I spent New Year’s Day at my sister and her husband’s place. As soon as I knocked on her door, and she opened, I shoved the New Years cake I had bought for her and her kids into her hands and made a bee-line for the hot pot of oven fried rice still steaming on her Wok pan. Her husband had a keg of cold Heineken waiting along with several bottles of bubbly, Pina Colada cocktails and a few Piat Dors. I was well chuffed. The next door, our neighbours and their kids were lighting fireworks and tossing bangers creating a huge din in the neighborhood.
Never mind, I and my brother-in-law caused our own explosion – we mixed well fermented palm-wine with Guinness Extra Stout to create the biggest fizz and the most intoxicating cocktail ever.
Guests were arriving from both sides of the family. So I quickly served myself another helping of the tasty fried rice so as to stock my belly against any future shortfalls.
Time to break out the music – I checked my host’s music collection looking for Katy Perry, Willow Smith or something for the kids, and some Lionel Richie or Boney M for the older people.
Looking through, I stumbled upon guess what, a Majek Fashek record (remember him?). The light-skinned, dreadlocked, reggae crooner who some people swore was a better artist than Bob Marley or Peter Mackintosh (Peter Tosh to you). I don’t know about that – these same people also strongly believed that Bruce Li was a much better fighter than his “brother” the late Bruce Lee, so one had to take anything they said with a pinch of Dicon salt.
Seeing that dusty Majek Fashek record lying there in a dusty crate right next to a JVC jukebox, reminded me of those old school Charles Bronson action flicks from the 70s, where Mr. Bronson took out hordes of Baretta wielding gangsters with his trusty double barreled shakabula.
Wow, who would have ever thought? I went looking for a Justin Beiber record and found a Majek Fashek one instead? Hmmm, maybe it is not as weird as you think… a future collaboration may be in order. Baby, Baby, Baby, uhhhhhh…..Mama Ma ma yo, Papa papa papa yo, send down the rain .
Then add a bit of Rihanna to the mix too: “ My umbrella , eh, eh, eh…”
We all have heard the sad story; Mr. Fashek relocated to the United States in the mid 90s following a lull in the Nigerian music industry and fell upon hard times, sadly succumbing to drugs, alcoholism and substance abuse. Folks who attended a Nigeria Independence Reunion Concert in New York and Houston were sad to see a bloated, disheveled, man with sunken eyes and a faded skin tone. Never mind that, I am all about celebrating greatness and the art forms.
Well, looking at that Majek Fashek record, made me reminisce like a technophobe grandpa, as I wondered about certain personalities from days gone past – where are they now?
Comfort Okoronkwo – With her “Pacesetters novel” style low cut mini afro and mischievous smile, she was a fixture at many programs on NTA in the eighties. This short haired light skinned lady was popularly known as the hostess of the Friday children’s birthday party show on TV sponsored by Beecham the makers of Ribena (Ribena children are healthy children). It was every child’s dream to be invited on to the show to celebrate their birthday along other kids of the same month.
Parents were so desperate to get their kids on this Ribena birthday party that some forged birthdays, one even lying that her daughter was born on February 30th to get her daughter into show. By any means necessary. Boys were dressed up in ill-fitting velvet suits and shiny pointed shoes with the trousers jumping and white socks showing, for the “Michael Jackson” effect. Don’t laugh, today it is about the preppy look due to Kanye West’s influence, but back then everybody wanted to be like Michael (Jackson, Jordan but not Tyson when he started biting ears). Girls wore frilly dresses, Mary Jane pumps and white pull up socks. Fashion designers back then didn’t care for kid’s lines – thank you Gap Kids for today!
Ms Comfort made the children dance, she made them sing, she harried them, she disciplined them, she distributed their presents to them (Ribena, Math-set, Olympic Exercise book, pencil, eraser, Bazooka “ching-gum” etc); she also showed up on TV in the evening network news to us.
