Galala, Alanta are Echoes Of ‘Suffration’ In Ajegunle

Babani Street, Ajegunle, where the Kurukere exponent Friday Igwe, aka Baba Fryo grew up is a lively place. Some of the houses on the street look like threadbare shirts. The strong stench that reeked all around rose gallantly from the overflowing sewerage nearby. An unusual quiet pervaded the street, broken intermittently by ululations from ‘prosperity centre’, – a church. Some young men who sat idly by, on the street were bare-bodied except for the raggedy jeans trousers they had on. Jet-black, starry-eyed, with hair shampooed but dyed black, they strut with the swagger of a lord of a manor farm. Voluptuous damsels clad in tight-fitting clothes that accentuate their derrieres sidled thither and hither. ‘’This was what I was singing about in Denge-pose. You see, we are all victims of the suffration of where we live. But them they do all kinds of Kurukere that made them feel big. If you go close to them, you find out that they are poor as we all are despite their Kurukere. I used that song to criticize them’’, Fryo told the magazine.

Ndamu Street, Ajegunle, also had the Kurukere activities and denge-posing of Babani. It has houses tightly packed together like rows of cars in traffic, bumper to bumper. The long queue of MTN-coloured Danfo buses, un-tarred streets and the total lack of power supply makes it a melting pot for okada and danfo drivers, and ‘civil servants’. However, there was something else that made Ndamu unique. It is ‘Base 10’, a drinking joint run by Agua Ebowei, a ‘naval officer’ of the Nigerian navy. Residents thronged Base 10 daily to ‘download’ their daily worries with friends, sip their kpolongo, monkey tail, and shekpe – all concoctions allegedly good for physical as well as psychological problems. In between taking their sips of kpolongo with chunks of kponmo, boiled cow skin, they spiced their gist with philosophical repartees mostly concerning their lot, buttressed with the aphorism, food no dey, money no dey but God dey. Every once in a while, Akeem ‘Alanta’, the supposedly exponent of the now popular Alanta dance gyrates, contorts his body like some rubbery contraption and flexes like a gargoyle, eyes popping out, legs set like a quadrilateral triangle, a distended tummy and tongue pocking out of his mouth. It is an aggressive war-like dance. ‘The way we move our bodies is a kind of way we use style to talk about our condition in AJ City’’, one of the dancers said. Some join in the songs, others do not, but those who leave Base 10 appear to leave their worries behind. Ebowei told the magazine that crooners of the hit ghetto tract Danfo Driver consulted with him before they did their Kpolongo song.

Most of the musicians that have made it big from Ajegunle recall their songs mirror the conditions they grew up in. David Afiemo, aka Daddy Showkey, lived on Mba Lane, just a couple of blocks from Fryo’s. The lane which looks like an afterthought of the city planner is nearly opposite the Ifelodun-Ajeromi local government secretariat. Residents were unwilling to talk about the ‘ghetto soldier’ who achieved fame from singing about his exploits as a lad eking a living in the midst of poverty. Afiemo told the magazine that Ajegunle offered him crime, drugs and prostitution very early in life. According to him, he took to singing about his environment because he did not want to succumb to the crime-infested Ajegunle life. The duo of Abbey Esho and Mike Nliam also said that something of the hopelessness of living in certain places in Nigeria inspired their hit song, One-Day E Go Better.

There are allegations however that some ghetto soldiers who fought so gallantly to highlight the plight of the ghetto in their songs seem to abandon it just as soon as the big bucks start rolling in. Fryo no longer lives in Babani. Ditto too for Daddy Showkey whose larger-than-life image looms over the tiny Mba his mother raised him. ‘That I no longer live in AJ city is not to mean that I’m not in touch with activities there’, he said. According to him, when there were rumours that the Lagos State government had plans to demolish AJ city in the Bola Tinubu administration as governor of Lagos state, Showkey said he mobilized the people and the matter eventually ended in court. Much later however, residents of AJ city said they were shocked that songs from the ghetto apparently drew World Bank attention to their plight and designated it for demolition and rebuilding. Some of the residents said that they blame the politicians for their sorry condition, insisting that they frequently divert public funds.

Written by
MajiriOghene Bob Etemiku
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