Welcome to Five for Friday: the weekly letter to take into your weekend, with a Thought (something on my mind), True Talk (yes, we have a T for “a Word,” at last!), a Tip (something you might find useful), a Trip (something I enjoyed — that tripped me) and a Thing (just something random!) Also, the Being Human letter goes paid next week!
I spent last night at an orchestra. I enjoyed myself — the more so because I was with a friend for whom that sort of thing is his jam — and often found myself wanting to almost dance at some points. But you know how it is at such places: everyone’s sitting quite still, and moving would stand you out, the more so when you’re the one black face in a sea of white.
I moved a bit, all the same — I could hardly help it — but it got me thinking about how our conception of music in Nigeria is really more participatory than performative. Music for us isn’t something to watch someone make. It’s sometime to make together. It’s why we dance, why we clap, why call and response is so huge in our music, why we hoot and make noises as we do all the above. It’s not rowdiness, it’s participation. Because music for us is not merely an act for consumption, but an act of community. It’s not merely art, it’s heart.
This doesn’t apply only to Nigeria of course — you see it across Africa, Asia, South America. And even in the West, as folk music. It’s performative music that’s actually unusual, not the other way around. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with it though. It’s just to say, let’s not fail to value what we do, or we might lose both it and what it offers.
Quotes that stuck with me from Bling Lagosians (more on why below)
“If you like what I did yesterday, that means you cannot help me get to where I am going to tomorrow.”
“And if we crash to the ground, do we sink into the earth like water?”
“No, mama. We rise. We rise, mama.”
Since I got married I’ve been cooking using recipes, something I’d never done before that, but my wife likes variety and trying new things, and I wanted to try to keep that up. But it was a struggle, with recipes that would say things like, “fry the thing until it’s a delicious brown” — like, how am I supposed to know what that even means?
Anyway, I discovered Kitchen Stories, whose tag line is “Everyone can cook,” and it’s been the best thing. You scroll through recipes, pick any you’re interested in and save them for later. Then when you’re ready, you can create a shopping list within the app, tick off any ingredients you already have and tick others off as you shop. (You can adjust for number of servings too — I usually do since we cook for 2-3 packed lunches apiece.) Then when it’s time to cook, you can follow the instructions step by step.
Last week I shared about the bravery of Fisayo Soyombo, journalist with The Cable, in personally putting skin in the game to produce a three-part investigation on the Nigerian criminal justice system. Well, there’s good news! The police have acknowledged that there’s a problem which is a huge step, and more important, he says things are slightly better as per his security — which seemed in danger at one point.
I have recently got into what I think of as Nollywood Netflix, which is basically the Nigerian films on Netflix. I’ve seen a few but there’s a lot I’ve yet to catch up on, so I’m trying to see them all before the year is out. So far I’ve seen Up North (which I enjoyed), Mokalik (which was a bit meh, more so because I expected more from the director), and Bling Lagosians. The last one was a surprise because I didn’t expect much from it and it turned out to be my favourite so far. I had expected a story that gawked at the ultra-rich and instead got one that neither glorified nor demonised them, but instead humanised them, with all their insecurities and petty squabbles that money only turns out to be an expression of, not a solution for.
I love to hear from readers, so please email me with any thoughts or questions. And if you enjoyed this letter, please go ahead and share it!