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A Contemplation of Nothings (II)

I have been writing this for a long while now. Here goes nothing.

1. "Writing is slow. Music is urgent." — Yinka Elujoba, 2022.

I visited friends in Brooklyn and it was a big highlight of my New York trip. I'm very big on community and I am intentional about inserting myself when the opportunity presents itself. In 2018 & 2019, I used to attend film screenings in Lagos. My hosts would dig through sometimes rare archives and present something to the crowd. The conversations afterwards were quite something. You cannot imagine how thrilled I was that these hosts brought this tradition to America.

I spent two days with them, and I'll be the first to admit it, I have been in a desert. I have always been an artist that created and engaged with art in isolation. This has not been by choice. It was riveting to have these conversations with artists I knew from home. I didn't have to explain context or cultural significance or how a certain taste or preference came to be.

We got to talking about music. I like Asake's Omo Ope mostly because of Olamide, and the use of a choir. I love choirs. But we spoke about the meaning. Omo ope translates to "child of gratitude" but add a little context, I learnt it means yahoo boy. I would have to give context to why it means that too. Another example is Enter the Place by Tuface. We are told to enter the place and have a good time but warned not to look at Uche's face. Who is Uche and why can't we look at Uche's face? Apparently, there is a real Uche. He is a police officer that bus drivers are warned to drive past and ignore, or else he would empty their pockets. Me? I'm easily blown away.

Yinka mentioned that the quickest evolution of language, in Lagos at least, happens in motor parks, garages, ghettos and in recent times, the 'yahoo' community. And guess the vehicle through which this evolved language is dispersed into the world? Music.

Books cannot hold a candle to the cultural impact music has in the now. And abeg, I know this for myself. Writing is slowwww. There is so much marination that has to happen. It is longggggg. A story never ends. You just have to decide when you want to stop. It made me think of the book I have been writing for years now and the socio-cultural issues it tries to explore. All my book can ever be is a stamp of its time. A stamp of the past. It is already disappearing before I write a single word.


But music? A three-minute track, a ten-track album can be done in a matter of moments or months. I'm so jealous. According to Yinka, nostalgia is not strong enough to get people to read. I agree and I'm adding a constantly shortening attention span to this recipe. The world is doomed. Why am I a writer again?

2. If you have not watched the new Doctor Strange, go and do it now. Unless you believe in demons and that they can be transferred out of a screen into your body, that is your cup of tea.

Alamo Drafthouse did well to keep us early comers occupied. There was a compilation of Dr Strange's film and animation history. There was also a short Bob's Burgers theatrical short film, Bob's Burgers Presents: My Butt Hazza Fever. It was excellent. (I'll now be watching Bob's Burgers.) I love excellent things and I could not have known more was coming:

Marvel is a machine at this point, and I know that such a creative corporation would go to any lengths to do things right. It was just very humbling for me and a reminder to double down on the details, not to skip any part of the process. Even if the process is learning a whole new way of doing things (language, skill, culture, etc.) to do that thing right. You'd have to watch the video to know what I'm talking about.

3. I have been waiting for the Netflix release of two Yoruba films that blew me away last year. Ayinla, directed by Tunde Kelani and Prophetess was directed by Niyi Akinmolayan. I loved Ayinla for many reasons and I wrote a review. One thing it gave me, and which I thought could have given more was good music. The rewatch value is priceless as listening closely for the background score in a cinema is frustrating. It gave me Egba by Chief Ebenezer Obey last year. Today, it gave me Onidodo.

According to the internet, the song was originally composed by Fela and His Koola Lobitos. I was disinclined to believe this as there is a version by Sammy Akpabot & His All Stars Band. But then I listened closely to the lyrics, and considering that it is a Yoruba song, I went back to Fela. But then I read it is a folk song. Anyway, the version that however got me was the Unilag Choir version.

What is the point of all this, apart from contemplating about nothing? Cause and effect. Or better still, consequences. I'm intrigued with the main verse. Did the hawker lie about the fight at Laiifiaji to attract a crowd to buy her goods? But the additional lyrics by the choir drove it home:

The landlord angrily demanded his rent

Hence the tenant brought out a cutlass.

The dentist forcefully removed a tooth

So the patient pulled out a knife.

The student bitterly did her work,

And the lecturer gave her zero.

The Yoruba language befuddles me. The simplicity and imagery used in driving the point across is something I aspire to as a writer. I'm that writer that elevates word economy, that thinks the path to a reader's conclusion should be linear. I don't like tricks and gimmicks. If I mean A, I'm going to tell you A. I believe that you c an still create imagery that evokes and a rhythm that sings with less and less. And luckily, I'm a Yoruba girl.

4. I visited the White House and I felt fresh rage for Nigerian politicians. One thing I have noticed about Americans is their sense of entitlement. This is not a bad thing most times. As I watched protesters match to the U.S Congress, I was thinking of October 20, 2020. There were counter-protesters and policemen cycled in front, on the sidelines and behind to make sure that everyone was safe. I took a video. Nigerians have learnt to appreciate crumbs and tokens from their leaders, and an American will tell you that it is their taxpayer's money. I'm not saying U.S politicians aren't corrupt and all the things we complain of Nigerian leaders, but their institutions hold a promise of justice, of accountability. It is something I have never had. The closest I have gotten to Aso Rock was when I was trying to find the venue for my Call to Bar ceremony in 2016. Blame my Uber driver. You don't want to know how that went. I want to be able to sit on the railing of my president's house too. I want to be able to hold a placard up and demand better for myself and the people I love without the fear of getting shot and gaslighted about it after. Is that too much to ask?

5. I got a rejection from a literary platform I really, really, really wanted to be published on.


This particular story has been rejected two, or three times after getting to the advanced review stages. I don't know how to fix it. This rejection sent me down a spiral. I left my life to come and do creative writing. What was I thinking? The publishing world is cutthroat. You have to churn out good work regularly. This requires time and mental space and fortitude. You have to know people who want you are writing. This requires knowing people. There aren't teaching jobs that pay well. The ones that do require two published books or are under contract with national publishing houses. I really came to America to come and write. And unfortunately, what choice do I have but to continue writing? What have I done to myself?

Here is a photograph of me from The Center For Fiction, so that in case I eventually blow (hate the word), I can prove that I have been in this hustle.

Everything good will come. Amin.

6. This is professional begging, but buy me a coffee and support the ministry. T for Thanks!

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