Game of Thrones Better End This Way

 

Discussing Game of Thrones is one of the few times random people are allowed to publicly wish death on other people and to invent ways for them to die. If you’ve been paying attention, really paying attention—and I don’t mean memorizing the names of dragons—you’d know now that ONLY  a woman will sit on that damn Iron Throne. One of the marvellous things about the show, which isn’t easy to spot beneath all the nudity and violence, is how it set itself up to be a feminist affair: how the focus gradually shifted from the men in the early seasons—Ned Stark, Robert Baratheon, Tyrion Lannister, Joffrey Baratheon, Robb Stark, Tywin Lannister—to the women now: Cersei Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, Sansa Stark, Arya Stark. Even if Jon Snow is still central.

So here’s how I want the series to end.

Something Happens to Jamie Lannister

I grew really fond of him and was upset that the Emmy for Supporting Actor in a Drama Series that should have been his went to Tyrion Lannister’s Peter Dinklage. Still.

Something Happens to Jon Snow

I’ve never understood how he became so popular. I mean, I understand, but he needs to go for the show to make sense. He already died once, then returned probably to appease fans (although I don’t know what happens in the books), and now he’s done his job. If they insist and keep him as the Ice in “Ice and Fire,” then that’d be rigging.

Cersei Lannister Disappears

The bad ones die eventually: seems to be a mantra of the show. But Cersei has been the person most deserving of the Iron Throne, the one with the right amount of wit and ruthlessness to keep it firmly. She did what she had to do to get here and she’s not going down that easily—for peeps hoping Arya or even Jamie kills her. I imagine Cersei realizing they can’t beat the Night King and cutting a deal with whoever captures or traps her and then escaping—to who knows where. That’d be too easy for her, yeah, but if Joffrey died merely from poisoning after all he did, then all’s fair. Also, she’s actually my favourite character since Season 6.

Something Happens to Daenerys Targaryen

When I started watching this series, I was interested the most in this woman’s story. Somewhere in Season 6, she lost me to Cersei. I like dragons, but she has so much going for her—not that she hasn’t endured her fair share of suffering. Her obsession with getting people to “bend the knee” is curious. Or not, actually. Just puts me off. Keeping her will be the most predictable—and ridiculous—move by the showrunners. I imagine her offering a deal to the Night King as well.

Something (Maybe) Happens to Arya Stark

Her transformation into arguably the greatest fighter in the Seven Kingdoms is one for the ages. While I suspect they’ll take her also, I’d rather she stayed alive as her sister’s bodyguard.

Sansa Stark wins the Iron Throne

She’s remembered more for her naivety than anything else, but nobody is better suited for that ugly sword-stacked seat than Sansa. Born and raised in the North, suffered and learned in the South, twice forced into marriage, abused, abused: I maintain that nobody has suffered more than the Lady of Winterfell, certainly emotionally. But nobody has grown as much, also, not Daenerys, not Cersei—both of whom have grown tremendously. Born with kindness, she learned ruthless calculation from Cersei, learned ruthless politics from Little Finger, and will be learning from Daenerys soon. The Northern elders trust her more than they do Jon Snow. After they are all gone, she will be the only royal blood capable of sitting on that chair. Aside Tyrion.

Tyrion Lannister becomes Hand or Husband to Queen Sansa

Tyrion will survive because George R.R. Martins likes him the most. In ways, the show is his, has always been his, but it’d be too easy to make him king, even with the Targeryean blood. He’ll do what he does best: advise. Maybe he’ll get lucky and marry the new Queen. He’d have made the best monarch in the series, though.

 

If this doesn’t happen.

TWC Prose Workshop in Nsukka

 

In December, I was at The Writers’ Community (TWC) in the University of Nigeria, Nsukka for a prose workshop. It was where we started: Arinze Ifeakandu, Chisom Okafor, Ebenezer Agu, Osinachi, Michael Umoh, Uzoma Ihejirika, Festus Iyorah, Adaeze Nwadike, Pius Ifechukwu. Without TWC, there might be no me in the way that I am. I left in 2014 when I graduated, and four years on, it gives me unusual joy to find promise in the present members.

I might be doing more workshops this year.

