Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I Don’t Want No Peace

Peter Tosh

‘A peaceful society will sing about emotional things like love, romance and sex but a society at war, even with itself, will sing about chivalry, martyrdom, hunger, deprivation redemption and salvation’

“I know I can be what I wanna be if I work hard at it, I’ll be where I wanna be. I know I can …”

Daddy! You are singing our song. Do you like it?
Of course, I like it. If I don’t, I will not be singing it.
What do you like about it?
Just listen to me. “I know I can/Be what I wanna be/If I work hard at it/I’ll be where I wanna be.”
Daddy, you are only repeating the chorus. Can’t you sing what Nas, himself, sings?
Nas ke? Was Wada Nas a singer? I thought he was just an executive noise maker.
Daaddy! Nas is the name of the rapper, not Wada Nas.
Oh, I see. That’s my problem. I love the song, the rhythm and the lyrics but I don’t know who the singer is. The man is just twisting his tongue and I can’t really make head or tail of what he is saying.
Okay, dad. Let me sing it with our mahogany accent and you will understand it.
Thank you, my son. Now, 4 … 3 … 2 … 1… Go!
Be, B-Boys and girls, listen up
You can be anything in the world, in God we trust
An architect, doctor, maybe an actress
But nothing comes easy, it takes much practice
Like, I met a woman who’s becoming a star
She was very beautiful, leaving people in awe
Singing songs, Lina Horn, but the younger version
Hung with the wrong person
Got her strung on that heroin
Cocaine sniffing up drugs all in her nose…
Coulda died, so young, now looks ugly and old
No fun cause now when she reaches for hugs
People hold their breath
Cause she smells of corrosion and death.
Watch the company you keep and the crowd you bring
Cause they came to do drugs and you came to sing
So, if you gonna be the best, I’ma tell you how,
Put your hands in the air, and take a vow…” Daddy sing the chorus now.
Okay, sony. “I know I can / Be what I wanna be / If I work hard at it, I’ll be where I wanna be.” Sony, this is the best song I have heard in recent times. It is so inspiring and soul-lifting. Can you imagine the effect of the lyrics on small children who listen to it? It reminds me of James Brown in those days. He, too, had a popular song like that. He would shout, “Say’t loud!” and some children in the background would respond, “I’m black ‘n’ proud!”. That time we did not understand what he was saying. Dauda, my Oluyole friend, thought he knew. One day he came to our place and immediately he heard James Brown, he just jumped up shouting “Gbenla!”
“Isale Afaa!” “Gbenla!” “Isale Afaa!” Everybody burst into laughter.
Why do you consider Nas’ song so inspiring, dad?
It’s because of its content. So educating, so didactic, so meaningful. If I were the education minister, I’d order that it should be played in every secondary school during the morning devotion. The film, Eewo-Taboo, by Ladi Ladebo, should also be shown free to each school to fight drug addiction.
Daddy, you are behind times. What we guys listen to nowadays are funky lyrics like those of Betty Wright, Britney Spears, Alicia Keys, Celine Dion, Jennifer Lopez, 50 Cent, One Dollas and other sexy musicians, even Madonna before she zipped up.
I don’t blame you and your indomie generation. You can’t live outside your socio-cultural milieu. A peaceful society will sing about emotional things like love, romance and sex but a society at war, even with itself, will sing about chilvary, martyrdom, hunger, deprivation, redemption and salvation. Their literature will be literature of protest. Words will be their grenades while their symbols will be laden with nuclear warheads. Those were the days when Bob Marley would sing revolutionary songs and shake the hearts of big men in the United Nations. 'Rat Race', 'Rivers of Babylon' and 'I Shot the Sheriff 'are some of his evergreen revolutionary songs that continue to drop anchor in our memory.
But, daddy, we also have Lagbaja and Femi and Seun and Alariwo and Dede and Sina and young Baba Rolling Dollar and Bright Chimezie and Zacky Zacky and Funky Malam and Oliver the Cock(?) and what-else?
All of them combined do not have the revolutionary zeal of a Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Who among those you have mentioned can sing songs like 'Unknown Soldier', 'Beast of No Nation', 'Zombie', 'Shuffering and Shmiling', 'Alagbon', 'Army Arrangement' and 'Overtake Don Overtake Overtake'? Tell me, who among them can look Baba in the face and sing ‘soja go, soja come’ with the ‘jooro jaara jooro’ tune? Who among them can sing to effect a societal change like Fela did? Or who can cry out for justice among them like Peter Tosh, the late Jamaican reggae star?
But, Daddy, Lagbaja is cooool! Idris is ….waoh! Ten-Face is… fascinating. Tetula is super… bad! Femi is bang, bang, bang! By the way, daddy, sing for me that reggae song which you like so much. I think it’s by Jimmy Cliff.
No, it’s Peter Tosh. Here we go, 4….3….2….1…0 Everybody is crying out for peace / Nobody is crying out for justice. / I don’t want no peace / All I need is equal rights and justice.
Daddy, I’m always confused with this song. Why does he say he doesn’t want no peace? He says he wants only equal rights and justice. Is that enough?
Don’t be confused. What he is saying is that justice and equal rights are a sine qua non for peace. In other words, he is saying that justice, fairness, equal rights and equal opportunities are unnegotiable conditions for humanity. Once you have them, all other things, including peace, will follow.
I see. Don’t we have equal rights and justice in every country?
Peter Tosh knew what he was talking about when he sang that song. But one thing about our own country is that there are separate laws for the ruling and the rich, on one hand, and another set of rules for the ruled and the wretched, on the other. That’s what Tosh preached against. And that’s music, my son, music in its functional elements! Not the kpangolo noise you call music.

First published March 21, 2005.

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