Wednesday, December 03, 2008
The Girl Whisperer
as published by the Sunday Guardian
of Nov 30, 2008
The Time Machine
Music is the closest thing we have to time travel. Sometimes, as we walk down a quiet road and hear the soft strains of a song we once knew, we are transported to another dimension, visible to those around us, but mind, heart, spirit are gone elsewhere, to the place where we first heard that song or where it first made its impact.
For me, there are many; there’s the Boys II Men song, ‘End of the Road’, which transports me back to the end of my youth service year in Akwa Ibom State and the young nice girl, Victoria, I knew there. Daughter of a Minister (of the gospel, in this case), she was a delightful person to be friends with. ‘End Of The Road’ was a song played at the farewell party organized for our set of Corp members that were finally leaving the state, a song that played as I danced with Victoria, leaving the world behind.
Oleta Adams’ ‘Get here if you can’ provides one of my saddest memories. It is that of the girl who had to leave me, when she relocated to another continent many years ago. Gabrielle’s ‘Dreams’ reminds me of the same girl, it was a song she loved very much and more than a decade after, I would still rather not listen to these two songs.
There’s the Jim Reeves song, ‘ This world is not my home’, which reminds me of my father on quiet Saturday mornings as I grew up, as I’m sure it reminds half the world of theirs, and ‘The Jamaican Farewell’ which recalls my sister, Bande when I was still a teenager and how she would painstakingly go over every line so I could get it right.
There’s ‘walk on by’ by Dionne Warwick, an all time favourite because it reminds me of one of the most beautiful spirits I ever met, Kemi; truly a sad song, but there was nothing sad about her. I first heard the song at her home and would request for it each time I visited. Years later, I would watch a programme that would declare it the ultimate heart-break song.
Then there is Shaggy’s ‘Angel’, a song that never fails to transport me to Gypsy Hill, home of my friend and brother, Edmund, who stood by me many years ago as a stranger in a strange land.
Today, I am transported back to my first day at the university because I remember two songs, Whitney Houston’s ‘All at once’ and ‘Saving all my Love for you’. It was October, I’d been admitted to study law and resumption was meant to be the next day but I couldn’t wait any longer and boarded transportation from Lagos to ‘Great Ifè’. It was night when I got there and a fellow I met at the disembarkation point in the school informed me that ‘Angola Hall’, home to new students, wouldn’t be open till the next day. He as well as his classmates had to be in school because of their practical classes. This fourth-year student of Agricultural Science, whose name or face I can no longer recall, led me with my large suitcase through the grassy fields of the sports centre, down and out of a little valley that separated Adekunlé Fajuyi Hall from the sports centre, and to the room he and his other colleagues had been stationed in. I wondered at the marvellous architecture as we trudged on, for indeed, Great Ifè is a beautiful school. As we walked past a few people playing and watching a table tennis game, a short lad broke away and danced around me, laughing at the fact that I was new in school. It was good, clean fun and even though I was very self-conscious, I was glad I was a student of the school. I never let a year go past after that, without ambushing self-conscious new students and making fun of them. Rites of passage.
That night, I sat in the midst of my new friends, all fourth-year students and watched quietly as they went about their businesses. After a while, I stepped out onto the corridor to stretch my legs and looked up to see Bomá Iruenè, my childhood friend and next door neighbour at my father’s, walking towards me. It was wonderful to see a familiar face in such unfamiliar surroundings. He, now a 2nd year student of International relations, told me he and another childhood friend of ours, Dokun , a 2nd year Political Science student, had ‘occupied’ an empty room (student patois for breaking into a room)and would be there until they could sort out their accommodation for the new year. Along came Dokun and we laughed and talked. We hadn’t seen each other in two to three years before that but we were not strangers. I thanked the fellows that had saved me at the bus-stop and given me the free use of their room and then followed Dokun and Bomá out. They showed me the school and then we went for a meal. Those who knew the ‘new bukateria’ where one could easily get food in those days would know how thickly over-grown the bushes that surrounded it could be after the long holidays. We got lost somewhere in the dark bushes that looked like a horror-movie set; big, burly Dokun shouting, ‘Don’t panic, don’t panic’ at Bomá and then himself, taking off like a hunted buck. We finally made it back to civilization, laughing at ourselves.
That night, as I lay in the dark room on the bed Dokun and Bomá had found for me, I listened to the sounds of the school, other people murmuring as they in turn prepared to lie down, listened to the rhythmic breathing of Dokun and Boma now long asleep and heard the voice of Whitney Houston from the music box in the room, sing quietly the songs, ‘All at once’ and ‘Saving all my love’. It was a new phase in my life, a new beginning, and my first day at University, an end to so many worries, and my heart was full. I still sit quietly when I hear these songs, taken back in time to that new beginning.
I wish you new beginnings that will lift you to higher and safer ground. And I wish you songs that will bring to mind many happy times, and loving people to share those happy times with.