A Pop Concert by Chance

 

Sunday nightfall, I’m bored—actually I feel like munching succulent bread and Vita Milk—so Friend and I go to Spar. We are surprised to see a crowd: a concert is on, a #DefendYourVote initiative, and on the poster are Phyno, Peruzzi, and Naeto C. I’ve never seen Phyno live, or anybody I really want to see live; in fact, I’ve never been to a concert. So we stay. On the stage is that MTV Base video jockey, the sanguine guy with dreadlocks who once mispronounced Phyno’s “Isi Ego” so that it meant “head money/capital” rather than “the smell of money.” He’s kinda sorta a fave. He is rousing the crowd, keeping it hot. The DJ spins them, each greeted by jubilation: Burna Boy’s “On the Low,” Tiwa Savage’s “Lova Lova,” Naira Marley’s ‘Issa Goal,” Olamide’s “Motigbana.” Out of nowhere, 2Baba’s “Implication” drops and we are legit mad. It still is the ultimate Nigerian banger. I’m thinking: Naijapop is so rich, a bit sad that pon-pon has come and homogenized things. I step aside to pick a call. I return thinking: Aren’t they the most blessed of us artists, musicians, to have the power to command crowds. When King Monada’s “Malwedhe” lands, VJ shouts, Nobody should fall here o! Still, the crowd of heads mock-bend at the chorus. All around us people—boys—are dancing, or will say they are dancing if asked, most of them doing the same leg thing to every song.

Generally, the songs are hot. Generally, the DJ is bad, doesn’t know when to switch, always chooses the wrongest moments: pre-chorus, mid-chorus. “He doesn’t have permission to play the full songs,” Friend says when I complain.

Then a talking break: Dreadlocked VJ is saying: How many of you have your PVCs? Raise your hand! Not everybody does and I’m worried. Really worried.

When Naeto C appears, my first thought is to try to remember his politician mother’s name. I can’t. We run through his songs: “5 & 6,” “Kini Big Deal,” “Tony Montana (Remix),” “10 Over 10.” I’m thinking: this guy really had huge hits. Not everybody in the crowd is flowing, singing, even moving, and it strikes me that there are people here who don’t feel Naeto C, or don’t know him well enough, or are trying to remember who he is, or maybe, even though they look like adults, just hadn’t been born in 2008 when Naeto was the Next Big Thing. Fine.

They want to give us a surprise, they say, Naeto C and Dreadlocked VJ, they say it again, but instead of a Surprise, we get this beat, really good, this beat, but nowhere around what I hoped for.

Then Peruzzi.

Enter Peruzzi. Jump in Peruzzi. Power in Peruzzi.

Peruzzi has energy, like he set out to conquer the stage, and what seems in videos like an over-featured man all over the place with his artificial swag suddenly comes alive, becomes charisma. Never thought I’d say this: I like Peruzzi. Or, more accurately, I’d like to attend his own concert, with his big voice. But the DJ starts from his least: songs the crowd sings back but isn’t moved by, just singing back, maybe humouring a star. Life returns when his DMW song comes on. “Aza.” You know, the one in which he delivers a killer verse with a sideways dance after Duncan Mighty has threatened to spoil it by screaming, for whatever reason: Ofe nsala! Peruzzi screams it now and it comes out a bit more dignified. I’m thinking: Only “Amaka” can restore the anointing here, his song with 2Baba. But when it comes, “Amaka” doesn’t kick up dust—it comes and is passing like any other song.

“Amaka” is still on when I tell Friend we can go now. “I want to see Phyno,” he says, and I say, “Even me sef.” We move to the left and wait. Someone comes to us: he’s a Facebook Friend, I remember his name even though we’ve never chatted, he’s asking if I’m me, I am. After he leaves, people begin to leave. “Phyno kwanu?” I ask, to the bread-smelling air. “Maybe he was the first to perform,” Friend says. We are walking with the trail of people, out.

6 Things This Week

 

Literature

I have been touring the 2018 archives of African literary magazines for a Brittle Paper project. I resumed reading Miles Morland’s memoir Cobra in the Bath, which is full of humour. But Richard Tarnas’ study of Western intellectual history The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas That Have Shaped Our World View has been open on the floor for months. I want to read a book that does for African knowledge systems what Tarnas has done here for the European. I am thinking of Molefi Kete Asante’s Afrocentricity: The Theory of Social Change, which seems to be such a book given what I’ve read about it.

Music

I looooove Sarz’ “Trobul,” featuring Wurld. It is a love song, one of those that make me create videos for them in my head. Little Mix’s “Think About Us” is the first song by the band that I completely like—lyrics, beats, those beats. Post Malone’s “Wow” is the confirmation that he just may become my favourite pop rapper (I really tried for it to be Drake). I like Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings,” although I’m not comfortable about its hip hop sound and flow and appropriation accusations. Other favourites: Jeff Akoh’s “I Do,” Lady Gaga’s “Always Remember Us,” Tems’ “Looku Looku,” Ellie Goulding’s “Close to Me,” featuring Diplo and Swae Lee. Meanwhile, The-Dream says Rihanna’s new album is almost done so I’ve been clearing my mental shelf.

