Is My Name Okolo Too?

In the Summer of 2015, I met and briefly befriended an interesting and pretty British-Nigerian lady in London for a couple of months. She was a focused intellectual type and an ardent seeker of knowledge. She was introverted and I extraverted. For some inexplicable reason, we had a lot to talk about. Unexpectedly, in September 2015 she announced to me she had gotten a scholarship to study for a PhD in the USA and promised she was going to miss me. That was the last I saw of her and her company. Despite having spent so many hours talking with her about a variety of topics, we never exchanged surnames. It was a sincere Platonic relationship we had.

She returned to the UK on the 25th of July 2019 having completed her PhD and decided to immediately visit her one-time talking buddy. She had bought me a book for my birthday in 2015 and thus remembered the day. She bought me another birthday present, a high capacity pen drive for 2019. The present had a tag which read, “Happy Birthday, Gret Okolo xx, From ***** ******”. This was quite amazing besides my full appreciation for the gift. Okolo is a common name among Delta Ibos but not the Urhobos, I am an Urhobo.

I had to ask her why she thought my surname was Okolo. Her answer was both simple and apt. She explained that when she used to visit me for discussions in 2015, she had observed different guys who came to my flat call me “Okolo”. This was the highlight of my birthday. It made me laugh uncontrollably and after a while, she laughed along with me. It was then my turn to explain to her that my Brethren usually called each other Okolo. She sharply countered my remark, stating she never witnessed me call any of my Brethren, Okolo. She was right. I usually called many of my friends back then “Guynes” or “Akpunwa.”

Life is full of unexpectedness, great and trivial. For four years an acquaintance of mine had thought my name was Okolo. This simply because I did not reject it when my regularly present Brethren used it to address me or catch my attention. “What’s in a name?” is now a much bigger conundrum than I used to think. Well, I have put the thought in a capsule for now and curated the memory.

 

Grimot Nane

Paramole Returns on His Birthday

 

Saturday the 25th of April 2020 was cold and blank in the Davy Jones Locker. A few sailors had passed through the rendezvous to the other side after becoming victims to Covid-19 and other causes but this Saturday there were no forgone sailors arriving. For the first time in my experience there, a special case of forgone reversal occurred. The Great Door had open and solemn song could be heard accompanied by restrained okombo [drum] beats. I became very concerned and might have tricked myself I was not scared. The Great Door only opened when a sailor was about to cross the Great Gangway. Why had it opened without a forgone arrival? I began to hear footsteps, they got closer and a man emerged, Paramole himself. About 7 feet away from me he stopped. His face was listless. I was frozen all over with amazement and he did not seem happy to see me where I was.

Saturday the 25th of April 2020, was his birthday; Paramole a.k.a. Ayo Odebisi would have been 64 years old. Due to my proclivity for formality, I first wished him, “Happy Birthday.” I wanted to hug him but he stopped me by firmly saying, “Don’t!” “Because I passed on you left the fold, he queried. I said nothing. “And because I passed on the fold is splintering asunder”, he added. This time I responded, “that is true.” “I know you have a lot to say about that. But I don’t want to hear it. You and your crapious Association, how dare you!” I said nothing. Continue reading

Okpan Arhibo: A Traditional Kind of Disco Music

When Manu Dibango invented disco music with his phenomenal hit “Soul Makossa”, besides the breakbeats, jazz and soul influences complete with saxophone, trumpet, drum kits, bass and lead guitars, piano/keyboards and other western musical instruments that made it the big success it was within the New York music scene and later worldwide, its central sensibility as was developed and perfected, came from somewhere. Africa. Subsequently, Fela, Osibisa, Mariam Makeba, Hugh Masekela also working within the breakbeat, soul, funk, and jazz found instant fame and recognition as innovators in the world music scene and “Afrobeat” credited to Fela soon became an international art form with a strong legitimacy of its own.

Traditional musicians like Okpan Arhibo who remain true to the source Manu Dibango had astutely appropriated to create a new music phenomenon did not achieve either international fame or massive mainstream commercial success simply due to their tenacious fidelity to the purity of their art form. Some may classify such fidelity to traditional music as timid, unadventurous, retrogressive or impervious for a creative artist. Such a conclusion is both uninformed and premature. When Okpan Arhibo came out with his seminal hit “Catch Fire Dance” by the turn of the 8th decade of the last century, he had in one go changed the style, approach, spontaneity, and permissiveness within the Urhobo nation and the wider Wafi (Warri, Delta State) arena to music and dance. We must remember till Okpan came along with his hits, Urhobo youths who were desperate to be “civilised” (westernised) had resoundingly rejected the traditional music form. It was Okpan who made Urhobo music totally acceptable to the youths; his music found the restless youth and turned them. Continue reading

Black Spots and Human Rights

No punishment has ever possessed enough power of deterrence to prevent the commission of crimes. On the contrary, whatever the punishment, once a specific crime has appeared for the first time, its reappearance is more likely than its initial emergence could ever have been – Hannah Arendt

When punishment becomes too common or an overused resort, it indicates a poorly governed organisation or institution that can do no better than wield a stick to cover up the open corruption of its leadership and its day to day affairs. The more the rotten the organisation, the more the punishment meted out to its members. Punishment thus becomes the best way the organisation or institution secures impunity from its very own corruption and decadence. Some organisation uses Black spots as its primary method of discipline and punishment within while simultaneously claiming to be “defenders of human rights” without. Continue reading

A Death In A Dream

I had a dream last night that I had died while dreaming. Then nothingness, Okuku [total blankness]. It was all over, no points of return feasible or imaginable. However, when I woke up this morning, and found that I was still alive, fresh and sexy [Gbogborogbo!], I almost went unconscious with the shock of surprise. The unconsciousness that one recovers from I have tasted endlessly and it can be pleasant but not the one which felt permanent as in my dream; sleep, ethanol induction, general anaesthetic and over-high fevers, I have all woken up from but it seemed impossible for me to do in this dream. I have never been knocked out in all my many fights, though I am no longer a youth. Continue reading

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