A Song for Reassurance: Okpan Arhibo Verses

Oruru ro w’egbedere ko taghra

Oruru ro w’egbedere ko taghra

Obor ri guono ughwume ‘sonobrughwe rovwo na’a

Obor ri guono ughwume ‘sonobrughwe rovwo na’a 

 

Oruru ro w’egbedere ko taghra

Oruru ro w’egbedere ko taghra

Abortu ri guono ughwu r’Okpan ‘Oghene rovwo na’a

Itu ri guono ughwume ‘Oghene rovwo na’a 

 

Translation:

Threads that don’t pass [through] the eye of the needle tangle

Threads that don’t pass [through] the eye of the needle tangle

The hands that wish Okpan’s death, the Creator will not allow their wish

The hands that wish my death, the Creator will not allow their wish

 

Threads that don’t pass [through] the eye of the needle tangle

Threads that don’t pass [through] the eye of the needle tangle

My peers that wish my death, God himself will not allow their wish 

My peers that wish my death, God himself will not allow their wish 

Interpretation: the “eye of the needle” represents the vulnerable point of one’s existence which, when compromised, can cause expiry, sudden death (cf. Achilles Heel). The eye of the needle has no specific location in the physical or spiritual selves. The “thread that tangles” represents an ineffectual weapon, physical or mental, the tangling means failure. The only thread that can pass the eye of the needle and cause expiry has to be ratified by the Creator for one’s expiry to occur. However, the defiant declaration of will or faith by the target is that God will not grant permission for weapons such to be effectual. Fortitude!

The song presented and interpreted above is one of reassurance, sung in Urhobo and perhaps useful in many other cultures. Every culture and subculture have their aggregate ways of dealing with a crisis or misfortune at the collective or individual level. A common approach to handling the nastier side of life is a song. Songs can augment inner strength when perhaps nothing else can. Reassurance is something everyone needs sometimes. When things go very wrong for a person, his or her heart expectedly cries for something that is supposed to help, mend, soothe or end the adversity or ordeal encountered. Whether you are doing the singing or some else is, or you hear it electronically, songs can give the reassurance that things can and will get better. If you are a Christian it can be psalm or hymn; if you are a Hindu it might be a chant such as Maha Mritunjaya; if you are a Muslim it could be an anashid; if you are an atheist it might be a secular canticle; there music for everyone in need.

I once was in a very terrible relationship in the mid-1990s; a time when I was still finding my feet. Trust me, bad relationships and heartache have the effect of making people far more philosophical and sensitive than they usually would be. Renditions from the Great Music Song Book gains your attention in ways you would not imagine; the near-mystical “present moment” that always eluded you becomes your closest companion offering you clarity, unsolicited. The surfaces of lyrics would disappear, leaving precise meanings that resonated with your innermost parts until they become one frequency. At this particular time in my life, one song stood out for my interest. It was a gospel-fused instrumental jazz track with a spoken word intro titled “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” by The Cannonball Adderley Quintet. The intro by Cannonball reads;

“You know, sometimes we’re not prepared for adversity. When it happens sometimes, we’re caught short. We don’t know exactly how to handle it when it comes up. Sometimes, we don’t know just what to do when adversity takes over. [chuckle]. And I have advice for all of us, I got it from my pianist Joe Zawinul who wrote this tune. And it sounds like what you’re supposed to say when you have that kind of problem. It’s called Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.”

I heard these words in the morning on the radio via the Jazz FM channel, and by afternoon I had purchased the album from Ray’s Jazz Shop, then on Shaftesbury Avenue, West End, London [closed down years ago]. By an extraordinary coincidence, the next day, I unexpectedly came across a cassette titled “Siobornuvwe” by Okpan Arhibo. It was a song about the singer’s conversion to Christianity and some trials he encountered during the process. The song remains probably the most transformative song I had listened to in times of crisis, not just for my tempestuous relationship but for everything, lifting my spirits to peak levels despite the ever-present adversity I faced daily. The music provided me with the opportunity for considerable self-renewal, not just reassurance.

A few years later I found another tremendous Okpan song, though not in adversity but prosperity;

Oruru ro w’egbedere ko taghra

Oruru ro w’egbedere ko taghra

 

Grimot Nane

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