Tag Archives: Igbo Musicians

‘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.

What an úbò sounds like.

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.

wpid-20140503_083742-1.jpg

 

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!

So I am into Phyno now.

I am always the last to know anything, living in my own head for a majority of the time and all. But last year, I discovered Phyno with ‘Man of the Year’ and I have been asking myself how I did not feel the earthquake that must have happened when he came on the scene.

Phyno: Image from bellanaija.com

 

Anyway, I know now and I am about to give him the same obsessive treatment as I give anything I like. Expect a few weeks of this. I am not sorry!

First of all, I have absolutely no desire to see Phyno without his shirt – and not because I suspect he might look a bit reptilian (he reminds me a bit of all those crested lizards. I wouldn’t want to mess with him). But because I heard him before I saw what he looked like and I do not wish to objectify him, at all at all. You all know I am a bit irreverent but this boy has TALENT in spades. You can tell he is extra serious about his art. Respect.

I have never heard anyone make such mincemeat of Igbo in rap before. He shreds it. He just plays with the language; tossing it out, deftly applying puns, flipping the language on its head like a pancake before he devours it.

Nwanne look into my eyes/ Ego di m n’obu/ Money on my mind/All you need is owe me/Egbutego m the money/Now your chic wish she knew me/A dighi m agbo ncha/But my nigger I do me/ …If you go against me/Ntuo gi down ka alusi. (‘Man of the Year’.)

Brother look into my eyes/There’s money on my mind/All you need is owe me/I’ve eked out the money/Now your chic wish she knew me/I don’t lather soap/But my nigger I do me/…If you go against me/I’ll throw you down like an idol.

Looks simple enough, right? Wrong. Igbo can be difficult to rap in and rhyme which probably explains why not a lot of people are doing it. Those bits in bold are one of the ways you can tell someone who learnt Igbo from speakers because you won’t really find those in books – at least not the first one, which is a reference to male masturbation (frothing, ejaculating). The second is a nod to the Igbo way of showing displeasure in personal gods. In the old days, personal gods who disappointed or did not perform as expected could be disposed of or burnt aka ‘thrown down’.

There’s a lot of English in this verse and in the whole track in general and I for one wish Phyno would never speak English again, but it serves as a modifier for the Igbo, in a way a lot of us would speak it casually. He even calls it by its popular name: Engili-Igbo.

I am not a music critic by any stretch of the imagination. I can’t tell you anything about the beat or the arrangement or anything like that. But I know what I like: poets in any language, people who make language fresh to the ears. In this, Phyno gets my vote.