As I stirred during the still-dark morning yesterday I was awoken by a local Church Pastor with a microphone and portable P.A eulogising in the street at 5am. I wonder if it was Victory’s secret revenge for my music & religion comments the other day. He stopped as it started getting light, so he’s looking for a niche audience there.
Ojo and I boated it up to Lagos Island to avoid sitting in traffic for 3 hours and visited the Brasilian Quarters yesterday afternoon. As we got off the jetty I noticed that some of the smaller buses here, instead of having something like a digital screen with the destination, have a bloke hanging off the side shouting where the bus is going. I like that.
At the Brasilian Quarters I was expecting to see quite a lot of recognisable things having been to Salvador a number of times but it’s very small – a church, the popo pavilion where the returnee committee chair their meetings and a block of buildings. Not even a Brasilian flag! It turns out that a lot of the buildings the Brasilians built have been knocked down.
Whilst it’s to be noted that a number of people managed to come back ‘home’ from Brasil post 1888, the passion for old African traditions that dominates Salvador seems to have really been lost in Nigeria. Catholicism was imposed on the slaves by the European colonialists so now in Brasil you have a real mix of Christian and Candomble values – many Orixas will have a Christian equivalent for example. Their existing belief system was kept and adapted. That’s not really evident in Nigeria at all, from what I’ve seen so far. So many of the old customs are in real danger of dying out here. They call the worship of the old Gods ‘Pagan’ which I found interesting.
Eko Samba have played in the Brasilian Quarters 3 times in efforts by numerous people to reconnect the Ancestry either side of the Atlantic. But Ojo says that those in positions of authority and power aren’t interested.
Next to the Brasilian Quarters is Freedom Park, an old colonialist prison that is now a designated arts venue. It’s great in there and has a real energy. As we entered, it was somewhat novel to be walking around a former colonial prison to a remix of Karma Chameleon booming out the speakers. We were there to attend Afropolitan Vibes, a monthly night packed with food and live music and a real showcase of how to have a good night out in Lagos. By far the highlight for me were 4 female Yoruba singers called Adunni Nefetiti playing a gorgeously uplifting traditional 6/8 tune. It was beautiful. Ojo insisted on filming me so look away whenever I enter shot.
We met a friend of Eko Samba, Daryn, an Englishman from North London who works in Lagos for a company that improves and maintains the online presence of other companies. We crashed at his gorgeous flat, a flat that would be luxury anywhere in the world, and I asked him loads of questions about Nigeria. Unfortunately the Nigerian Guinness I’d downed 4 bottles of is stronger than I thought so I can’t remember any of his answers. Or even what questions I asked him to be honest.
After beginning today with Ojo playing some stonking Nigerian Reggae (https://busysinging.com/old-school-naija-mix-volume-2-download-mp3/), he and I went to the National Arts Theatre, a place Lagosians are very proud of and rightly so. We attended the 5th Special Colloquium and the theme was Lagos 1861: Matters Arising. The guest lecture was by Dr Patrick Dele-Cole, a former Nigerian Ambassador to Brasil and current Chairman of Africapractice in West Africa. He wants Lagos to gain special status as a city. His lecture was a thorough history of Lagos from being colonised by the British in 1861, to what has happened since independence in 1960, and an idea of what the future holds. It was very interesting for me as a Brit to listen to accounts of the treatment of Nigerians by the Brits and their colonial rule. Dr Dele-Cole in a Q&A after was posed a few questions that I was very glad were asked after visiting the Brasilian Quarters yesterday – why aren’t more Nigerians interested in the history and culture of their own people and country? He spoke of Salvador for a short time – how there are millions of Nigerians there, many of whom continue to speak Yoruba, and so much of the culture is preserved there has been lost in Nigeria. I was certain he’d been reading this blog. Old significant buildings in Lagos are regularly bulldozed and, apart from a small number of people, there is no apparent desire to reconnect with the history. The buildings they build over these old sites are regularly abandoned half way through building. The person who asked the question wasn’t really aware of Salvador and it’s African dominance either. I also found out that Lagos State does not have 1 single public swimming pool.
A cracking double performance followed the lectures, the second of which was a cosmic Masquerade performance. We also stood for the National Anthem played by a musician blowing a harmonica through his nose. We returned home to pasta (Ojo continues to be the best host you could imagine) and some Akpala music and Fela on the stereo, knackered. Tobi swung by to wish me a happy birthday which I was very flattered by! A perfect birthday weekend in Lagos.
Eko Samba have an important gig next Sunday – they are playing a showcase for the panel who decide acts for Calabar Carnival in December, so this week is an intense one of rehearsals. After that, a trip to Ejigbo, the city written about in the song Uma Historia de Ifa (Elegibo) and a trip to the Osun River, as in the deity Oxum, in Oshogbo, as I continue to discover the old Nigeria that has been so important for so long in Brasil.