Fela, Brymo and Lagos

Music is beyond sound. For me, music is a medium through which the mind reflects upon difficult things in simple rhythmical ways.

In Africa, the function of music is beyond its aesthetic value. For instance, music is usually integral to the success of a ritual. The content or lyrics of the songs are steeped in wise sayings and usually pass across moral messages.

It is well known that most contemporary Nigerian musicians do not practice this function even though they are aware of the point that music in Africa is beyond “art for art sake” alone.

I will not bother you with the history of music in Africa or Nigeria. I will just discuss Fela’s “Monday Morning in Lagos” and Brymo’s “Eko”.

 

‘Lagos’ is a spectacle that attracted  Fela and Brymo at different points in time. Lagos, also known as ‘Eko’ has its capital in the city of Ikeja. It is a city that is host to about 20million people and is the official economic capital of Nigeria. The city is known for being the site to witness both intense pleasure and poverty. The current governor of the state is Governor Akinwumi Ambode. Due to an increase in rural- urban migration, there has been a reduction in the agrarian mode of life among the people. Banky W in “Ebute Metta”, Olamide in “Lagos City”, and others have sang about the city of Lagos. However, my focus is on Fela and Brymo’s view of Lagos in their songs.

Lagos

Fela in the song “Monday Morning in Lagos” lives in a kind of Lagos that is ruled based on mood. Each day lived in Lagos has a specific kind of mood. People’s attitude to you depends on the day of the week you find yourself in Lagos. For instance, Fela sings that a landlord that doesn’t want trouble from his tenant will not ask for rent on a Monday morning

Regardless of the mood, be it calm, tense, festive, there is still one quality that cannot be taken away from Lagos which is its rush and restlessness. It is this haste that Fela embodies when he sings,

Eko o ni gba gba ku gba.

One would expect this kind of Lagos that has a “mood for everyday” to pass with time, especially considering when the song was sang. But when one listens to Brymo’s “Eko”, the beginning of the beat ushers one into the high-life of Lagos. However in Brymo’s case, he is more concerned with the part Fela refers to as the “relaxation mood” for any individual in Lagos-that would be Saturday and Sunday:

Satiday la fin da ti ba ba l’ eko,

Ojo Sunday, la fin m’ oti aye…

Brymo underscores the point that for one that does not take caution during that mood of relaxation in Lagos, such an individual may regret the adventure of relaxation in Lagos. A consequence of this mood is usually the temptation to splurge. For an individual who doesn’t apply discretion, he may regret his actions the following day. This is what Brymo suggests as he pleads to Eko in the lines,

Eko, no let me go.

He pleads to Eko not to let him splurge and forget that the next day is a working day.

Essentially, these two musicians  warn about the danger of throwing caution to the wind in Lagos city.

If you plan on visiting Africa on a holiday, take a trip to Lagos and visit the African Shrine. That is the historic site where Fela used to stage his protest songs in the 90s. Do not get lost in the city; I would love to get your feedback on Lagos. Wishing you a safe journey. Hit the like button if you found this post useful and do not be stingy. Kindly share with others.