Flashback Fridays: Yvonne Maha the Wonder Kid

Many who grew up in the 1980s will very much remember this talented child singer named Yvonne Maha. She stands for what the perfect Naija child star should sound like back in those days with songs that impact kids positively, not like today's Ozzy Bosco and Amarachi who have no idea about music and constantly have their voices over-cooked on computer auto-tuning, not to talk of the fact that the lame lyrics of a song that's just plain silly stunt for commercial reasons.

Listening to her music, I could still see the professionalism and power of childish purity that had undoubtedly been under adult direction and puppetry. Yvonne's voice is lovely and nice to listen to; a production credit that should go to the genius of the late Sonny Okosun. 

Yvonne was a child star that set the pace for the likes of other Child stars like Tosin Jegede and maybe Benita. I often ask the question where is she today? Rumours have abound about her passing away due to an abortion but the rumours where later discovered to be lies. The same rumour would be noted to have been passed down onto Tosin Jegede as well.   

In my search to find out more about what's up with Yvonne today, I came across this interesting article from Uchenna Ikonne of Comb & Razor:

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. 

Yvonne being interviewed on the Bala Miller Show
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--almostneed--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!

- Uchenna Ikonne

Tosin Jegede is still in the news from time to time. Her pictures are available on the internet so we know how she looks today. But with Yvonne, its been hard getting a photo of her online. 

Tosin Jegede as child star and as adult
In my search for Yvonne's whereabouts and how she looks today, I came across this lady on Soundcloud.com who calls herself Yvonne 'Maha' Okolo (probably now married?). Is she the same Yvonne Maha that touched the hearts of all of us back then now fully grown? Anybody that knows should hit me up abeg.

Is the lady on the right Yvonne Maha?

Looking at her face and that of the young girl on the 1980s album, Child for sale they seem to have similar looking noses and smile but i don't want to fully assume until I get a clearer info. 

I know that if Internet existed back then, we'd have enough info but sadly it didn't so we'll have to demand on humans with first hand information.

I'm looking forward to the day we will have another kid like Yvonne who can really sing without their voices being manipulated by music production software to actually sound good; a kid that can sing songs that have substance and not repetition of lame words and worded sound effects all for the sake of commercialization only. As far as I am concerned, Yvonne Maha, Tosin Jegede and maybe Benita where the actual wonder kids of music; Ozzy Bosco being called a wonder kid is only because he happened to be the only one on the scene making noise like many other clueless artistes today. That's why he could win some award and receive a 'chieftaincy' title. The poor boy is just some adult's untalented cash cow.

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