Funke-Treasure' s Blog
With a smashing ‘come ye’ photo from Ayinke Martins on Nigerian Pride this week, what more could anyone say? My fear however is that contrary to her instructions, I have muddled up the photos and might have ended up with a nice photo of hers that she has not approved off.
A sunny afternoon in May, 3pm precisely, the day’s work had been wrapped-almost ,my make up melted ,a testimony that I had earned the day’s pay, Ayinke arrived for her interview on Nigerian Pride and off we went to studio E at the Broadcasting house, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Interviewing Ayinke was a delight for me-we had a chemistry going and it was such a struggle not to make two editions of the interview. Forthcoming and without airs, the daughter of a retired diplomat who schooled abroad reminisced with ease and laughed heartily, sometimes at the early days of her career in retrospect.
Ayinke is a jazz artist; she actually does African gospel jazz, her coinage really
Born in the UK and educated there and so quite articulate and well spoken. My singular disappointment is that’s she can’t play the guitar-for my selfish inability to show off with knowing someone who does the guitar because I once tried learning and abandoned it myself.
She was a marketing manager with Nigeria Airways for 12 years so she is not exactly young. Music is an international language and only the self assured try the more difficult genres of classical and jazz music; audacious Ayinke chose jazz, I don’t mean the voodoo substance that dibias in Nigerian home videos concoct but the music she learnt from industry greats in jazz---Sarah Jewel, Ellena Channel who trained the likes of Shirley Bassey, George Micheal and other big bands.
The striking thing about Ayinke is the fact that she has surrounded herself with the authentic atmosphere of a Yoruba woman in modern day Nigeria-I observed to her that for someone into Jazz music, her name Ayinke would have given way to some Natasha, Nicole, Samantha and so on ;her company ,Ajeji music would have been named Butterfly Productions given the sophistication of the UK environment where she grew up; and then her songs would have had the sophistry of Welsh and English culture given her education. She had a good laugh yet emphasized that she was proudly Nigerian without apologies too.
She has tracks like Labalaba, Niresa and Aiye n y’ilo in her CD. I have suffocated anyone who cared to take a ride in my car with these songs especially ‘Niresa’. Why? Because I am tickled by the fabled son of ‘Aresa’ who eats ‘moimoin’ (bean) pudding with horse meat as accompaniment amongst other intriguing things, that endeared him to most maidens.
Thankfully, these non jazz enthusiasts-my captives, admit that the tune creeps on you so that you suddenly find yourself humming it.
Back to Ayinke, with such an open spirit, I ended up giving Ayinke a gift of a mini book by a distinguished Nigerian Pride, Prof. Wole Soyinka as we made light talk after the interview because Ayinke is such an ‘encourager’. You know what, weeks after she responded with such a precious gift that would be dear to me for a long time to come.
Thank You Ayinke.
Last line -Make sure you don’t ask for a ride with me if you are not prepared to be either be a convert or disciple of Ayinke’s brand of afro gospel jazz coz it’s still hot on my list.
Save the threat however and hunt for a copy when it hits the stores sometime this year, trust me, you would be delighted.
Out in the Woods
That I am in the Netherlands, courtesy of Radio Netherlands Training Center is no longer news. Quite expectedly I should make a few adjustments about culture, food and lifestyle. This is obvious.
These are the specifics. Chief amongst the variables however, is the weather. It has been most unpredictable. The other variables? Hold on; let me share my adventures with you. “The adventures of Souza” documented in the same titled book is nothing compared to the drama that my life has now become.
In my first one week, I had not only been lost in the wood but have been escorted home by the police. Please it’s not what you are thinking! My penchant for being at the centre of the unusual had put me in a very definitive and conspicuous angle. Perhaps I should hint you that I was the first to arrive in my specific group; my flight arrived about an hour earlier, that left me alone at the School in Amsterdam for quite sometime. Others started arriving after I had spent one hour forty-five minutes at the open space.
We arrived Bussum and checked in at Bastion, the guest house would be home for us for the next six weeks.
The national carrier of the Dutch completely spoiled me with lots of eatables during the flight.
Back to Halverson.
The adventures of Treasure started the day after the opening ceremony. Bus drivers were on a strike. The class of twenty stood at the bustop for a while, then some of us decided to take a walk. The RNTC was not too far away actually.
Joyce then Brajesh, Jega, Evelyn then Jose Tembe, the West African ladies took a cue and followed behind. Joyce, one of the three ladies from Kenya led the way-she had been to RNTC for a course once-she thought she remembered, things went awry when she took a false turning.
We followed any way but we were nowhere near. Then we met a man by the mouth of the woods, we knew not how to speak Dutch, unfortunately most people knew Radio Netherlands by its Dutch name- Weredomrop. We learned the unfamiliar word just yesterday as it were.
Anyway the kind man who spoke broken - English eventually directed us through the woods. It was our best option; we were completely off the track.
So on a cold windy Tuesday morning with inappropriate shoes we made our way through the woods of Bussum hoping to emerge at RNTC. The first lecture was to start at nine thirty. It was a structured time table; one class lecture would dove tail to the other. Our anxiety was palpable.