Movies

How to Get Away with Murder is back! Good to see you again, Viola! I finished Genevieve Nnaji’s Lionheart convinced it is one of the two, three best Nollywood films I’ve seen. It is a solid feat of cultural awareness that I hope to write a review on. I am watching Hustle & Flow, a 2004 film about rap with both Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard. I never watched Grey’s Anatomy when the rest of the world started, so last Christmas was my start. I’m currently on its season 2, with 13 more seasons to go. I am also watching Orange Is the New Black’s season 5 and it’s comedy stretches are a bit of a bore for me. And, finally, the Oscars. These are what I want: Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting Actor for Green Book and Glenn Close for Best Actress for The Wife. Fortunately, they’re their categories’ frontrunners. I finally finished A Star Is Born because a friend said it made him cry. I suspect that the version of the film I watched has to be different from what every other person watched. I mean, it’s nice to see Lady Gaga playing a toned-down Lady Gaga, but Bradley Cooper simply crossed my annoyance threshold.

Football

On Sunday, in the Nigeria Premier League, Rangers beat Enyimba 1-0. It was a match I had prepared to go watch, but somehow I forgot about it until I went to Google. I am keen on Gonzalo Higuain fitting into the Chelsea team as smoothly as possible so I’ve been watching videos of him from his Real Madrid and Napoli days, trying for it to make up for this 4-0 thing at Bournemouth.

Fashion

I’ve been reading reviews of The September Issue, about the making of US Vogue’s September 2007 issue, and thought about watching The Devil Wears Prada again. I have been watching and re-watching Catriona Gray’s “lava walk.” The Miss Universe 2018 is also an articulate talker; I watched an interview with her and liked her bright, positive attitude. I have been checking out the videos on Naomi Campbell’s new YouTube channel.

Social Media

The chaos is continual. When writers are not lowkey campaigning for the current President they are arguing about why they should be allowed to embrace concepts rather than humanity.

 

 

Image from weheartit.com.

Messi, Mbappe, Pique, Pogba: Fantasy Football 101

One evening ten years ago, when I was still a die-hard football follower, I decided I wanted my own team: it would comprise players I would buy if I were a club owner. At that time, my only experience of fantasy football had been on PlayStation, in my reselection of players I liked into different clubs I was playing with. So when I decided I wanted my own team, it felt novel to me to do it beyond PlayStation. I wrote their names on paper, with shirt numbers:

1. Petr Cech | Goalkeeper | Chelsea | Czech Republic

2. Maicon | Right Back | Inter Milan | Brazil

5. John Terry | Centre Back | Chelsea | England

6. Paolo Maldini | Centre Back | AC Milan | Italy [Captain]

3. Ashley Cole | Left Back | Chelsea | England

4. Andrea Pirlo | Defensive Midfield | AC Milan | Italy

7. Xavi Hernandez: Centre Midfield (Barcelona | Spain

8. Frank Lampard: Centre Midfield (Chelsea/England)

9. Ricardo Kaka: Attacking Midfield (AC Milan/Brazil)

10. Lionel Messi: Striker (Barcelona/Argentina)

11. Didier Drogba: Striker (Chelsea/Cote d’Ivoire)

Manager: Jose Mourinho.

My formation was a 4-4-2 Diamond. My manager was Jose Mourinho, who was an easy choice as, back then, I still loved him and he hadn’t gone to Real Madrid to turn El Classico into a death zone. I liked this team badly.

Over the years, I’ve had new favourite players, old ones have dropped out of the scene, retired, and the Team has changed considerably, with only Messi and Pique keeping their places. Today, this is what I have:

1. Thibaut Courtois | Goalkeeper | Real Madrid | Belgium

3. Gerard Pique | Centre Back | Barcelona | Spain [Captain]

5. Leonardo Bonucci | Centre Back | Juventus | Italy

4. Raphael Varane | Right Back | Real Madrid | France

2. Antonio Rudiger | Left Back | Chelsea | Germany

11. N’golo Kante | Defensive Midfielder | Chelsea | France

6. Sergio Busquets | Central Midfielder | Barcelona | Spain

8. Paul Pogba | Central Midfielder | Manchester United | France

7. Kylian Mbappe | Left Forward | Paris Saint-Germain | France

10. Lionel Messi | Right Forward | Barcelona | Argentina

9. Harry Kane | Centre Forward | Tottenham | England

Manager: Pep Guardiola.

It doesn’t at all show that I’m a Chelsea fan.

