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Music in my DNA

By Osa Amadi

Before I begin the narrative on Lagos, major theater of my career as a piano teach-er, permit me to go back and trace the very beginning and birth of my interest in music.

I believe the arts run in my DNA. My mother, Ahunna Amadi, was a fantastic dancer of the abigolo traditional music and there are quite a number of musicians in her linage. Felix Ajagba, popularly known as Mungo Park, who sang the popular highlife song, I go manage the one I get, backed up by the legendary Kabaka of the Oriental Brothers International, is from my mother’s family. Later, Chima Okere, known as Chima Bongo, son to my mother’s eldest brother, became one of the rulers of the resurging Bongo Music in Imo State before he died a few years ago.

In fact, it was my mother’s dance skills that attracted my father, Barrister Mbonu Amadi, to her. As a young girl, my mother had come from Egbelu Nguru with her abigolo troupe, to perform in my village, Umunakara. The elders who enjoy recounting the story always say to me: “Nne gi ji agbabi edegele” (Your mother used to break the edegele on her waist with her dance). The edegele was a kind of local belt made of tens of tiny jingling bells and won on the waist by female traditional music dancers in those days. As the waist of the dancers vibrated, the jingling sounds of the edegele reproduced the hot rhythm of the music, somewhat elevating the dancers to the status of instrumentalists. Sometimes, the vibrating waist of an intoxicated dancer would tear the edegele on her waist into pieces. To dance until the edegele broke off from one’s waist, therefore, was a mark of a star dancer.

The elders also used to tell me: “E ji e piri nne gi ogbo”. That means: The spectators used to single out your mother from other dancers during dance performances, cleared the crowds surrounding her, and put her in the middle of the crowd for solo performances.

Being an extremely pretty girl and a vibrating reed dancing in the wind, my father spotted my mother during one of those dance tours to Umunakara and decided to marry her.

Thus, I became a product of the fusion of a state attorney’s blood and the blood of a celebrated traditional dancer from a line of musicians. Prophetically, my father gave me the name, Osadebe (Osa). Beware what name you give to your children.

As I was growing up alongside my other six brothers, I became deeply conscious of the artistic DNA running inside my blood veins.  Everything I touched received the marks of creativity. I drew objects with pencils, carved images with pieces of woods (I remember I bought a set of carpenter’s chisels in 1976 for my wood carvings). I also carved rubber stamps with broken razor blades for people and they paid for it. People called me Omenkari – my dialect for Omenka, the Artist. I built a canoe with my friends and rowed it on the local stream, which drew the ire of the elders because they said the gods of the Uramurukwa stream abhors rowing canoe on the stream. When I started secondary school I bought a Polaroid camera and later a Yashika professional and made some money from photography. Generally, I repaired all household equipment in our house as I still do till this day.

Then I started listening to music. When I became older and concluded that music was the highest form of art, I made a decision to pursue it. Music fascinated me beyond description. The songs of the Oriental Brothers International, led by my town’s man, Godwin Kabaka Opara, were so appealing to me. I became addicted to the crying melodies and singing skills of Sir Christogonus Ezewuiro Obinna, popularly known as Dr. Sir Warrior.

 


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