For Fela Anikulapo Kuti: Memories of you

by Ikhide R. Ikheloa

First published in Next Newspapers, November 20, 2010

There are days in America that wear the beauty of a well-tended garden, every image in its right place, days created the night after goddesses loved and rocked their lovers to blissful restful sleep. On those magical days, I always go for a walk. And my friends come with me, strong voices of Africa, spilling in song out my iPod. Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Miriam Makeba, Sunny Ade, Osita Osadebe, Ebenezer Obey, Rex Lawson, Celestine Ukwu. Prince Nico Mbarga. Victor Uwaifo. They follow me, our ancestors’ son, wearing a blue suit and an attitude, trailing all these people staring at my weirdness.

The guttural sounds of the spirits of Lagos gush out of Fela, Abami Eda, the Weird One. My senses threaten to implode from the torrent gushing out the eaves of Fela’s motor mouth. Alagbon Close. I am the son of my ancestors dressed in the other’s blue suit. I am dancing, dancing, dancing, in my head as Amebo my iPhone shivers with delight.  Listen to those drunken horns strutting high attitude. Fela is perched deep in the orchestra pit of the dispossessed taunting privileged thieves. Hear the horns honking at thieves, mooning bastards:“Now listen now! Now listen now! I dey do my part, I be human being like you like you! I dey sing I dey dance, without me you nor go happy at all at all. Now listen!”

Roforofo Fight. At home, my laptop Cecelia is fueling her breasts with tomorrow’s juice cells. I am feasting on food, rice and designer stew and Jumoke Verissimo’s book. I Am Memory. Hear Verissimo purr. I love this owner of words. Me, I am worshiping in temples where words dare not go. Oh, Fela. Fela is on a roll. Overtake Don Overtake Overtake. ODOO  Hear horns spreading attitude on the antiseptic fields of Babylon.  And I miss my mother, Izuma of the stout bush that cannot be felled. I should be dancing with my mother under that canopy.

American morning. Air, crisp, freshly minted, eager to please, still nippy. Me, hands in winter jacket watching our sons.  Soccer. Little boys bounding out of pods of infinite energy, going at soccer balls and dreams. Our teenage daughter Ominira, snapping pictures that will die on Facebook.  Fela rises out my iPod, sassy. Alu Jon Jonki Jon. Sweet delicious lunacy. Pure genius! Life is good today in Babylon as Fela rides me to that magical place that grows hope out of the oven of defiance. Suffering and Smiling. In Babylon. Fela. Palm Wine Sound. Fela. We are stalking the mean streets of America’s neighborhood, speaking truth to power. Fela. Trumpets strutting denial, horns sobbing, strings snickering justice to injustice.

Fela. Priest, summoning spirits from termite mounds.  Palm Wine Sound. Horns sobbing. Suffering and Smiling. Hear the guttural voice of Abami Eda calling the dispossessed from the latrines of despair. Come and dance. Come and dance. Alu Jon Jonki Jon. Lagos comes calling, with roasted plantain and groundnuts. And trumpets taunt the meek, loosening timid limbs under broken lamp posts.  Tight. This is genius. Listen to that, just listen. Grab Fela and dance, just dance. Today. Who are you re? I say, who are you re?

Winter in America. Snow. White. Wet. Slippery. Me, sober; got the groceries, forgot the cognac. Me, lucid, bored. Fela, Weird One glares out our window, in his underwear, longs for sex & sax. Kalakuta Republic calls. Our sons and other cubs roll the snow brown, building igloos and dreams. In the white plains of America, Olokun cradles our sons, and hands the bigoted bifocals. We did not ask to be born; we will not beg to be saved by this narcissus. Fela, Abami Eda, where are you? Sango’s horn sobs thunder to Ogun’s flash of iron rage. Dance with me. Life is good.

Fela. Monday Morning in Lagos. Joy blares out of horns. Genius. Jazz. Smooth. Raw. Guttural. Words of the oracle chase the cowries of divination on the streets of Ajegunle. The arrangements are pure joy. Lagos lives amidst the horns and the shakara. Pure water. Pure genius. Life is good. Joy. Save me. Christmas Eve. Fela, sassy sax building Lagos brick by brick in our living room. Yellow Fever. My lover and I are busy building a bukateria in the kitchen. America. Exile. Home. Exile dulls her pain on cognac, now my tongue has fallen hard for plump American peaches. Nigeria. I miss Akara junction. I miss my little brother grinning at me as I spend his Naira on long-lost delicacies. Africa calls but it is great to be home with my very own clan and Fela. The seasons are changing. Make wherever you are home. In the beginning, Orunmila made Fela. Esu gave Fela big balls. Orunmila covered Fela’s balls in pants of fire, handed him a sax and said: Go forth and multiply. And Fela complied for once in his riotous life. Oh what joy. What a riot. Abami Eda is up there in the pantheon of imps, suffering and smiling. I miss you, Baba.