 

Individual images of players from Zimbio. Football pitch image from Deviantart.net.

121 Songs I Really, Really Listened to in 2018

 

Every year since 2012 has brought to me a different sort of musical satisfaction—I encountered sounds I loved, new artistes I’m watching. But the standout years were 2015 and 2017. To those I may now add 2018. I separated these 121 songs into groups of Constant Favourites, the ones that really swayed me, and Rotating Favourites.

Last year, there were 74 songs I liked the most, and my Number 1 was Shekhinah’s “Suited,” and the artiste I listened most to was Alan Walker. This year, my Number 1s are: Wale’s “Columbia Heights,” which shifted something in me; Geko’s “Will Smith,” which soundtracks my love life at the moment; Chike’s “Beautiful People,”which inspired me visually even though I haven’t seen its video, if it has a video; August Chuks’ “Let Me,” which felt like a finger was poking my insides; and Desiigner’s “Timmy Turner,” my ultimate intrigue. The artistes I most listened to are 6LACK, Janelle Monae, XXXTentacion, and Davido, for whom I found a new appreciation. In some way, all of these songs, these sounds, set me alight.

 

The Constant Favourites

“Columbia Heights,” Wale feat. J. Balvin

“Falling Down,” Lil Peep feat. XXXTentacion

“Will Smith,” Geko feat. Not3s

“Nwa Baby,” Davido

“Timmy Turner,” Desiigner

 

“Leave a Light On,” Tom Walker

“Let Me,” August Chuks

“Red Alert,” DJ Bobbi feat. Nyanda

“Moonlight,” XXXTentacion

“Beautiful People,” Chike

 

“Life Is Beautiful,” Lil Peep

“Malwedhe,” King Monada

“The Big Unknown,” Sade

“Stan,” 6LACK

“Decibels,” Jidenna

 

“Collide,” Lady Zamar

“Pretty Little Fears,” 6LACK feat. J. Cole

“Motigbana,” Olamide

“Sweet but Psycho,” Ava Max

“In My Mind,” Dynoro feat. Gigi d’Agostino

 

“Sunflower,” Post Malone feat. Swae Lee

“Promises,” Calvin Harris feat. Sam Smith

“Killin’ Me Softly,” The Fugees

“This Is Me,” Keala Settle, The Greatest Showman Soundtrack

“Made for Now,” Janet Jackson

 

“Never,” Loren Allred, The Greatest Showman Soundtrack

“Fever,” WizKid

“From Now On,” Hugh Jackman, The Greatest Showman Soundtrack

“Let Her Go,” 6LACK

“Easy,” Anna Wise & Xavier Omar

 

“The Greatest Show,” The Greatest Showman Soundtrack

“Let You Love Me,” Rita Ora

“Way,” Falz feat. Wande Coal

“I Like That,” Janelle Monae

“Wait,” DJ Neptune feat. Kizz Daniel

 

“Make Me Feel,” Janelle Monae

“Django Jane,” Janelle Monae

“Africa,” Toto

“Stand by Me,” Ben E. King

“Fun won Finish,” Beambo Taylor

 

The Rotating Favourites

“My My My,” Troye Sivan

“Iwa,” Phyno feat. Tekno

“Nkechi,” Attitude

“Supermodel,” SZA

“Feel Good,” P-Lo feat. G-Eazy

 

“APESH*t,” The Carters

“X Bitch,” 21 Savage feat. Future

“Timmy’s Prayer,” Sampha

“Saint Pablo,” Kanye West feat. Sampha

“Borders,” St. Beauty

 

“Just Saying/I Tried,” The Internet

“Wo (Spiritual),” Olamide

“Tuwo Shinkafa,” Runtown

“Psycho,” KCEE feat. WizKid

“Kupe,” A-Star

“Fake Love,” Duncan Mighty feat. WizKid

 

“Kaabata,” Arrel

“High End,” Chris Brown feat. Future & Young Thug

“Chun Li,” Nicki Minaj

“Sicko Mode,” Travis Scott feat. Drake

“Spirit Break Out,” Kim Walker

“Nothing Breaks Like a Heart,” Mark Ronson feat. Miley Cyrus

 

“Hold Yuh,” Gyptian

“Nani Gi,” Mairo Ese

“Ina the Benz,” Yung6ix

“Hey Baby,” Dmitri Vegas & Like Mike vs. Diplo feat. Deb’s Daughter

“Without Me,” Halsey

 

“Upon Me,” Kiss Daniel feat. SugarBoy

“Different,” Shekhinah feat. Mariechan

“Come Closer,” WizKid feat. Drake

“Champion (Remix),” General Pype feat. Dagrin, Naeto C & Sasha P

“Move,” Litle Mix

“Déjà vu,” Burna Boy

 