When we thought we were done and that the next turning would be short, it went on endlessly. When the Dutch tells you to go straight and turn left, its not far, you’d better be girded; it’s much farther than you may think. I guess, because physical fitness is a way of life for them.
It was a long winding walk indeed. We went through different emotions, Laurene; the Ghanaian was laughing and crying at the same time, the guys had grim faces.
Eventually we came out at the back of RNTC, one and a half hours after our infamous journey and thirty minutes into the first lecture. That journey should have been twenty five minutes
Mercifully, Peter Van de pol waited, eight of us were missing as it were. Speculations had gone on ahead of us concerning our whereabouts. We were dubbed the woods group, all eight of us.
I was not done with this unexplainable knack and propensity for drama.
Kelly from the Philippines decided to wait with me seeing that I was traumatized by yesterday’s walk. After 50 minutes of waiting however, Kelly and I became agitated. Would the bus arrive at all, how do we walk back without getting lost in the woods again? We had no Holland SIMS in our phones. Then we saw an Asian on a bicycle.
They tried to call Halverson bus station to know what was causing the delay…there was subtle questioning going on, then Kelly said under her breath “why don’t they take us?” They heard the whispering, so they asked us into the patrol car and took us down to Bastion Guest House in Bussum.
It was the first time I was in a police car in more than three decades of my life. Kelly and I could not stop laughing all the way, we were laughing so hard, tears streamed down our eyes. We could imagine the faces of our colleagues when they saw us coming out of a police car.
ASA’S CONCERT BY FUNKE-TREASURE
Hello folks. The month of May has been busier for me in many ways.
What has however caught my fancy and which I can’t but share is the review of Nigerian Pride- Soul music crooner, Asa’s concert in the UK recently.
The writer/reviewer –Wilson Orhiunu is my friend and probably the only Nigerian that has attempted Mount Kilimanjaro - now don’t begin to ask when and how, because that is another story.
I published the story behind the climb in Guardian on Saturday about two and half years ago, when I was a columnist for the Nigerian daily.
Any way first thing first, here is the review of Asa’s concert in the UK.
Just like an assassin, Asa goes for the heart.
And so here I am waiting for the show to start.
Ben Onono starts off the concert with his song Badagry Beach. The packed room at the Carling Islington Academy went through the motions.
They clapped at the end of each song Ben offered never losing sight of why we were all gathered here in North London on Monday the 12th of May. Well, we came to see Asa and see her we did.
About five minutes past nine she came on. We heard for a few minutes the opening lines of 360 before we saw the spectacled singer come on. Then the great wrestling match began. Sections of the audience knew every line, every single lyric, every Oohh! And every aahh! It was reminiscent of the great wrestling match in Chinua Achebe’s novel “Things fall Apart”, between Amalinze the Cat and Okonkwo.
The fight that was described as the fiercest, since the founder of their town engaged a spirit of the wild for seven days and seven nights.
The audience, which had under gone a metamorphosis into Amalinze, (with me as the eye brow) tried in vain to out sing the singer, but it was all futile.
Like a slippery fish, she proved too hard to pin down. We all enjoyed our defeat as it soon became obvious that with Asa, Things Fall Together.
She took control and with the aid of her well rehearsed band had us all eating from her hands (on her terms).
360 had that catchy room. “Will be waiting” initially used by Youssou N’Dour and Neneh Cherry in their 1994 smash hit 7 seconds, a song which sat at No 1 for 16 consecutive weeks in the French charts at the time.
The whole audience would let rip every time Asa led us down that road, will be waiting! ™
This became a pattern all night; all of the songs had a part, which everyone joined in.
Asa oozed star quality, and it was nothing to do with make up or clever lighting. She exhibited that rare quality of someone whose spirit was big enough to reach out and touch others.
Soon the whole show blurred into one unique and pleasurable experience. Her next song, Subway had all singing, “..Mama told me be careful, if anybody tells you I love you ohh oh..” ™. I just cannot get that tune out of my head. And I wasn’t the only one. After the show as we trooped down to the London underground, those who had just left the show were easily identified.
They hummed or sang with a spring in their step. It was like taking drugs (not that I know anything about that).
Fire on the Mountain (My favourite) was dropped next. I thought of when I stood on Kilimanjaro in all its 5,895m of glory.
I became a child again, running and singing in primary school- there is Fire on the Mountain, run, run ,run! It was so liberating. I began to get that feeling of being in a group therapy session. No seats, little lights, everyone standing cosily close, too close if you ask me, as I found my hands accidentally striking the softer parts of the female anatomy as the dancing got hectic.
In the end I had to lift my two hands up and jump. The song was done well.
I felt Bob Marley, Fela and Nina Simone come to life all in one go in the vocal chords of Asa. I thought of the similar grooves on Gabrielle ™“When a woman”. It was Things Falling together with Asa. Her songs, to borrow the words of Chief Zebrudaya, “penetration deep down to lubricate whiter”.
Almost like the washing of the soul with that sweet detergent of music, the cleansing of debris off the brain’s memory cells with the pure flowing waters emanating for a truly gift conduit; the ultimate brain washing.
