Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I recently took a look at the most played songs on my mp3 player. Not surprising was the fact that the majority of my top songs were Nigerian. After all, I am a huge fan of Nigerian music. What did come as a surprise however, was the fact that of these songs, the overwhelming majority were songs about 'enemies'. From tunes about "bad bele" or jealous people to pure tracks on "haters", it seemed like the songs I enjoyed the most put the spotlight on envious people in one manner or the other.

Now the reality is that my mp3 player is primarily used when I go running. And for that purpose, I created a 'running' playlist. So, the reason why I listen to so many songs about haters is clearly a conscious decision as my runs are always accompanied by the selected songs on my playlist.

But does that mean that I am consciously concerned with haters? Well, there is no straightforward answer to that question. Ordinarily, I do not pay close attention to what others do. The time constraints of my existence do not permit it.  Also, my inherently bad memory further limits my ability to spend much time worrying about what someone else is up to. Well, except for when I play 'agony aunt' as I do every Friday at my other blog when people send in their issues, problems for consideration and advice.

Yet, my playlist suggests a preoccupation with enemies and therefore by implication, others. Despite what that looks like, I strongly believe that I cannot take the blame for that. I believe one of the reasons for this apparent preoccupation is my Nigerian heritage. No other group of people can focus on enemies like Nigerians, in my opinion. That focus precedes hip hop's coinage and popularization of the term 'haters'. Also, no musical genre can castigate envious people and their ways like Nigerian music. Actually, the one possible exception might be Jamaican dancehall music. I must admit that one of my favorite dancehall songs is Elephant Man's "Nah guh make it" in which he sings about "bad mind" people, a topic Nigerians can identify with as the term translates to bad bele people.

But back to Nigerian music and bad bele people, I can think of K Soul's " Aye nreti". Then there is Ota mi" by Eldee featuring LKT. "Ota mi" literally translates to "my enemies". And I must not forget Durella's "My life" in which he repeatedly chants "enemies let me live my life" in a hypnotic melody that propels me during whatever mile of my run that I am on.

I think the Nigerian focus on enemies is a product of the country's history and culture of mysticism. Many, if not most Nigerians, practice juju. The popularity of the practice is regardless of religion, education level or socioeconomic class. And if they do not, someone has consorted the gods of the ancestors either on their behalf or against them. Or, so society would make one believe. Apart from asking for riches, good husbands or seeking violence against an enemy, Nigerians especially ask for protection against bad people.

This practice of seeking protection from evil people is ever present in Christianity and Islam. I, for one, do not believe that the attitude that enemies are always on the war path will go away anytime soon. And if Nigerian music is anything to go by, the focus on bad bele people, jealous people and all manner of haters will only continue to affect all aspects of the Nigerian existence. I will leave it up to others to decide whether that is good or bad. All I know is that, in my case, I can credit songs about enemies, real or imagined, for assisting me in my exercise routines.

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