‘Without Sin, There Is No Forgiveness’ – a love song by Celestine Ukwu

My love for Celestine Ukwu is well documented, so I shan’t begin to gush about how his melodies soothe my soul, how the lyrics to his songs are full of meaning, of Igbo philosophy. How it harks back to a time I would probably consider simpler, an assessment with which my parents might disagree: ‘Love your neighbour’, ‘The enmity of a friend is dangerous’, ‘Don’t do bad shit,’ ‘The world doesn’t belong to you alone so share it well,’ and so on.

Anyway, this morning I was writing a short story (in fact I am still writing and will return to it once this blog post is done) when this song popped into my head. My story’s about this woman who plays Igbo music whenever there is trouble in her household. At first she starts with playing one of Chief Osita Osadebe’s hits but soon she segues to Celestine Ukwu. She’s a typical Igbo woman, in my view. Not great at talking about the softer parts of life, but very vocal about the hardships and her disappointments. And so, she lets the music do the talking for her.

In this song, he narrator starts by pleading with his lover, Adanma not to leave him. “The two of us will leave together, Adanma,” he says, although that’s a transliteration. In English it will be more like “Please say you’ll stay with me.”

‘Adanma the woman in my heart won’t let me rest

Adanma  my friend whom I love won’t let me sleep

My love whom I have in my heart won”t let me rest

My friend whom I love, take my heart away

Adanma whom I have in my heart, take my heart away

Take my heart away, Adanma whom I love,

Take my heart away Adanma whom I carry in my heart

Take my heart away, Adanma please don’t leave me

Etc etc etc. A lot of begging, backed by sweet music.  Then:

What have I done that’s caused you to run away from me?

What have I done to make you angry with me?

Whatever it is, please forgive me

If there is no love, there will be no forgiveness.

Please come and embrace me, Adanma

Ah. I am not romantic or sentimental but this music sits in the soul and washes it clean with its tears. If I were Adanma, I would have agreed with a quickness that would make your heads spin!

I wish the whole world spoke Igbo because I cannot write down the lyrics in their entirety. But trust me, they are very sweet, heartfelt and even a little sorrowful. Because you know Adanma is an Igbo girl and she DEFINITELY did not agree to forgive him. I can imagine her now, her eyes sharp, hand on her hip, mouth twisted in disdain.

“Is music food? Are words meat? What, am I now supposed to eat music? Mschew! Nonsense. My friend zuz out.”

Chai. Why are Igbo girls like this?

Enjoy the music! Tell me what you think in the comments section.


‘Mami Wata’ by Zoumana Sane, Senegal. Photo: Don Cole.

Although Mami Wata have long co-existed alongside man, many of us have never encountered any of these sea entities before, seeing as they choose to remain in their territories – apart from occasional forays on land.

However, with the recent influx of these Wata migrants coming in from polluted oceans and seas, there is a greater likelihood that much more of us will meet a Mami Wata in our lifetime.

The manual below attempts to provide some sort of framework for addressing any personal Mami Wata encounters one might have in the future.

All links included within the article, below, are fully functional.


Woke up today with ‘Body Language’ playing in my head.

So, I have a confession. All my life, I’ve wanted to be on stage. ALL. MY. LIFE.

I’ve done amateur stuff at various stages of school and actually got admission to study Theatre Arts in university but chose something else because I felt I was betraying my father by not doing medicine and the compromise in my mind was a more ‘serious’ arts degree: English  in the end.

The urge to perform has only died in the last few years, but I don’t know, can dreams die, or are they simply put on hold? Each year I tell myself I should try to go up for character roles or extra roles, take a few community classes or improv classes and/or tap dancing or just fling myself into it…something! (Although I think I am more guarded now, and quite reluctant to visually emote.)

This is the woman who started me on the path. Lydia Grant, aka the dance teacher from the popular Fame film and subsequent TV series, aka the almighty Debbie Allen.

“You’ve got big dreams. You want fame. Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying. In sweat.”

These words till today, have got the ability to induce mania in me. They’re so powerful and can be applied to just about any facet of the creative process. I have the DVDs, the soundtrack was my ringtone for a while and my playlists are full of Fame songs such as ‘High Fidelity’, ‘Starmaker’, ‘Hot Lunch Jam’, ‘Be My Music’ and ‘I Sing The Body Electric’.

From age two till about 14, I wanted to be Lydia Grant.

My sisters and I would perform wall sits until our thighs felt leaden. We’d wear our one-piece swimming suits – lovingly packed for us all the way from obodo oyibo, even though there was nowhere in which to swim – don leg-warmers (ditto) and prance about pretending to be the kids from Fame. Sometimes, we tucked out dresses into the leg bands of our underwear and that worked just as well, although one kept having to stop and re-tuck, particularly after a challenging bit of choreography (for me, the high kicks were murder. I was a plump kid).

I cannot tell you how many times I hurt myself. Once, I slipped on the carpet and banged my bum on the floor so hard, I could have sworn my I compacted my spine. I’m still convinced that is why I am the shortest in my family. I’d hide the injuries because even though my mother encouraged the dreaming, the one thing she did not condone was injury or damage to property. But these were the days before the proliferation of ‘Do not try these at home’ warnings. Besides, who would have listened? Not me. The whole point to Fame was sowing the desire to try it at home.

Long before Lady Gaga came along to popularise the term with her album cover, long before Save The Last Dance and the abomination of the Fame remake (according to the reviews. No true ‘Famecicle’? ‘Fameite’? ‘Fame Fam’?* would see it. I certainly didn’t), there was this TV series that told us that we could be whatever we wanted, do whatever we wanted and that is was OKAY to want it as badly as we did. AS LONG AS YOU WERE WILLING TO DIE IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE IT.

Lydia Grant and the entire cast of Fame (et vous Coco, et vous!), thank you.

* What is the collective noun for a group of Fame fans? Answers in comments please!

P.S: The name of this blog will be changing soon.