She was very single back then, and had the lips of a cigarette smoker. However she was a dedicated entertainment icon who deserves over-due recognition from our society for brightening up our television screens during the dark days of the military eighties. Long before Dominic Sasche and Ryan Seacrest, Nigeria had TV anchors multi-tasking in a variety of roles. Today we look at presenters like Denrele and Adaure Achumba, who are hailed as celebrities in their own right, but back then Comfort Okoronkwo was doing the same and more – presenter, newscaster, anchor, hostess, sister, auntie, icon…Where is she now?
Mobi Oparaku – Nigeria’s own Roberto Carlos (except without the long career or bullet free-kicks) Tenacious but vertically challenged, this right fullback represented Nigeria during the France 98 world and had a couple of caps for the Super Eagles team.
Many football analysts have opined that he was technically excellent but could not sustain a career in Europe due to his lack of height. He wasn’t much taller than M.I., you see.
In fact, Spain’s strategy during Nigeria’s first game at France 98 was to win ball through Fernando Hierro from the flimsy Garba Lawal and cross vertically to Mobi’s flank on the right side of the defense hoping to feed Raul in the air – in fact peep Raul’s goal (Spain’s second one). He neatly controlled a diagonal cross from upfield, which had swerved way over Oparaku’s head like he wasn’t there, and in one neat movement Raul volleyed it past the flapping Peter Rufai in goal. There wasn’t much Mr. Oparaku could have done to win the ball in the air before Raul got to it – this was a David and Goliath height contest. Besides, the last time I checked Mr. Oparaku played football, not basketball.
Mobi’s popularity with sympathetic football fans who lauded his effort and doggedness on the pitch is epitomized in a popular incident during the Owerri riots that is now an urban legend. As the rioters made up of ordinary citizens of Owerri town took to the streets smashing up properties and cars during the infamous Otokoto saga, they set upon a house.
The lynch mob started smashing the house, and getting it ready for burning when someone recognized that a Mercedes S-Class parked inside belonged to Mobi who lived in Owerri as a child, owned properties there which he visited when he was back home from Europe. Apparently, he had parked his mint Mercedes car in someone’s house as his own garage could not contain it. The mob were about to burn a house when they noticed Mobi’s car parked, and so they dragged the car out of the yard for safety, before blazing down the house. Ah, football stokes the fires of neighborliness and patriotism in Nigeria. Ok, bad joke.
Pretty of Junior ‘N’ Pretty: These rapping duo dropped critically acclaimed magnum opus “Fufu Flavour” a 5-mic masterpiece which was the first rap album ever released in Nigeria to my knowledge. The album featured five star production, witty lyrics and incredible story telling including popular hits like “Monica’, “O Gini” and “Onye Police’. I bumped that album on my dusty Sunny transistor until the Maxell tape popped, and then I used cellotape to salvage the cassette too.
Junior N Pretty showed imagination, wit and superb rhyming ability unmatched in Nigeria at that time. Peep some of the lyrics from “Monica” (a song about a crazy girlfriend) which was their first hit single:
“I buy Monica Maltina, she think say e be blood tonic/ She come dey ask me how many spoons she go take for morning.”
I remember seeing both of them – very down to earth chaps – walking down a street in Surulere with their shades, corn-row plaited hairs and chunky rings. Unfortunately a music career in hip-hop didn’t pay as it does now. Everywhere they went, they were respected, and “Fufu Flavour” bumped on every cassette player from Lagos to Gongola States.
Sadly, the dreaded sophomore jinx didn’t evade the group as a relatively disappointing 2nd album followed their first release with the song entitled “Bolanle” being their first single.
Junior passed away some years later, and Peter is believed to still be involved in entertainment as a producer. If Nigerian Music Industry ever thinks of a Hip-Hop Hall of Fame, then Junior N Pretty should be recipients of the first award. Many rap artists in America have released part 2 or follow up versions of hit albums from their catalogues with vary successes. Chef Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan recorded Only Built for Cuban Links 2 in 2009, and Jay Z had Blueprint 3 (from which Empire State of Mind was a single).
How Nigerian hip-hop could do with a Fufu Flavour 2.
