A letter from Lagos
by Wanlov the Kubolor.
I dey lie for some hotel room in a venue called Moods for Surulere. This venue, run by a Fanti man from Sekondi who was here before the Ghana-must-go time, has everything from fast food chicken to karaoke to rooms for hire. We came by road from Accra via Keta and my travelling mate Panji who just had a Ghana ID card won his bet that he would cross all the borders faster and cheaper than I who was travelling with a Ghanaian passport. Rain all along the coast of West Africa did not make the trip the fastest; the burning truck in the middle of the Atlantic motorway in Togo that delayed us for hours found us sleepin in the car feedin mosquitoes and tempting thieves by the Seme border after eating the smallest tilapia I have ever seen, which I suspect was also the last tilapia in Benin. Their fried yams were very big n soft tho.
We waited to cross at dawn coz we prefer legal armrobbers over other options. We woke up to a stranger in the driver’s seat rushing us behind and around the border into Naija. He said our driver would meet us on the other side. I then took the lovely risk of giving him my passport to go back and stamp whiles I waited with Panji and the driver in the darkest filling station in the world, where custom 3-tyre scooters with massive petrol tanks driven by cripples kept coming to buy cheap Naija fuel to sell across the border in Benin. At least I know a place I can make sure money if I lose any bottom limbs. The guy brought my passport back in official order and we bounced.
Lagos is a lot. The taxis, okadas n trotros blow insulting horns, which to my surprise actually call the passengers. She is like your loud angry aunt who wakes at dawn and shouts at you garnished with insults to ask u to make her tea. And she doesn’t stop insulting till the tea is ready. I just love the verbal exchanges which Panji describes as bluffs and counterbluffs. Everyone communicates very aggressively. Yet i dey love the vim of the place n the swagger of the women. We hooked up with Funsho of Ayetoro and Flying Monkeys fame at his place in Ikeja to rest n catch up small. To me Funsho is the dadabee Fela Kuti of our generation. Way taller than Fela in height and musicality. But keeping certain elements his parents possess and that Fela discarded to wear only red panties. Funsho keeps the suit and tie and air condition, but plays Afrobeat all the same and dare I say takes it to another level. Considering the raids and beatings Fela and his people got, I think Funsho is the smarter fella. Yes he might not be a sensationalist which sadist people love seeing suffer for them, but his music is sensational enough and it gets him the big dough. Funsho dropped Panji off at the barber shop and me off at the internet cafe to check my Facebook and download a virus onto my BB which turned all my folders to exe files hiding all my media from me. Then Funsho brought us here to Moods. He has gigged here before so the hood came highly recommended for shashi sightings. After settling into our room, Panji n I unsuccessfully tried to watch the Ghana/Latvia friendly at two bars that were more interested in some Europe match. So much for African pride. The first guy pissed Panji off so bad with his uncooperative attitude that Panji walked off quickly as if he had just rigged the place with timed explosives. I think he was afraid he would slap the guy if he stayed a second longer looking at his running stomach face. We hollered at some shashis here and there, chewed roasted corn (bear in mind that soft in Naija is hard in Ghana) with some strange fruit/veg also roasted that looks like a slim potato/aubergine but looks like a kiwi/avocado on the inside and tastes like unripe mango/avocado… wait! I think it’s from the avocado family! I have just discovered something new! I must announce this to the world! Whooo!… okay back to reality. The only way I can discover something new that somebody already uses everyday in their land is if I were what we colour-blindly call white. We also got some cupcakes for the dadabee in me and returned to Moods to chill on the balcony watching the town go by. On the way there some girl asked me if I knew what I was doing. I wonder if she meant to her, the way I was dressed, or just in my general life. I think it was a combination of all three. Panji also pointed out that the okadas passengers that passed by quite often, with four to one okada at times, always turned all their heads in our direction to stare us up and down tryin to make sense of their perfect world whose rotten telephone and electric wire-filled sky Panji was slicing open with