Lost in Non-Translation

Nigeria’s best lyricist is Saheed Osupa aka Saridon P, a fuji crooner. Do not be fooled by the restless nature of many of his fans. Do not be fooled because he is a fuji artiste. The crappy elitist culture in Nigeria (I speak for the South-West in this context)has a lot of logical pitfalls and of the many embarrassing thought processes that come from this, one that baffles me is when people judge something as big as a whole music genre as “razz”. (Dear non-Nigerian Reader, razz means something crude, crass, uncouth, uncultured and so on…see me and big words o!) because they do not like the music or more importantly, they do not associate with those “rascally bus drivers, touts, street urchins” who are fans of fuji music. Eeew! How can I listen to something non-humans like bus drivers listen to? Oh please.

Rather belated message, because the internet. (Image Source: Google)

Saheed Osupa, born Saheed Akorede Okunola started his primary school education at Saint Mary’s Primary School, Ajegunle, Lagos and his secondary school education at Amuwo Odofin High School, Mile 2, Lagos where he graduated in 1987. In 1992, he completed his National Diploma programme at The Polytechnic, Ibadan after studying Business Administration. He is also an alumnus of the American International College where he studied Networking Operations. Saheed Osupa started music professionally as a teenager in 1983. His rise to stardom came when his first album titled Fuji Fa Disco which was released through Alasco Films and Records was positively received among Fuji music lovers. He has went on to release over 28 studio albums including a 4-in-1 studio album titled Mr. Music, the first of its kind in the Nigerian music industry. Thanks, Wikipedia.

See, fuji music has more fans among artisans and drivers than suit-and-tie folks (who are not shy to blast the sounds). I cannot back this up with facts other than my personal experience. These people on the streets would rather listen to someone who speaks their language than listen to Adele, no matter how inspiring she gets. Hello from which side? Abeg abeg abeg!

Since you like to classify people- into rich and poor, sedans and SUVs, Ronaldo and Messi, Yoruba and Igbos and so on- you may expect to get away with saying illiterates prefer fuji music since it is rendered in Yoruba but you will not! You will not get away with it because your mother tongue should not be an indicator of literacy or intelligence. Maybe there is a correlation somewhere between some factors at play, do not confuse that with causation. If you think people who only speak their natural language are “razz”, I pity you and your deluded self-recolonisation.

 If anything positive comes out of your pigeon-holing, then it is that our society has lagged behind in development so much that speaking a foreign language has become a de-facto standard for measuring wit, intelligence and literacy. That is how many great African stories got lost. Lost in “non-translation”. Lost in not being respected enough until a western-educated professor talks about it at a Harvard lecture after the demise of the storyteller. Lost in your razz classification. Lost in your refusal to pay attention because it is not in the queen’s tongue.

For me, understanding someone like Saheed Osupa is simple and it is not only because I speak Yoruba, I actually think in Yoruba. Yes, I am that “razz”. It does not make me feel dumb. It actually improved my Yoruba vocabulary. Improved it so much that I can even teach math or programming in Yoruba. The stupid compiler will not take Yoruba instructions though, and I also doubt your math teacher will accept “aadorin” instead of “70”.

Regardless of how you feel about fuji, Saheed Osupa is a guy I dare say has full mastery of the Yoruba language, culture and literary nuances. His clever wordplay is impeccable. His lyrics make Barrister, Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey and other “traditionally-wise” lyricists look like wannabe philosophers. Though not a rapper, his rhyming techniques make me think I am listening to the Ibadan version of Rakim’s essence melted into Nas’ flow and rolled out with Eminem’s delivery. He is that good. When I listen to Talib Kweli and he uses a big word, I run to a dictionary. However,  when Saheed Osupa says something complex, the half-baked Yoruba-English dictionary will not save me. 

Cultural evangelists like Adebayo Adegbembo of Genii Games are doing a decent job in reminding people that what is not “white” is not necessarily evil. Isese l’agba. Do not despise your origins.

You gotta tell your own story! (Courtesy: Genii Games)

I love music and there is no type of music I do not listen to. Er…er, well except classical music. Do not always expect to get life lessons from music. Books, religion and bad decisions will do that for you. Entertainment is good enough a derivative but if wisdom can be conveyed through music, then it is a welcome bonus.

I find Beethoven’s Wikipedia page more interesting than his music. No class eh? I’m sorry you feel that way.

Like I said, Saheed Osupa is the best lyricist in the world. It is just a shame you don’t like fuji or do not understand Yoruba.

PS: See IfeOluwa Nihinlola's post on "The Things Lost in Translation"


Cover Image courtesy Adedeji Hamed 

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