“High Hopes,” Panic! At the Disco

“No Stylist,” French Montana

“Call the Police,” Orezi

“Fast Car,” Jonas Blue feat. Dakota

“Dip,” Tyga feat. Nicki Minaj

 

“If,” Davido

“Be Together,” Major Lazer feat. Wild Belle

“Drew Barrymore,” Bryan Vince feat. Wale

“Better Now,” Post Malone

“Beautiful,” Bazzi feat. Camilla Cabello

 

“Woman Like Me,” Little Mix feat. Nicki Minaj

“Be Mine!,” Robyn

“Bad and Boujee,” Migos feat. Lil Uzi Vert

“Cream,” Tujamo feat. Danny Avila

“She Works Hard for the Money,” Donna Summers

“6 Inches,” Beyonce feat. The Weeknd

 

“My Love,” McDonald

“O Chukwu,” Clay

“DUNK CONTEST (MAGIC BIRD),” Andy Mineo & Wordsplayed

“Fashion Killa,” A$AP Rocky

“Dance to This,” Troye Sivan feat. Ariana Grande

“Plot Twist,” Marc E. Bassey feat. Kyle

“Hey Hey Hey,” Katy Perry

 

“Bad (Remix),” Wale feat. Rihanna

“Tatashe,’ Percy feat. Peruzzi

“Ayepo (Remix),” Airboy feat. Burna Boy

“FEFE,” 6ix9ine feat. Nicki Minaj

“Thunder,” LSD feat. Labyrinth, Sia & Diplo

 

“Talk Me Down,” Troye Sivan

“Shallow,” Lady Gaga feat. Bradley Cooper

“BEBE,” 6ix9ine feat. Anuel

“God,” Scarface feat. John Legend

 

“Africa,” Karl Wolf feat. Kulture

“Wetin We Gain,” Victor AD

“Girls Like You,” Maroon 5 feat. Cardi B

“Kpolonge,” Waje feat. Timaya

 

“Ijo Wakanda,” Orezi

“Payroll,” Xzibit & Yazz, Empire Soundtrack

“You’re So Beautiful (’90s Version),” Empire Soundtrack

“Love Long Time,” Serayah, Empire Soundtrack

 

“Watch Out,” Ezri Walker, Empire Soundtrack

“Dino Bus,” Badanamu

“Don’t Need Nobody,” Ellie Goulding

“Miracle Rain,” Frank Edwards

“Babalao,” Angelique Kidjo

 

“Club Controller,” Prince Kaybee & Lasoulmates feat. Zanda Zakura & TNS

“Need to Feel Loved,” Reflekt feat. Deline Bass

 

 

PHOTO CREDITS: Davido from Wap Reloaded, Janelle Monae from Adweek, 6lack from Rolling Stone, Desiigner from Hip Hop DX.

The Feet of Drogba

 

I was 13 when I fell in love with the whole of Didier Drogba. I had freshly become a football follower, a stubborn Chelsea fan. This was 2007, the age of newspapers and magazines, before browsing phones spread and newspaper stand crowds thinned and KickOff and SoccerStar made way for Goal.com. I was building stacks of football newspapers and magazines, but it was in a politics newspaper, in its sports spread, that I read the first football profile I really liked. It was titled “DD: Deadly Drogba,” and ran with a black-and-white photo of the striker and his braided hair, his left or right foot in pursuit of the ball in the air, his shorts drawn back to reveal his thighs, full.

I wish I could say that it began with that profile, that photo, but it began months before, in late 2006. My classmates had spent the previous year talking about and talking down on this team with loud, uncouth supporters who thought they could buy players and buy their way to trophies. Afterwards, by chance, I had watched a Chelsea match and seen Frank Lampard and began calling myself a Chelsea fan, and then, because my classmates kept talking about him and didn’t like him because he scored against Nigeria in that year’s African Nations Cup, I took faint interest in Drogba. It must have started then. Early 2007, maybe March, maybe April, I remember a senior whose nickname was Drogba coming into our class, standing at the door, arms raised, a wide smile on his face, saying, “Drogba na, Drogba won, Essien came second.” I didn’t like Senior Drogba; I really did not like Senior Drogba, but in that moment that he stood there, the joy in his body radiant, I was infected. Afterwards, I saw a newspaper report of his role in negotiating the end of the civil war in his home country of Cote d’Ivoire: that in October 2005, after Cote d’Ivoire had qualified for the 2006 World Cup, he picked a microphone in their dressing room and knelt down, surrounded by his teammates, and pleaded with both sides to lay down their arms. He was larger than life. That might have been when I fell in love with the first person I didn’t know personally.

