I have decided to write the man in the video below and ask if he will give me online tutorials in playing the úbò. I have always loved its sound and thanks to my mother, I now own one. It’s the calabash-looking instrument.
But first I am going to treat the gourd and the wood with oil over a few weeks to make sure it does not crack further, to help it last long and give it a good sound.
The ogene I will clean and oil as well. And after that, me and the Tot will spend an afternoon finding/whittling the perfect stick to play it with. Such fun!
Clearing out one of my storage drives and I found this. It’s not been edited so forgive the typos. I hope you enjoy it.
Sister P is speaking in tongues, roboscattering outside my window again. She is a creature of habit, is our Sister P. Every morning, five o’clock. Three claps, as if she is about to make an announcement. She starts singing in voice swollen with feeling. She sings Chineke Nke Igwe and My Lord Reigneth Let The Earth Tremble and You Are Worthy To Be Praised and Ikwesiri Ekwesi and ends with Who Is Like Unto Thee, slowing the tempo as she launches into prayer.
She used to travel the length of the street, punctuating her devotions with the kpom-kpom of her block heels. Now she just stands under my window, clapping and stomping.
Being a light sleeper, those three claps used to wake me up and irritate me so much that I would tie my wrapper and rise to confront her. But Sister P would act like I had water in my mouth.
“God bless you, sister,” she would say whenever I started on her. And she would get the beatific look on her face that you only saw in religious paintings. Perhaps it only looked that way by the yellow glow of her swinging kerosene lantern, golden light shooting out from between her hands like Jesus. Maybe it had to do with how I saw myself compared to her besuited form; bare knees, bed head and nipples piercing through the thin wrapper. She smelled of Zest soap whatever the hour. I smelled of body. Whatever it was freaked me out. I left her alone. It did not do to be seen as a troublemaker, especially when one was new to the neighbourhood. But trouble just finds people like me naturally I guess.
I expected trouble when I had the burglary proof door installed on my front and back doors. I expected trouble from my neighbour who tutted at me when I took my bath in the late afternoon. I expected more trouble after the big fight I had with Sister P’s evangelical team after they accosted me on my way back and started preaching loudly at me. But none of these compared to what was coming, when trouble came with an apology and I foolishly invited it in.
Trouble snorts loudly and buries itself deeper in my covers. I feel the heat from its fart on my too warm right leg. My left thigh is out in the cold. I try to steal some of the covers back but I am distracted by the change in Sister P’s tempo. She is entering a new prayer section.
I know Sister P’s prayers by heart now. From Praise to Worship to Binding and Casting to Grace. When she speeds up, I feel the blood in my veins surge. I tap my fingers to the sounds of Bs and Rs bubbling up and boiling over the fire of her tongue like hot yams. Her lips tumble one over the other to create sounds which have already exploded into being in her mind. Sister P does not play. She is forceful with God. Commanding even, as if she wants to stupefy the almighty, shake him into coming down and manifesting his power.
Sister P prays as if God is a thieving houseboy who has stolen something she needs returned.
“Show them! Show them that you are God. Show them that you will not be mocked!” she screams.
I can hear her pacing, clicking her fingers. Each time she clicks her fingers, another demon is despatched to hell. I click mine, almost involuntarily. Beside me Trouble flings a leg over my body, and continues its whispery snores.
Sister P’s voice calls up scenes in my mind; strewn bodies of witches charred by Holy Ghost Fire, bloated wizard corpses, the mangled eyeballs of evil which would no longer be turned upon her family, broken teeth of drinkers-of-blood littering her verbal pathway. Destruction everywhere. All Sister P’s enemies blown away by the glory of God. Carnage. Apocalypse.
“All my enemies, die, die, die. You will come one way and you will be scattered a thousand ways.” She is screeching so hard that her voice breaks. My louvres vibrate. It is as if she has put her mouth directly to them. I clench my fists and try to stop my body shaking. It will be over soon. In five minutes, the thanksgiving Hallelujahs would begin. Then there would be morning and evening on another day.
If I was God, I would have listened to Sister P by now; she wouldn’t even need to shout. Sister P is short and beautiful. Thick hair, no make-up or jewellery. Smooth, smooth skin. From the side she is shaped like S for Sunday. Any woman would count herself lucky. Not Sister P. She starts on her list of demands. It is a long list.
I turn my pillow over, preparing to savour the cool, cool underside on my next phase of sleep. Trouble is drooling on my pillow. I run a finger along his Cupid’s bow. I feel warmth implode inside my chest. I tap the ankle draped over my hip. He bolts upright.
“Trust you to sleep through that noise,” I say. “You’d better go home. Your wife is at it again.”
He always is useless in the morning. I shove his back to get him moving and turn over, burrowing under the covers.
“And leave better money o, not that nonsense fifty-fifty naira that you took from collection.”
I cover myself up and drift back to sleep.