Sakara music for my birthday
My 78th birthday party on 13th January 2022, is going to be a joyous celebration of the abundant blessings and limitless mercies of the Almighty.
As has been the case on previous birthdays, the music of the deities – “Sakara” will be live (and live stream in direct competition with Netflix).
It is not strictly correct to insist that “Sakara” music belongs to the IsaleEko area of Lagos. It was actually “imported” from Ilorin but was deftly ingrained into the psyche and lifestyle of Lagosians – in the 1950s and thereafter. It is still waxing strong.
It was my father, Chief J.K. Randle who introduced me to Sakara music. Maybe, it was the other way round – he introduced Sakara music to me when I was only a kid. From then on it became an enduring passion and joyous adventure into a world where late in the evenings (and sometimes into the early hours of the morning) Sakara music was available to be relished by the rich and poor; without distinction between the powerful and the powerless.
Both Christians and Moslems (as well as other faiths) found common ground while savouring mellifluous Sakara music regardless of its repetitive rhythm and improvised lyrics. The composition was a direct assault on classical music. It was free-flowing and totally unstructured as well as disingenuously creative. The venue was nearly always improvised in IsaleEko or Okepopo areas of Lagos.
All it took was “Atibaba” (raffia mats and canopy) planted bang in the middle of Tokunbo Street or Isalegangan. Whenever it was the turn of Campos Square to host the aficionados of Sakara, the neighbouring houses made a carnival of it. Nobody complained about the music or the abundance of alcohol that accompanied it and served as the lubricant for merriment.
Quite often, my father would host parties in our house with Sakara as the main fare. Chief A.S.E. Agbabiaka, who was then the most senior Nigerian police officer and an old boy of King’s College was undoubtedly a great fan and promoter of the music of his hometown, Ilorin.
What was fascinating about the pulsating tempo of Sakara music was that it seamlessly combined humour with satire which stretched into sarcasm. It was mostly about the excesses of those in power and the extravagance of the affluent. Ironically, those who were being savaged were right there – lapping it all up !! They never took offence.
On the contrary, they would offer the musicians sums of money (in those days it was mostly coins) not to reveal all they knew while others would throw coins at the same musicians imploring them to disclose escapades that bordered on scandal – usually involving shady business dealing or acquisition of new wives, mistresses or palatial mansions by the “nouveau rich”.
My dad and his friends would sit in a circle (or semi-circle) and the musicians would “yab” each of them in turn. They loved the self-deprecating humour and mockery of human foibles. It was never done with malicious intent. Rather, the likes of Dr Flavius Akerele (an old boy of King’s College); Chief Emmanuel Okunowo; Chief S.L. Edu; Chief BolajiFinnih; Chief Oladipo Moore; Prince M.A. Ogun; Chief I. S. Adewale (an old boy of King’s College); Dr. M.A. Majekodinmi (an old boy of St Gregory’s College); Alhaji “Igbalaiye” Balogun (his roots were in Offa); Chief M.S. Adewale (an old boy of King’s College); AlhajiTaju Thompson; Alhaji Ajadi Adelagun Faramobi; Alhaji T.S. Fujah; Chief S. B. Bakare; Mr Mobolaji Odunewu; Alhaji Murtala Egbebi; and Alhaji Kekere-Ekun would compete with each other in their demonstration of generosity of spirit and humility.
Sakara music was (and remains) a leveller – regardless of your status in society, you were welcome. It was an elastic circle that was sufficiently flexible to accommodate whoever came along and would either sit or stand to enjoy the ambience. However, it was also a sanitizer – ever ready to unleash well-armed arrows at the oppressor; the self-centred; the greedy and those who had deviated from the sterling attributes of prominent Lagos families.
My earliest memories reel back to Abibu Oluwa followed by Ayinde Bakare and Yusuf Olatunji. They were masters (and maestros) of the art of extolling the uprightness and generosity of the families of Anibaba (“Ta lo niawaonibaba ?) by demanding: “Who says we are fatherless or orphans when we have the Anibaba family around? They are ever ready to assist the poor and homeless.”
In a similar vein, they would extol the philanthropy of the Agoro family by reminding all and sundry of the family motto: “Agoroabogunbolu” (they would ensure that nobody was hungry no matter how many asked for alms or sustenance).
As for Chief A.S.E. Agbabiaka who was in charge of the police in Lagos, they challenged him to go after the big rogues such as Anikura instead of the minor thieves.
“Anikurabembe won le mu.”
The Akerele family would be affectionately reminded that their roots were in Oyo along with their long-established connection with the Alaafin of Oyo:
“OmoAkerele, sekere (The Spokesman) of the Alaafin.”
Without missing a beat, they would switch to castigating those who they considered extravagant and reckless with a dose of sarcasm.
“Ogunbanke, eyimapo.Timiba lo wo, ma ramotokan.
Unlike Ogunbanke (who bought two new cars at the same time) even if I had the money, I would buy only one car.
Never two cars.
Perhaps, their best-known song is “Kini Edungbe?” which translates as what did Edun who was a trusted official in Egbaland steal and why? He stole money just to buy western-style clothes (white man’s attire). A case of vanity combined with greed.
I do not intend to join issues with the connoisseurs of Sakara music who insist that the number one classic is undoubtedly:
“Olofofoyera” (let the traitors amongst us leave so that we can discuss confidential matters meant strictly for Lagosians).
This would glide smoothly into a declaration of fealty and enduring loyalty to the King (Oba) of Lagos as the guardian of law and order.
“Tiobasitoba, mbafailu e ya.”
But for fear of offending the King, I would have dealt with the intruder who is beating a drum and disturbing the peace while we are discussing crucial matters close to the heart of Lagosians.
The song that truly captures the essence of Lagos is: “Eyo O. OloriEyo O. Eyobaban ta watofigolu sere”. It is actually a celebration of the unique majesty and unrivalled elegance of the Eyo masquerade which would be decked in gold as a symbol of its direct link not only with the King of Lagos but with the dieties.AgogoroEyo !!
The problem is that the Ijebus are adamant that the Eyo masquerade and the song owe to their origin to Idowa in Ijebu kingdom.
One of AbibuOluwa’s vintage performances was at the Palace Hotel, Broad Street, where he surveyed the assembly of the elites of Lagos and urged them to reflect on the sincerity (quality/genuineness) of friendship amongst them and the rampart duplicitousness in society in general.
“Ki adiju.Kasebienitoku.”Let us pretend to be dead. He waxed philosophical. His recommendation was deep reflection combined with introspection in order to determine what would happen in the event of death and who (and how many) would genuinely mourn us rather than grab whatever we have left behind – our wife; our property; our chieftaincy title etc.