Watching Drogba on the pitch, watching him move and run, him jump and nod, watching his control of the ball with his chest, his perfection of the “turn and shoot” technique, was a drug. The loudest thing I liked about him was that he was brutal, beastly. Before him, the only other footballer I’d seen instill such fear, exert such dominance of defenders, was Ricardo Kaka, in the two legs of his AC Milan’s Champions’ League semifinals against Manchester United: I’d watched Kaka’s killing laughing, fearing, laughing because it was Manchester United suffering and I didn’t like Manchester United, fearing because AC Milan might be meeting Chelsea if Chelsea won their own bout and I didn’t think Chelsea could survive them. It didn’t happen: Chelsea fell to Liverpool and I watched Drogba walk off the pitch annoyed. It might have been that annoyance, refined now, rechanneled now, that he wore on his body like grace when he tore into Liverpool the following season, 2007/2008, scoring twice at Stamford Bridge to take us into the final. But in that final, against Manchester United, we fell short. I didn’t watch the match: I was in SS1 then and didn’t fancy scaling our school fence at night to watch it in some bar surrounded by palm wine and the wining of men. But it was glorious, I felt its glory, because my classmates who watched it came back bedazzled. Drogba slapped Nemanja Vidic and was sent off. John Terry, captain, leader, legend, took the fifth penalty that would have been Drogba’s and slipped and the ball hit the post. Nicolas Anelka missed his and we lost. I felt sore for Drogba. The English media were on his case: would he leave Chelsea? To AC Milan? Real Madrid? Would he rejoin Jose Mourinho at Inter Milan. As the speculation grew, I worried: could I still remain a Chelsea fan if Drogba left? Because my love for Drogba was stronger than my love for Chelsea.

He stayed.

In 2009, Barcelona beat us in the Champions’ League semifinals and, because we were robbed, all those injury time penalty calls none of which were given, Drogba faced the camera and said, “This is a fucking disgrace,” and was banned by UEFA for some matches. I had begun to like Barcelona then, Lionel Messi in particular, but I was angry. WTF! In 2009/10, Drogba won the Premier League’s Golden Boot, his second, and among his 29 goals, I remember and enjoyed most his battering of Arsenal, that winless club whose fans, with their ability to faithfully endure in the absence of a confident future, I’d always been intrigued by. In 2010/2011, Fernando Torres came, and flopping followed, and Drogba stayed. In 2011/2012, he was back to his beastly best. Napoli fell in the Round of 16, and Barcelona in the semifinals, and Bayern Munich in the final. Drogba powered in the 88th minute equalizer and scored the decisive penalty. It was his crowning moment. It was my sating moment. Chelsea had finally won the Champions’ League.

After that year, my watching of football waned, partly because I had found a new interest, literature, and football, the first in a line of interests that would make way in my life for another, took a back seat.

There was my liking of Drogba’s suits, his shirts, jeans, the way he dressed. The way he spoke. His natural charisma. His exemplification of that quality I instantly like in people: drive. Drogba did not have the natural talent of many of his peers but he worked hard, becoming one of the most effective freekick-takers of his set. He was CAF African Footballer of the Year twice, for 2006 and 2009, and I think he should have further won for 2007 and 2010—the first going to Frederic Kanoute because, as reports rumoured then, CAF officials had called to congratulate Drogba but, due to commitments with the Cote d’Ivoire team, he sent his wife rather than show up to the ceremony; the second going to Samuel Eto’o.

Weeks ago, Didier Drogba retired from football. Watching him had been one of the joys of my life. There has been no other like him. There will be no other that I will love with the same enthrallment—his feet, his head. He’s bald now and I love it.

 

Image from Independent.co.uk.

Memorial Garden

From “Blue Lake, Small Island,” snippets of an un-noted experience. 

 

It was 11 a.m. when we gathered in the backyard and left for the Village, Ali leading the way, her right hand gripping leashes to her four dogs. As we walked, we talked, in groups of threes and fours. Soon we arrived at a junction, where a wide path went left. “Would you like to see the police station?” Ali said. We would. So we walked down it, under masses of leaves strung together and suspended in the air by cobwebs, until we reached a wide clearing opening up to the lake, where two men could be spotted walking about, one looking at us approaching. The clearing housed around eight mud buildings and iron container-turned-apartments, each small and unbecoming, an unlikely police station. In their centre stood a short, circular hall with low walls, its thatched roof an overlookable cone—the typical traditional meeting hall. In my Igbo language, we call them obi, living place, living room, a setting utilized by Chinua Achebe for some of the most memorable conversations in Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God. I make a note to ask what Bulago locals called theirs. To the left of the obi was what seemed, from the smoke on its wall, to be a kitchen. In front of it, wrappers draped on her body, stood a tall woman who looked bald. One of the men—lighter-skinned than the Ugandans I’d seen so far on the island—had been circled around by our group. I turned towards the other man, towards his tall, big smile. Giles was moving towards him also.

