 1971).

Cardinal Rex Lawson Article by John Beadle culled from

Until his untimely death in the 1970s, Erekosima (Rex Jim) Lawson was a standard-bearer of the Nigerian highlife scene whose tunes achieved popularity across Africa. Of mixed Kalabari and Igbo parentage, he was born in the town of New Kalabar in present-day Rivers State, and got his start in Port Harcourt's Starlite Melody Orchestra, led by "Lord" Eddyson.

By 1960 he was leading his own group, the Nigeraphone Studio Orchestra of Onitsha and had played with the "big names" of Nigerian highlife - Bobby Benson, Roy Chicago, Victor Olaiya and others. With his second group, the Majors Band of Nigeria (variously called the "Mayors Band," and in later years the Rivers Men), he scored innumerable hits over the sixties and early seventies, notably "Jolly Papa," "Adure," "Ibi na Bo," and many others. Of these, the biggest was "Sawale," in pidgen English, which has become an African music standard and been remade numerous times by various artists. Lawson's fluency in various languages and dialects has only enhanced his appeal across class and ethnic lines in West Africa.

In the 60s during the thick of the Biafran war and to boost morale of the Biafran people, Cardinal Rex Lawson released an album titled Hail Biafra . Lawson was latter detained by Nigerian Federal Government troops and questioned about this pro-Biafran record: "...He proudly and courageously responded: 'I did the song to uplift the rebels.' Lawson died tragically in 1971 in a car accident on his way to play a show in Warri, Nigeria.

A highly emotional and deep musician, Lawson was known to weep and shed tears while singing his own songs, notably the haunting So ala teme. Lawson is famed for his infectious gregariousness, his musical vision, talent, perseverance and individuality.

After Lawson's death, his backup group 'The Rivers Men' reestablished themselves as the Professional Seagulls Dance Band and recorded several LP's of their own in the 1980s.

His music is loved to this day in Nigeria. His songs are regularly performed and danced at live band shows in Nigeria, and a number of young musicians have resang some of his old hits, and his relevance continues to be felt.


Click for the hit record of this song "Nwa Baby" (remix) by Flavour Nabania.

1 comment


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Takes me back to 1971 when my dad (RIP) got this album. This was my favourite on the album. Playing it on the Grundig Radiogram. Sounds good now just like then. I have already played it 3 time...Ashawo baby, oye! I go tell mama, oye.

Thanks for the post planetolusola


waka waka baby; ahhh the good old times. May your soul rest in perfect peace.


Who is the greatest? Rex Jim Lawson, Eddy Okonta, Osita Osadeybey, Bobby Benson, Celestine Ukwu, Dan Sally Young, Victor Olaiya, Victor Uwaifo, etc! Please reply me. Thanks!

@Markks100 : VICTOR OLAIYA no doubt

@Markks100 : PIONEERS of highlife music; Emmanuel Tettah Mensah (leader since 1948, King Bruce, Jerry Hansen, Stan Plange, E.K. Nyame, Guy Warren, Nigerian trumpeter Victor Olaiya, Nigerian guitarist Bobby Benson. The Tempos exported highlife to Nigeria in 1951, and Nigeria soon became to rival Ghana for highlife supremacy.

Can anyone give a rough trans on this song, am Haitian and my girls Kenyan; she tells me some words are Swahilli. We wanted to know if these words in Igbo mean the same




@computrgreen The song is performed purely in Kalabari (Eastern Nigerian dialect) and pidgin English. The beat itself may have a trans-african flavor, since African highlife music of the 60's borrowed heavily from latin-cuban rythmn popular throughout the continent.


@planetolusola thanks

planetolusola I do not speak Kalabari, but there is enough West African pidgin in there for me to pick up that he is admonishing a wayward girl who has become an Ashawo (prostitute). Corner Corner baby! Wuru Wuru baby! Suku suku baby! I will tell your mom! She will tell your dad! I will tell your sister etc.


@jimbimedia You are right.  I did mention the pidgin english in my original comment.

planetolusola 3 weeks ago


this is the original of the song remixed by Flavour now rulling african airwaves



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