Abiodun Baruwa – Fleshy fringe Super Eagles goal keeper during the pre France 98 era. In a pre-world preparation cup friendly match against the then Yugoslavia, Baruwa ended his chances of being selected for the final WC team, when he made gross error. Receiving a back pass from an under pressure defender, Baruwa who had time and space to play the ball out, tried to dribble Pedrag Milhatovic the opposing striker who was on hot form at the time. Pedrag stole the ball from the flapping Baruwa whose pudgy physique always made him look clumsier than he really was, dribbled the goal keeper, and scored. Yugoslavia 2, Nigeria 0. Advantage Yugoslavia.
The Nigerian commentator kept on blasting Baruwa throughout the rest of the game. Besides why are Nigerian commentators not able to project their neutrality by covering their frustration during football games with other nations? You catch them saying things like the striker placed the ball in the “roof” of the net past Peter Rufai. Or Rigobert Song is on song against the shameless Nigerian team again. Or the Indomitable Lions of Cameron are plucking the feathers of these flightless Super Eagles.
After that Yugoslavia game, Baruwa never won another cap for the Nigerian team. Where is he now?
Evi Edna Ogoli – Alas, the original Bende(l) woman ( the ‘L” in Bendel is silent when people from Edo and Delta states pronounce it). Goaded by her music-producer husband, this ballad crooner churned out song after song in the 80s and early 90s in both English and her native Isoko dialect.
Dark and smiley, her most popular song was “I want to wish you Happy Birthday”. Celebrant kids of nowadays can request Chris Brown’s “Deuces” all they want, but back then no birthday party was complete without this song. And back then, you didn’t have a choice – your uncle was usually the designated DJ at your birthday party, and he invariably loved Evi Edna Ogoli. Not only was he going to eat most of your birthday rice, steal your cake, and corner most of the distributed “presents” for his delinquent kids, he was also going to enforce his music taste on you at your birthday.
“Happy Birthday” was played and you the birthday girl/boy were made to do the Running Man dance step to it, cut your cake to it and play birthday games like musical chairs with your guests to it.
Her singing style was very slow and folksy, but back then nobody was complaining as she got immense radio-play and popularity.
Where is she now though?
Barbara Soki – This baby faced beauty was the Genevieve Nnaji of her day. She graced many TV sitcoms/soaps like “Mirror in the Sun”. She was not the best actress, but she had a great screen presence. My only thing with her, as was the same with most viewers, was the accent with which she spoke – her “phonee” was indeed legendary. I mean you had to strain your ear to listen to catch her words, or turn up your TV volume. And turning up your volume was not always easy back then as most volume knobs were nasty and rusty.
It was a blend of Queens English, Nigeria English with a Bayelsa twang. She was the first person I heard say something like “That is not the issue” pronouncing the word “issue” without the “shhh” (something like “Evisu”).
In present day Nigeria, nothing has changed. I have heard many variations of fake foreign accents from both repatriates and those have only travelled when they watched movies or foreign shows. Nothing ever prepared me for the most common fake accent in Lagos right now – Lekki-British.
Ms. Soki, wherever you are, I hail o.
Mama and Papa Nothing Spoil of the Charlie Boy Show – These “couple” were hilarious. They were a parody of an agony uncle and aunt who gave advice to any callers or letter writers from the TV audience. People would phone in or write letters about their relationship problems, health issues or any other matters bothering them and “Papa and Mama Nothing Spoil” would give them the most ridiculous solutions ever.
My favourite one was when a lady called to complain that her husband of two years was a bed-wetter, who urinated on the bed every night when they slept. The woman said she was frustrated as she had tried many medical solutions, including even making him use the toilet immediately before bedtime, but to no avail.
Papa and Mama Nothing Spoil calmed the lady down as they proposed a lasting, fool-proof solution to her husband’s anomaly.
They said: “Make you go meet those people way de rent tent, and tell them say you wan buy trampoline. Make you collect the trampoline go give tailor; make the tailor use am sew tight pant for your husband. Make your husband dey wear this trampoline pant sleep for night.”