his acute mohawk, and whose muddy trash garnished grounds I was soiling with my bare feet. Sistasoul came to check us at the hotel, but left soon to go rest for the show, which will happen today in Lekki with Funsho. Then we made a friend called Razak from across the street who comes to Ghana a lot. We also chatted with the manager of the place and some businessmen who come to Ghana quite often to spread the girls at Danquah Circle. Then Efya told me she was also in Lagos so in a few hours we were altogether at Femi Kuti’s new Africa Shrine, which I want to re-dub shashiland, to entice people like Mr Lewin and Mutombo to come perform there. We ate the last mportormportor with fried snails and talked about everything from death to the pyramids to overJah, joined by 2 new friends we just made there. Daniele Kobla, an Italian/Ghana/Naijaboy and a wordologist/etymologist/musician/elder who broke down chaw words for us… Oh! How can I forget one of Fela Kuti’s original dancers, Esse, who chatted me and Panji up all night and couldn’t get to sayin what she really wanted because she could tell we were big nyash lovers and hers, if it had ever been, had deflated along with the dreams of her hairline that would make Nkrumah feel irie. I got a soothing scalp massage from Efya (she surely has a fallback talent if the music stops), we watched a bar fight for a bit and got a ride from Daniele Kobla, the half-cobo like me, who reminds me of me 7 yrs ago. He told me he didn’t use Facebook because of spies, as he stored my number on his Blackberry. Before we sat in his round light Dadabee Benz he had told us how he wanted to live in the bush away from technology and stuff. I was so interestingly contradictory 7 yrs ago. The ride was fun with Efya sittin between Panji and me in the couchlike waab backseat flying down empty Naija highways singing along to “We go rock” by M3nsa and Ndidi. Efya’s voice has really developed. It sounds like fresh honey tastes mixed with the last echoes of the crunch of local Ghana ice cream cones. We watched in awe as Daniele and his wordminator “father” in the front seat talked their way through all the hungry police barriers as ganja smoke rose out the open windows to greet them. Bluff and counterbluffing. Panji had to take his proverbial hat off to Daniele the power engineer, because in Ghana he doesn’t smoke that brazenly. We dropped Efya off at one of the poshiest unfinished hotels I’ve seen in my life into the company of 3 girls ready for clubbing. Efya is diehard. Then we flew back to Surulere and shared ginger sobolo with other medicinal herbs from Ghana at a table with our new friends and the homesick manager of Moods. I started dozin off when the wordmeister started rolling off biblical masculin names of nations and how dey… zzzzzz…. they left and I went in the room to wash down and got into the bed with Panji’s laptop and started typing “I dey lie for some hotel room…” Then I slept after writing about the tilapia in Benin and just finished this rest now as I woke up. I don’t feel like writing the future so I go write history later.
Wowolo!… e b like 5am Monday. Ayetoro’s gig was off the brass! Sistasoul and Efya also killarize the place. Full house of people from all walks of life, photodrivers, models, poets, filmmakers. Even saw a very good friend that I used to hang with in Mississippi about 5 years ago… a-wire!!! The venue was lovly. Above a bowling alley in the mall opposite Oriental Hotel in Lekki. One of the workers there was a fan from Ghana so I dashed her a Coz Ov Moni vcd for screaming my name into the minds of the mall rats that had just been staring as if they were nursing a sneeze. Zara was also in the building, check her track “Aboko Ku” mashin up the place. Funsho really controlled his band with a firm calmness that made him seem uninterested in what was going on especially whenever he walked away from his post at the piano when his musicians were soloing. I just dey feel that move. The gig ended with screams of encore because we were all still groovin on the dancefloor. We got a Fela Kuti encore which we did not waste at all. U should hav seen Funsho with a spliff in his mouth walking thru the mall after the gig. He saw my surprised look and said “dis b ma country” among other things. The drive home was so scary. The taxi was in the same condition as Jim Carrey’s car in The Mask and he drove at top speeds. We almost died thrice… normal. 1lov.
This story features in the new edition of Chronic Books, the supplement to the Chronic. Through dispatches, features, interviews and reviews, we explore the reach of public relations and petrodollars.