Omotola Jalade Ekeinde recently embarked on a tour of America which no doubt will introduce her to a new demography of fans – Nigerians living abroad, African-Americans and a white audience too.
Nigerian entertainment, to its credit, has become a product that can be sold and exported. Aki and Pawpaw are well known stars in many African countries of the world, one with a national honour to boot.The other day I was shown a picture of Genevieve sitting front row with Nike Oshinowo at the Arise Fashion show, and I could have closed my eyes and imagined i had seen the one of the Olsen Twins with Blake Lively at a Marc Jacobs event at NY fashion week. Oh Arise, O compatriots. It is ironic, because a good decade or more back, I was getting some ice-cream at a joint on Adeniran Ogunsanya, and saw Victoria Enyeama there, but nobody in the place “sent” her.
So it is obvious that there has always been a cross-transfer of cultures between Nigeria and America. We have had African-American artistes come here to perform at concerts and also for social causes. Monique attended one of Genevieve Magazine’s charity balls for cancer. Lionel Richie, dripping wet Jheri curls and all, performed at the ThisDay Awards some years back, and I laughed my head off watching pot-bellied Nigerian politicians shuffle their agbadas to “All Night Long”. Not to forget the stars who have graced this shores for various concents – Rick Ross, Busta Rhymes, Nas, Jay Z, Beyonce.
Some foreign acts have even collaborated with our own stars. Snoop and D’Banj remixed “Mr, Endowed”; Tuface featured R-Kelly (at least on paper). Sound Sultan even brought Wyclef on stage at Rhythm Unplugged a few years back, while some other chaps even got Busta Rhymes to speak a li bit of pidgin English lingo “so tay”.
Not all collaborations – musically, artistically or physically - have been endearing. Eedris “ Jigirijigiri” Abdulkareem nearly pummelled 50 Cent to a pulp on a Nigerian aircraft, while Kelly Rowland was overwhelmed by the Abuja heat and fainted on stage.
I remember the time Naughty By Nature came over; Treach threw his jacket into the crowd at concert in Benin and before it reached the ground, it had been torn into little pieces as some of the hard guys there grabbed for it. The group also heard a knock on the door of the hotel room, and saw a posse of hardcore Benin guys there – they had to settle with forex.
Some wealthy Nigerians have brought in American acts for private functions too. My sister went for a wedding in 2008 where Boney M performed for the couple, one of the songs they sang ofcourse was “ Money, money, money…it’s a rich man’s world.” How apt.
Joe was also hired by another monied individual to serenade his bride in Nigeria. In fact I hear that a member of top 70s and 80s band Shalamar currently resides in Nigeria permanently
It may have started with a trickle – people would tune into Cool FM back in the day to hear Dan Foster’s voice on the radio. It was either that or Kenny on Raypower. Back when I was in university, there was a girl whose claim to fame was that she was dating Dan Foster, a fact which she crooned into anybody’s ears the first time she met the person. I guess she was a foster-child.
The transfer of cultures has not always been through the medium of music, film or other kinds of social entertainment. Unfortunately, since the days of the Cross Altantic slave-trade, citizens of modern day Nigeria have been going to America or the New World ( when it was known as such).
Before then, in the 15th Century, one of the great Obas of ancient Benin sent his son to Portugal to learn their language and cultures so as to enhance trade relations between the two nations. This is the first recorded instance of a “Naija” person in diaspora, so as you see Nigerian folks have been ‘janding’ for a long time, but they didnt have any airs about it. Some repatriates could learn a lessson here.
During the slave trade, a good number of people were taken from West Africa including the coasts of Lagos, present Niger Delta and coastal areas facing the Bight of Biafra. Badagry sea-port was the Murtala Mohammed airport of its day. Instead of seat-belts on the airplane, the maltreated slaves had chains. Instead of airhostesses, the slaves had task-masters and cruel ship-masters and crew-men. There were no airplanes back in the slavery era; rather they had huge wooden ships which were poorly ventilated, dark, and put the slaves’ lives at risk, I see not much has changed between now and then –I could be describing Badagry and the slave ships, and still be referring to Murtala Mohammed International Airport and the state of Nigerian aviation.
More about that next week.
And slaves taken from territories in Southern Nigeria also had an impact when they got to oyibo plantations in Yankee.
In the bestseller ‘Roots’ by Alex Haley, it was mentioned that newly captured Igbo slaves led a revolt against their owners, many of them committing suicide by jumping into a river rather than being recaptured. Igbo Kwenu! O di kwa risky.
Sometimes I look at some black Yankee celebs, and notice that by mannerisms and physical attributes, some of them could pass for Nigerians. We all know a few with Naija roots, and even Naija names. Chinwetel Ejiofor is a good example – look closely at your favourite black musician or actor, you could see your brother, sister, kinsman or tribesman. And no, Halle Berry can never count.
Yoruba is said to be the second most widely spoken African language in the world, second only to Swahili apparently. I dunno, with the number of Igbos in Houston and Singapore it may be hard to say ( I have heard Igbo spoken in Germany as well). But then it is probably true because no African-American has to my knowledge, ever named their child Ebonyi or Okija; Yes you are more likely to hear names like Kenya or Taniqua, or even Oludara (Nas’s middle government name). Please nobody, especially African Americans should ever name their child Congo or Bakassi – African renaissance or not.
Forest Whitaker, the ‘Last King of Scotland’ actor reportedly has an Igbo parent and came to Nigeria to trace his roots some years back.
Ike Turner beat demons out of his wife. If you watch the movie “What’s Love Got To Do With It” starring Angela Basset, you would have hated Lawrence Fishbourne even though he was just playing a character (Ike Tuner who physically abused Tina Turner throughout their marriage). Someone once told me a name like ‘Ike’ Turner, sounds like a typical Igbo wife-beater. Me che onu biko.
Seal and Sade have Yoruba roots – Sade is from Ekiti state, my friend tells me. I somehow can’t still imagine her swallowing that white stuff though. Pounded yam, not cocaine.
I believe Seal’s Naija roots based on his looks alone. But then people lied about Shola Ama being from Nigeria. Chamillionaire has Yoruba parents and his real surname burtresses that fact.
Being the Giant of Africa, and a populated nation, we had to bear some unfortunate indiscretions due to our size. Whenever a black person commits a crime in a Western country, he is presumed to be Nigerian until rebutted, and some nationals of other African countries sometimes lie and claim that they are Nigerians when they fall foul of the law. So we will have to take the good with the bad. Since everyone else likes making us the fall guys, we should also claim the success stories too. Could the following African Americans be closet Nigerians or decendants of Nigerians taken abroad during the slave era? They look it, and I don’t doubt it one bit.
Don’t care where you come from/
As long as you’re a black man, you’re an African/
No mind your nationality/
Peter Tosh (African, 1983)