Well problem solved, with no side effects.
The duo disappeared with the original Charlie Boy show, along with very funny Alarm Blow. Comedic history, people. Long before Basketmouth, we had basket cases in the form of comedians in this country.
Uche Ibeto – Her alias was The Jigida Queen, named after the band of coral beads she wore around her ample sized waist. This gap toothed light-skinned woman of bulky proportions spurned Nigeria’s first traditional dance instruction song “The Jigida Song” with infectious chorus; Nigerian viewers were stunned when they watched her instruct audience saying:
“Round one, open your legs, put your hands on your hips like this, and go left and right, left and right, go ligi ligi ligi ligi ligi ligi ligi cha! cha!”
All this sing-along occured as she shook her bum, beads and all in a furious seductive manner.
Oh my daze!! Children everywhere loved this video and the song became quite popular because of the manner she instructed the bewildered audience how to do her dance. Yes, way before American artistes were trying to teach us how to do the “Stanky leg” or “the Ricky bobby” or before Artquake tried to learn us a new dance through the retarded “Alanta” or Olu Maintain ordered us to “Yahooze” , Uche Ibeto tried to instruct us to shake our butts in a frenzy.
It is one of the shames of my life as a junior – I will confess that before I learnt the art of cool, I once did the Jigida dance (but without the beads off course). I also once tried to do Soulja Boy’s Superman, so maybe I can get a pass.
I never attempted the “Alanta” though. Somehow, something about it reminded me off a lunatic battling a bad case of craw craw.
Unknown name –The guy that sang “Molue/Lagos city transport…/
I am sorry I cannot remember his name, and Google could not help me, but what an ode that track was to our world famous bus system – the mighty, gravity defying Molue.
Aunt Nkem – the woman who told the stories on Tales by Moonlight – Every Sunday around 4pm, children everywhere in Nigeria would tune in to NTA to watch this warm middle aged lady illustrate stories perfectly as wide-eyed kids in the studio audience gathered around her taking in her every word.
To begin her stories she started with the words “Once upon a time…”
“Time, time…” the kids chorused.
Aunt Nkem would then start…and the scene would now fade to an acted script with human actors, animal costumes or both. The animal costumes were nothing like Sesame Street or Fraggle rock though. The lion looked scary, but not because it was the King of the Jungle or a carnivore – nah, it was cross –eyed and had gnashers instead of canines. The elephant costume was not any better – its tusks and trunks faced opposite directions making it look like a cross between an octopus and a rhinoceros. The 7 blind men from Hindustan would have had problems identifying the elephant.
The stories told were usually folk tales and native lore laced with a moralistic undertone espousing the repercussions of disobedience, stealing or telling lies, which were never lost on the fearful kids in the audience usually in the 6-10 year age bracket.
After Aunty had concluded her story telling she allowed a brief question and answer session during which the children asked questions or made postulations regarding the just concluded folk-tales. Some of the questions went like this:
“Aunty, Aunty, Alero should never have disobeyed her parents by going to the river on the day of the festival. Now she paid the price for disobedience.” Rivers were nothing to mess with in village tales .Look at what one did to Mungo Park even.
“Aunty, the rabbit may have been faster than the tortoise but the tortoise was more intelligent and won the race. Intelligence is better than speed.”
All to which, Aunt Nkem would nod happily to as she agreed with them.
At a story-telling session at the NTA studio, I drew her ire when I made an unsolicited statement during the Q & A time. “Aunty Aunty, I would like to be an eagle when I grow up.”
“Why?” she asked sweetly.
“Because they catch a lot of chicks” I replied cheekily, looking at the girls around me with their cute “periwinkle “plaits.
I was not invited to the next taping session the following week.
Thank you Aunt Nkem, for over a decade of stories.
And thank you my dear blog readers for your readership since last year.
Some things are forever, some things are not/
It’s the things we remember that gave the world shock/
They stay in a place in your mind so snug/
Nas (Can’t Forget about You, 2006)