“Meet my friend, Obi,” he said. We shook hands.

“I’m from Nigeria,” I told him.

The expression on his face when I told him this is something that I have, strangely, forgotten.

After I followed Giles onto a strip of grass-softened stones snaking into the lake, after we’d taken selfies there, as we left, the tall, big man said to me, “You’re from Nigeria?” I asked if he had ever been outside Uganda. He hadn’t.

Returning to our path to the Village, Ali stopped at a clearing to our right beneath trees, at the edge of which sat a stone pew littered with leaves. She walked to the pew, cleared the leaves with her foot, and stood in the centre of the clearing, her army of dogs around her. She looked up. She looked solemn. “This is a memorial garden,” she said.

 

Photo credit: Nkiacha Atemnkeng.

A Language Problem

From “Blue Lake, Small Island,” snippets of an un-noted experience.

 

Four or so minutes after we touched down in Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, right after we climbed the steps to the long passage in Terminal 1, a small crowd of about twenty—women, men, bags on their backs, boxes in their hands—stood blocking the way, shouting. We stopped. “Are these our people?” a woman said in Igbo. The scene was unmistakably Nigerian: it seemed like a fight but turned out to be an intense struggle: two or three men trying to retrieve something from a quite ferocious Airport Official, who it seemed, from the chatter around, had seized their passports. “You must explain to us—why!” A few other Airport Officials were rushing to the scene, wielding batons. It could have been taken from a news report on TV, this scene of lighter-skinned, weapon-wielding security men angry and terrified at these bold black men who must be contained with force. “You think you can intimidate us? You are racist! Racists!” I walked past the rowdiness, wondering how many people’s first times in Addis Ababa are marked by such drama as this, such drama as I’d been warned about.

The next ten minutes was quick: I joined a very wrong queue, I stood there for minutes, I asked an official for clarification, I rushed up the staircase, I stood watching a board with ticketing locations, I joined another long queue tucked into a zig zag, I pulled off my shoes, my belt, my phone—it was hectic.

I’d been in Terminal 2’s Gate 4 for an hour before I spotted Nkiacha Atemnkeng. Nkiacha is Cameroonian, works in Duala Airport, writes for Bakwa magazine, and is headed to Entebbe as well. I walked up to draw his attention, and then we made our way to the last row of seats, to where I’d been sitting between a young man who looked Eastern European, who’d asked me “Kigali?,” and a young woman I hadn’t spoken to but whose blue ankara, the familiar white-flowery design imprinted on it, suggested she wasn’t just Nigerian but also Igbo. Nkiacha sat in the row ahead of ours. We’d last seen at last November’s Ake Arts and Book Festival in Abeokuta—so, catching up.

The hall was long and full, people cluttered on the passage, streaming up and down it, looking Ghanaian or Nigerian and Ethiopian or Sudanese and Lebanese and South African and Eastern European. A dark-skinned young man with wavy hair came up to me and spoke words.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand you. I understand only English,” I said.

He was smiling, defiant. He repeated his words.

“He’s speaking English,” Nkiacha said in laughter. “He’s asking where those going to South Africa are.” Nkiacha turned to him: “What time is your flight?” In the next four or so minutes, after he had asked where we were from and said he was Somali, the young man stood near the Eastern European, engaged in a language Nkiacha said was only English in their accent. Minutes later, we got up and headed for Gate 4.

My Playlist and Some Thoughts, Vol. 1

Not all of them—can’t possibly write out all of them—but most of what I’m listening to right now, the songs I’ve played the most, alphabetically.

“Africa,” Karl Wolf, feat. Culture

I can’t remember where I first heard this song but it completely stole my heart. Before now, the last time I listened to it was at the end of 2016. But weeks ago, I stumbled on a Rolling Stone article about the band Weezer covering the original song by Toto. I’d never heard the original but I loved Karl Wolf’s version with the rap interpolation. I can’t wait to blast it from speakers at a party.

“Africa,” Toto

And after I got Wolf’s version and listened to Weezer’s cover, curiosity led me to the original song, a hit back in 1982. At first I didn’t want to have two versions of one song in my phone so I pondered which to discard and, eventually, couldn’t decide. I just might prefer this to all other versions, including Wolf’s. The buildup is swooping, swaggering, and catches you like a wind.

