By Yusuf Balogun Gemini
Growing up as a kid, the only thing that kept my head on after a terrible day in school was the availability of power supply. That alone quells all form of discontentment as the confidence genuflects that a long evening of Yoruba movies is assured. I grew up catching memorable fantasies of Osa Eleye, Koto Aiye, Eran Iya Osogbo and their associates. Despair would be clearly written on my face on evenings when NEPA refuses to supply light and Baba feigns refusal in powering on the generator. I’d sleep with an eye open, my only prayer then was for a miracle to happen and a Yoruba movie suddenly pops out of darkness.
My first encounter with Segun Akinlolu (Beautiful Nubia) was when I watched Tunde Kelani’s The Narrow Path. One thing that kept me glued to the movie asides from the cultural idea was the sonorosity and retainment of indigenous tones even in soft lyrical, soul lifting compositions. It still beats my awe if the song “Ikoko Akufo” was composed by a human! The thrills of Awero and Lapade are ones I will never forget in a lifetime. Coming from someone who grew up amid herbs and roots, nothing could be more tantalizing than fading realities coated on the pigment of suiting drama and divinity match made as music. Even after watching the movie for months, the song was one I couldn’t easily get off my head despite the fact that my voice would not make a songbird fall in love with me. The experience was short lived however because I never came through the song nor the musician for days, weeks, months and years. The trend of then was the oozing blares of “Ori e o foka si ibe” combined with “Lorile, o di gobe” and finding a way to rest in the pieces of Eedris Abdulkareem’s Jagajaga.
The things you love will always come back to you, so they say. Before I clocked twelve, I found myself stumbling on Beautiful Nubia’s Jangbalajugbu — not on the big screen this time around but somewhere in the blaring speaker of a disc jockey in my community. Jangbalajugbu is an antique, listening to it again now that I’m very much open eyed; I see myself eloping into a world of freedom. It amazes me how Beautiful Nubia was able to paint truths coupled with exhilarating memories of infancy yet on the surfaced simplicity of musicals. Perhaps, this brings me back to recent conversation with the always enthralling Abebi of the Lagidigba scenery — in persona of Olaitan Maryam Mojisola. Amidst her resounding humoristic words, “One would pet, cuddle, chastise, shout, play with them from morning till dark”, I find the never dying embers of Jangbalajugbu burning out again. Perhaps, that’s the magic of Beautiful Nubia’s music.
All through my early stages of life, I’m forced to probe no one in particular but as an inquisitive non cynic, I wonder why I’ve never seen the man behind Ikoko Akufo et Jangbalajugbu on the screens nor came across his music except on occasional moments. But as the saying goes — “if you ask me, na who I go ask?”.
I came to a point in my life when I had to dig up the mask beneath Beautiful Nubia via the global village. And for the first time, I saw the face of the man whose music constantly hits up my childhood dreams from becoming nightmares and every shades of him spelt being true to the color of the roots yet retaining passion even when at loggerheads with the concocted dishes of the society. I created a world of my own with my phone, downloaded all his accessible songs online from Ikoko Akufo, Seven Lives, What A Feeling, Kurunmi is on the Way, Ife Oloyin among innumerable others. As I built a cave of his songs within me, the urge to meet the indemni constantly bites me, pushing me to break the barricades of my wall and put a call through to the legend, just as Ajan would beep up Abija at wills. How sweet it’d be to have the sorcery of Dagunro and appear before the legend at beck. Weird thoughts, crazy imaginations — what prophecies in form of music does. But prophecy is not for mundane minds, silence itself is the best form of music. Segun Akinlolu is not a musician, he’s another form of healing.
November 12, 2017 — it was a dream come true, it was a fraction turning whole, a bruise healing without ointments. That evening at Ikeja, his smile professed it all and the ringing alertness of his voice transports memory still. It was the most magical moment before dawn or perhaps, that was dawn. The ado of not just meeting the legend but performing my art before him and sharing a common stage with him — that is paradise. That very night at Eniobanke Music Festival, I sank into a world of the Nubians at the very echoes of Segun Akinlolu. The king commended my art, gave blessings from his heart and gave a hug in all his majesty.
Now, I find myself pinned in this trance and I discovered that nothing has really changed from those memorable moments till now. Beautiful Nubia is still Beautiful Nubia and the Nigerian music industry is still what it is — the misery of spraying millions as tickets to watch a music concert turned a galore to rape ladies at the very loose end yet grudgingly disapproving worthy music. That tells us that the music of Beautiful Nubia is of essence, for those who sees and read meanings, for those who decipher relevance in scrolls, for those who notice the whispers in trumpeting, for Atobatele IkeOge and her accomplices, for that boy drunk in the immortality of seven lives and drown in pools of mysticism. And I now find a mutual meeting point for Olaitan Maryam Mojisola of Lagidigba and Beautiful Nubia of all era(s) — “writing for histories not moments”.
The disapproval of a recorded section of the Nigerian audience to Beautiful Nubia’s music is only a re affirmation that he’s in reality all shades of common dynamism — air, water, fire and sand. But no matter how we try to deify Beautiful Nubia, it all comes to the fact that like every other, Egbon Segun is human. Some days, I would uncover the several miles covered by him every time he embarks on a pilgrim to the distant land of an African nomad’s soul. But for now, let me shut the door against wars and cringe on my mind to musical poesy of the mind, soul, heart and body — the artillery to fight these dark, inner wars yet light as a wool but rending every bit of you and I. These songs are prophecies and prophecies ain’t meant for mundane minds — remember.
Yusuf Balogun Gemini is an award winning page and performance poet, cultural enthusiast, publicist, critic and traveller. Honored as Youngest Yoruba Oral Poet by Voice of Yoruba Youth in 2017, he has four audios on the release and recently dropped his debut Yoruba poetry video “Lagidigba”. He has his poem featured in “84 Delicious Bottles of Wine”, an anthology edited by Onyeka Nwelue and Odega Shawa in celebration of Prof. Wole Soyinka. He has also co authored an online anthology “I HATE LOVE STORIES” and has graced several stages within the country. He’s the winner of Ask Ifa Poetry Slam 3.0 and a finalist at PIN Yaba Maiden Poetry Slam. He believes in one stage, one substance.