The Evangelist News Edition, June 6, 2023. By Emeka Obasi
The puzzle behind the name Wrinkar Experience, the pop band that popped up in the early 1970s, pumped life into the entertainment industry and pulled out in less than two years is over. Ginger Emmanuel Kamdem Forcha told me the story.
Forcha is a Cameroonian, from the French speaking part but spent good time in the English speaking West, entertaining the crowd. Wirnkar is a name common among his countrymen. He had a buddy, Edjo’o Jacques Racine, whose friend was Maryann.
Forcha said : ” I met Jacques Racine in Kumba. He had a friend Maryann Wirnkar. Then I moved to Victoria ( renamed Limbe in 1982). I was at Atlantic Beach Hotel, Victoria, I was the Chief Singer there. Racine’s band master in Kumba came over.”
The band master, Piccolo, from Central African Republic ( CAR )was carried away by Forcha’s voice and wanted to tap from the gift. The best way to try the singer out, the man from CAR thought, was to invite him to Kumba.
The invitation was like : ” My, oh my, this boy you must come and see my band in Kumba.” Forcha was back in Kumba and watched the band perform. And who did he meet? Racine. His old pal was a member. He listened to them play some tracks in English. A fine performance but they had slight problem with pronunciation.
In 1970, young Forcha found his way to Lagos. Nigeria had just emerged from a devastating Civil War. He settled at Abule Ijesha. Curiosity took the singer out, looking for a place to enjoy music. Empire Hotel was the destination that attracted him.
Geraldo Pino was performing. The new Kid in Town settled down and watched the session. As he sat, his eyes were all over the place, studying the environment and looking out for possible clue that would make the trip to Nigeria something to cherish.
” After some time, I met a group of eight guys. And behold, here was Racine, once again. That was Providence at work. They were based at Excelsior Hotel, Apapa. He said to them, ‘ if this guy agrees to follow us, I’ll play bass guitar’. That was how we left for Apapa,” Forcha explained.
Racine and Forcha soon found a Nigerian, Best Eshalomi, a drummer. The trio teamed up to play together as a band. They had to choose a name to push forward their mission. The Cameroonians thought fast. Forcha remembered Maryann Wirnkar.
” We tried to make pronunciation easy for Nigerians. We moved the ‘r’ after ‘i’ backwards to follow ‘w’. That was how we changed Wirnkar to Wrinkar Experience,” Forcha said as we talked about the origin of the band that fuelled Nigeria with love.
Wrinkar Experience had to expand. Fidelis Bateke joined, he handled the saxophone. Osei Tutu blew the trumpet. Pierre Djelezek was on Rhythm guitar. Another drummer, Geoffrey Omadhebo, was there. Then came Dan Ian, who at the time according to Forcha, was “teaching somewhere, we took him in. He was good, very good.”
Omadhebo was poached from Sunny Okosuns. I gathered from Frank Fyne, that the best drummers in Nigeria during those years were Emma White Nkpoku, Ben Alaka, Mosco Egbe, Stoneface Iwuagwu, Laolu Akintobi, Richard Cole, Tammy Evans, Ricky Mustapha, Mike Collins, Chyke Maduforo and, of course, Omadhebo.
When Wrinkar Experience released ‘ Fuel for Love’, it took them on top of the scene. ‘ Money to Burn’ was another chart buster. The young men were inexperienced. Their instruments were bought by a sponsor who registered the band as part of his construction company.
Forcha said : ” We never got a kobo from our recordings. We were ripped off our royalties. The band broke up after about two years. We changed name to New Wrinkar Experience. We had a show in Aba. Dan Ian didn’t show up. He was unhappy with the sponsor.”
The gig at Frank Owelle’s Unicoco Hotel, Aba helped Forcha. Dan Ian’s absence compelled the Cameroonian to take over his guitar. The crowd wowed. Spud Nathan who played with Dan Ian in the Wings had to walk up to Wrinkar Experience at the end of the show in adoration.
In the beginning, Forcha said he wanted to see All Africa in Wrinkar Experience. Three Cameroonians – Racine, Forcha, Djelezek, one Congolese – Bateke, the Ghanaian – Tutu and many Nigerians sounded like Organisation of African Unity ( OAU ). Feladey joined the band later.
Racine and Forcha continued to forge ahead. They formed Rock Town Express. The group came out with Funky Makossa, released on Ginger Baker’s ARC label in 1974. The track ‘I Want to See You Tonite’ was explosive. The good times faded away and everyone went solo.
Forcha emphasised that “greed killed Wrinkar Experience”. He never knew God was watching. From performing shows, the Most High arrested the musician in a rather dramatic way. It was in 1982, at Zeb Philips’ Aforola Nite Club, Owerri. The American group, Positive Force, was on stage. Again, Geraldo Pino was there. Gate fee was 20 naira, something close to 30,000 naira today.
“I suddenly felt lonely in the crowd. That was around 3.30 to 4.00 am. I said, I was going back to Cross River State. I had relocated from Lagos in 1977. I asked God three questions : ‘Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? I made up my mind to follow the Lord.”
Dr. Forcha is now a church minister in Lagos. His son, Jubal, a music producer, is married to an Akinyemi. Racine has gone back to Cameroon, with his Isuikwuato wife. He is a pastor. Eshalomi is in the US. Piccolo died in Lagos as a Native Doctor. Omadhebo lives in California, just like Bateke.
****@ Saturday Vanguard.