“Beautiful People,” Chike

Heard his song at an event and asked the DJ. I was pleasantly surprised to learn it’s by Chike, whose run on The Voice Nigeria in 2016 hooked me: I still haven’t forgotten him singing Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry.” The lyrics, about choosing the people you love and choosing from among those who say they’d stick by you, are brilliant. The chorus is that perfect mix of melody and meaning: For me I hold, for me I hold my baby/ Na why I hold, na why I hold my baby o. I don’t know if it has a video yet but I can see a concept and scenes in my head already, something visually alluring to match the sound. This might end up being my favourite song of 2018.

“Colombia Heights,” Wale, feat. J. Balvin

One of two other songs that might become my favourite of 2018. The first time I heard this song, I was at Odenigwe, a student community bordering the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I was standing in front of a shop where I was to print something. It came from a barbing salon down the road, and in that hot afternoon, the sun clear as clear, was a balm in my ears. It was the beats, the rap in Spanish. I asked the barber. He told me. I was surprised the song had not been a hit, an all-over-the-charts thing—I’m often surprised the world doesn’t pick up songs I love.

“Hola Hola,” Sugarboy

The moment I remember was in 2016 when a friend, who was not yet a friend then, played this song and I asked whose it is. In some ways, this is one of my personal celebration songs. I play and let myself roll off into imagined futures—particularly in the seconds between 2:06 and 2:26. It has replaced Lil Kesh’s “Shoki” (the remix with Davido and Olamide) as the one song that is permanently resident in my phone. I haven’t felt the slightest trace of boredom with it.

“Leave the Light On,” Tom Walker

The day I first heard this song, on TV, I was preparing to go to an evening arts event, which I ended up skipping what I was afterwards told was its main segment so I could take a brief walk so I could listen more to this song. I find that the sound reinforces the lyrics, about his refusal “to lose another friend to drugs” and depression.

“Let Me,” August Chuks

I heard it the same day I heard “Leave the Light On,” some three hours later. I watched the singer perform it, mightily impressed by his voice. It was on replay the morning after, before I deleted it, afraid I would get fed up too soon. It’s been in my phone ever since.

“Moonlight,” XXXTentacion

My appreciation of XXXTentacion’s music was unlikely. He’d just been shot, receiving both sympathy and accusations of domestic violence and homophobia, deservedly so. I’d never been interested in the new rappers, the mumble rappers, these young guys with plaited hair and tattooed faces that an acquaintance calls “Spotify Rappers.” But one weekend I was in my hometown, I just looked up XXX. I read most of what I found on his music and legacy. I thought: Why not try this? So I went on YouTube and watched compilations of his songs. When I heard “Moonlight,” I thought: This is weird like I like weird. Spotlight, moonlight/ nigga why you trippin’ get your mood right: It’s my ringtone. But before “Moonlight,” I had his “Changes” and “Sad!” and couldn’t connect to “Sad!” I didn’t even think it was interesting. But “Changes” was undeniably beautiful.

“Red Alert,” DJ Bobbi x Nyanda

I have been to Lagos three times—the first for a visit, the second quite unintended, the third when I heard this song, in a taxi in Ikoyi, and brought out my phone and turned on my Shazam. Nyanda is one half of Brick & Lace, whose song “Love is Wicked” was a favourite nearly ten years ago.

“Timmy Turner,” Desiigner

The first time “Timmy Turner” sang in my ears, I couldn’t pin it down, whether it was stimulating enough. As I sat working on my laptop, waiting impatiently for it to finish, that bridge kicked in: that step-down of beats, that moderated groove, and suddenly I found the mumbled lyrics intriguing. It was my version of music magic. I fell into it. I didn’t know what the lyrics were, not with the words mumbled and murmured, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to—a few times I looked up lyrics of beloved songs only for them to lose that meaning when said lyrics turned out flat, ordinary. But I looked up these and the infatuation was complete: Timmy, Timmy, Timmy Turner/ he be wishin’ for a burner/ to kill everybody walkin’. It is songs like this that make me a fan of a musician. This even when I didn’t—and still don’t—like the man’s “Panda” which was quite the hit.

“Wait,” DJ Neptune, feat. Kizz Daniel

I have a liking for DJ Neptune’s sound, enough to want to do a post on his collaborations with Mr Eazi (“Mia Mia”), Runtown (“Why”), and of course this one with Kizz Daniel—and I still might. The first 50 seconds used to make me feel this jolliness of the mind.