Then came a song about the virtues of telling the truth. “E ro o da..” the song went. This song was not on the album.
Two ladies went on stage to sing with her. Prior to that she had teased her audience rotten by asking for volunteers to join her on stage.
I got flash backs to primary school, when we all struggled with outstretched hands to tell the teacher the answer. Me teacher. Me! We all had hands up in the air. Me Asa, me! I found her comic timing impeccable.
She was funny with talent and none of that verbose slap stick gra gra that passed as comedy nowadays. She communicated well with the crowd.
It was a joy to see. Her use of language and facial expression were excellent. She didn’t just fill the stage, but filled the whole venue.
Next was Awe. The wrestling started again. As she built up to start the song (with the story of a boy and his lover), the audience could wait no longer and started having fits of premature singing (for want of a better word). Awe!
By 21:55 hours it was Peace. Yepa! For the ones not yet born. Next came Jailer.
The band excelled here. The groove had that kind of infectious base line that would easily feel at home on a Dr Dre jam. It felt like a big fat juicy beat was walking slowly downstairs with attitude.
You just have to stand up and dance (did I just say stand up? This was a no sitting venue, thank God for strong legs!). Jailer went down very well.
We sang..ntori omo..lo ji ya ni ile oko¦(hope I got the spelling).It was so moving.
She took a bow and left the stage. Awon boys and girls no belleful o! Few made for the door but I hung around. Then she returned and gave us Jaraâ. First Eye Adaba then a song by Nina Simone before doing Natural Mystic by Bob Marley.
Then we were treated to a freestyle medley of Fire on the mountain, Jailer and... Mo ti gba gbe sha! Babawilly was rocking too much to remember anything after that.
Big up to the band.
Did I tell you I won tickets for the show by entering a competition on Gospel tonight with Muyiwa on Premier Radio? Sky TV 968? Well, I have told you now.
Finally big up to Cobham Asuquo who is credited with some of the production work on this album. Na you biko!
That is my offering for you
Meanwhile think Nigeria!
Nigeria’s Pride, Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soykina is in the news again.
I am still quite smitten by the childhood memoir of the sage. He is my muse. When I feel uninspired and dry as a writer, all I need is to read a few pages of “Ake, the childhood years” – bang! My creative juice begins to flow again.
The Nobel laureate has a penchant to make statements political or otherwise on issues or events of national importance.
“…The history of the black people is paramount to me. This is because the history of Africa has not been told by we black people but rather it has been told through the eyes of other people who use it to suit their own purposes”- Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate.
I trust the integrity of the Nobel laureate-when it comes to matters of putting history in the right perspective. Besides for long, as an authentic daughter of the Yoruba nation, I had thirsted for the original and authentic version of “Kiriji”
This is because of the inherent major disadvantage of oral tradition. History based on an individual’s retentive memory is subjective. It is therefore heart warming to me to read about the project.
Well so much about the Nobel Laureate-have you read his book, Ake?
I expect your mail. It’s more fun when you share your thoughts with me too.
The New Form of Racism
II was editing an interview to be aired in a future edition of Nigerian Pride recently. In the interview conducted in the United States , Ken Okere –FRCN’s Director Corporate Development and Communication ,the interviewer , asked the Nigerian in Diaspora if he had ever experienced racism in the US -now that is a favourite question of Ken.
Normally the interviewees share a personal experience with him but nothing prepared me for Mr. Alex Ikefuna’s dramatic response.
His story goes that he was passed over for a promotion to the post of a director by his employers and he went to court. The judge told the guys involved that they had better prepare a good case-it was a statement pregnant with meaning.
It just so happened that while going through one of Nigeria’s dailies, I chanced on an article written by a Nigerian brother resident in London. It was titled “Wasting destiny of African Migrants to the West”-Daily Champion April 9, 2008.
Taju Tijani, the writer was described by the daily as a social and afro-centric scholar that lives in London. What I enjoyed most about his article was his description of the new kind of racism in UK presently.
Comrade Tijani says “….poor and jobless lower class whites blame the influx of illegal migrants as the source of their misfortune. Homeless whites blame illegal black migrants as the source of their sleeping rough on the streets. Old conservative whites shake their arthritis-damaged fist at the poor, underclass blacks as the cause of rising crime waves in their neighbourhoods. . .”
Even more thought provoking is the phrase used by Tijani in which he says “The ‘us and them’ syndrome is the new racist currency”
Meanwhile I gathered also from the article that the Mayor of London, Mr. Ken Livingstone has publicly acknowledged that proceeds from slavery underpinned the transformation of Britain into the kind of paradise it is today.
The citizens had better be re-educated then to stop perpetrating this new form of racism-whatever happened to being global citizens. More importantly he that sows reaps-our forefather’s sowed tears and blood and died along the way, in hundreds albeit thousands to make Britain wealthy. So please leave the latecomer reapers alone!
So what do you think? You live in the Diaspora? Share your experience of discrimination as a migrant with us here. Think Nigeria.
You can contact Funke-Treasure by sending an e-mail to email@example.com for your comments.
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