Loud in Festival Town for Badejo

WHEN members of Young Men Christian Association of Methodist Church, Festac town, Lagos, their family and friends came together at a popular rendezvous in the area, Rockview Hotel, recently, it was not for fellowship or meeting, but to celebrate with one of their own, Adebonajo Badejo, who had just been elevated to the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). Badejo is the vice president of the association and the first Knight of John Wesley from the church.

It was not a surprise, therefore, when the organisers told invitees to be informal and do justice to the steaming buffet, as well as dance to the lyrics and beats of a standing juju band at the event.

And trust Nigerians, the advice was well taken, as guests filled their plates with assorted meals and pepper soup, which they washed down with chilled drinks of various brands.

Rotarian ‘Somo Omoniyi, president of the church’s YMCA, in his welcome address, said the gathering was in line with the association’s commitment to developing good relationships.

Omoniyi, a past District Governor of Rotary International District 9110, said it was not a surprise that Badejo, the first Knight of John Wesley to emerge from the church, had set another record by being the first to be recognised with SAN among the learned members of Methodist Church, Festac Town.

The chairman of the occasion, Sir (Dr.) Abiodun Osinubi of Bidson Centre, Lagos and others who spoke, said hardwork, integrity, perseverance, gentle nature and unparalleled humility earned Badejo the privilege to don the silk after about three decades of enterprising legal practice.

In his reaction, Badejo thanked the association for the reception, stressing that he was surprised to have been honoured in such a manner. While saying the road to his current position was rough, called for prayers from those present considering the task ahead.
Mother Earth’s blues…and the eco-warriors of jazz

ONE of the most pressing problems facing the universe today is climate change. And, as the world reels from natural disasters, jazz artists fear for the safety of the planet; and are continually reminding us, through their music, about the dangers of abusing the earth.

Courtesy of the United States Consulate General, the 40th anniversary of Earth Day – the benefits of bio-diversity was held last week Thursday at Broad Street, Lagos.

As a follow-up, the Consulate General also organised an event to mark the relevance of Earth Day last Friday at Adeyemi Bero Hall, Lagos state Secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja. These events were all intended to sensitise awareness for this global disaster, but the most effective tool for whipping off this consciousness is perhaps music.

And this is why Niyi Osundare’s poem on Earth Day published by The Guardian On Sunday last week comes in at the most appropriate time, crying “for accompaniment with music of the Earth in any language.”

Considering the subject matter which is shrouded in the mystery of natural disasters and environmental degradation; and of course, the highly poetic language available, art music of jazz, folk and the blues will be more appropriate as the medium for projecting the music even though it could also be channelled through such vehicles as Ewi (Yoruba Poetry) and the many folklorick songs from different parts of the country.

However, the musicians most likely to give the project the widely acclaimed treatment it deserves are such Nigerian folk artists as Asa and Beautiful Nubia. They will be able to design and explore melodic structures for the poetic lines that Osundare has provided; and would, like typical griots, give interpretative meaning to the message, playing guitar and singing at the same time.

But while we wait for this to happen, it is pertinent to appreciate the fact that the professor’s message is so potent that it is a remarkably valuable addition to existing Mother Earth’s blues by such ecological warriors of jazz as Pharoah Sanders, Sonny Rollins, Horace Silver, Sun Ra, Marvin Gaye, Herbie Hancock, among others.

Pharoah Sanders appears to be the most passionate from the way he has introduced lyrics into his jazz interpretation through highly recognised singers. One of Coltrane’s most important disciples, Pharoah Sanders has infused his own work with a profound spirituality for almost five decades now. You gotta have freedom, a new anthology of Sanders’s classic Impulse material serves as a timely reminder of the emotional power as well as virtuosity of his music.

COLTRANE was the finality of avant garde; and as a faithful disciple, many thought Sanders would take Coltranes’ music to a new level with progressive continuity. He rather chose to abandon the avant garde path of his mentor and selected some of its vital elements to champion his own cause. Using Coltrane’s modal science towards primeval, Africanised soundscapes that are enriched by both the tranquil and the turbulent innovation of his tenor saxophone, he pushes the message with rousing chants and chiming percussion, using some of the instruments he designed by himself.

The saxophonist has a particular affection for water, its vastness, its power, the awe it can inspire. “I really like the ocean,” he says. “When I go out by the ocean, its special. I like to go there when there’s no body else around and its just me and the ocean. I’m meditating and I just feel so small. I see myself as being very small, the ocean is so huge and the water is so deep. That’s the way I feel when I’m playing. Whatever is deep down inside me it may be something with no end, its just the depth that I’m trying to reach.

“The thing about the ocean is it can change. I don’t know how another person might feel but I get a lot of energy being out there by the water and I try to put this in my music. I try to express it in my music. That’s why we need to protect the water, we don’t have to put trash in it.”

CAST this in the light of what is happening in the Niger Delta and you will realise the danger that is being done to the water, the environment and the people themselves.

As mystifying an artist such as Sun Ra, the controversial musician Tam Fiofori once managed is to many, there is no questioning the conviction that he placed in his own aesthetic – the symbiosis of music and the vibrations of the universe. The complex meters that have defined much of his work are not simply a product of advanced mathematics. The old time signatures are cycles of nature or something like the orbit of the planets.

Of all the jazz musicians, Sun Ra was probably the most controversial. He did not make it easy for people to take him seriously for he surrounded his adventurous music with costumes and anything that both looked backwards towards ancient Egypt and fowards into science fiction. His love for Mother Earth is evident in his recording of Planet Earth; Interstellar Low Ways where his arranging and compositional flair for large orchestra is displayed.

If a river has spiritual properties, then the sea is equally heavy with romanticism, legend and fable. Few have conveyed this as vividly as pianist Herbie Hancock, ex-Miles Davis sideman who, like his mentor, veered into fusion and electric music in the ’70s when he recorded Maiden Voyage, an ambitious concept album he set out to express the potent enigma that the ocean harbours.

THIS modern jazz classic is a “high water” mark in Hancock’s song book as his writing and playing have the expressive range to do justice to the subject matter. Beauty alternates with austerity. Calm contrasts with turbulence. Hancock skims the keyboard to create gentle ripples of chords and then pounds it to swing like a biblical storm.

Maiden Voyage is an instrumental treatment. Maybe Herbie Hancock should provide the lyrics that are being attributed to the song, using a singer to project them: “The sea has often stirred the imagination of creative minds involved in all spheres of art,” Herbie Hancock wrote in the album’s liner notes. “There still exists an element of mystery which surrounds the sea and the living aquatic creature which provide it with its vital essence.

“This music attempts to capture its vastness and majesty, the splendour of a sea-going vessel on its maiden voyage, the graceful beauty of dolphins, the constant struggle for survival of even the tiniest sea creatures and the awesome destructive power of the hurricane, nemesis of seamen.”

However, not all music inspired by nature is good. A lot depends on the message and the nature of its performance. While Maiden Voyage alerts us to the wonder of nature through jazz, much new age music like hip hop and rap may put us off entirely or divert our attention and focus to something else, in the pursuit of a similar goal.



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